U.S. Soccer Sued Over Denial Of Application To Bring Ecuadorian Game To U.S.
Recently, U.S. Soccer has been brought to court by the U.S. Women’s National team, and the North American Soccer League. In its complaint filed in New York, Relevent is accusing U.S. Soccer of violating its policies when the Federation did not approve an application to allow Relevent to host a regular-season game between two Ecuadorian league teams.
Relevent Sports is a sport and entertainment company, in the business of promoting international soccer matches around the world. Relevent Sports is the organizer of the International Champions Cup and has attempted to host several major soccer events in the United States. The company is owned by Stephen M. Ross, who is also 95% owner of the Miami Dolphins and creator of the Drone Racing League.
Relevent had applied to U.S. Soccer to allow for a regular-season game between two Ecuadorian clubs, Barcelona SC and Guayaquil City FC to be played on May 5 at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium. U.S. Soccer denied this application claiming that the request was incomplete because Charlie Stillitano, a FIFA Match Agent, was not listed on FIFA’s website as a certified Match Agent.
A FIFA Match Agent is required when a match is arranged between clubs from two different confederations. To be a FIFA Match Agent, FIFA must certify the agent and have valid match agent insurance.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row equal_height=”yes” content_placement=”middle”][vc_column][vc_column_text]U.S. Soccer claimed that Stillitano had failed to renew his match agent insurance and therefore was not a valid match agent, thus making the application incomplete. This was when Relevent turned to the Supreme Court of the State of New York for relief. While the court is called the Supreme Court, in actuality it is the trial level court in New York.
The suit filed by Relevent alleges that U.S. Soccer violated its policies and procedures when the Federation did not sanction the event. Relevent also alleges that U.S. Soccer denied the application for the event because it is too closely tied to Major League Soccer.
The complaint claims that U.S. Soccer “is economically conflicted and is abusing its authority, in order to protect Major League Soccer [“MLS”], a for-profit entity with which [U.S. Soccer] has extremely close financial and personal ties.”
Relevent further argues that Stillitano was covered by match agent insurance and the company provided supporting documentation to the Court. Relevent argues that since Stillitano is, in their view, a licensed FIFA Match Agent, U.S. Soccer’s decision was arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of its discretion.
The full complaint can be found here.
Soccer is governed by a multitude of organizations around the world and is part of the Olympic Movement. At the top level, the sport is governed by The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (“FIFA”). FIFA has identified specific organizations that govern different regions of the world, think UEFA (Europe) and CONCACAF (North America, Central America and Caribbean). Governance is further broken down by country. In the United States, the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) and FIFA have recognized US Soccer as the National Governing Body (NGB) for soccer in the United States.
As the NGB, U.S. Soccer needs to comply with a variety of different regulations, including the USOC Bylaws, FIFA Laws of the Game, and the Ted Stevens Amateur Sports Act. All of these regulations essentially boil down to one overriding purpose of U.S. Soccer is:
Bylaw 102. PURPOSES. The purposes of the Federation are: (1) to promote, govern, coordinate, and administer the growth and development of soccer in all its recognized forms in the United States for all persons of all ages and abilities, including national teams and international games and tournaments (2) to provide for the continuing development of soccer players, coaches, referees, and administrators; (3) to provide for national cup competitions; and (4) to provide for the prompt and equitable resolution of grievances.
Relevent in its complaint is alleging that U.S. Soccer violates its governing purpose to promote the game in the United States by denying its application to bring an Ecuadorian regular season game to Miami.
The complaint filed by Relevent is the third major lawsuit filed against US Soccer this year. The U.S. Women’s National Team filed a lawsuit alleging gender discrimination, claiming that the Federation unfairly and illegally treats the members of the women’s team differently than members of the men’s national team. The Federation is also facing an antitrust case brought by the NASL. It will be interesting to see how U.S. Soccer handles these cases.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]