Match promoter suit vs USSF halted by federal judge

NEW YORK (AP) — A match promoter’s lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation for failing to sanction a proposed Spanish league match between Barcelona and Girona in Miami Gardens, Florida, has been stopped by a federal judge.

U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan dismissed an antitrust claim by Relevent Sports on Monday in a decision made public on Tuesday.

“Plaintiff alleges no facts to support the inference that, in adhering to the FIFA directive, USSF actually entered an agreement with FIFA to restrict output,” Caproni wrote.

She granted a motion by the USSF ordering Relevent to take its interference claim to arbitration. The USSF says Relevent and its FIFA match agent, Charlie Stillitano, must submit the dispute to the FIFA players’ status committee for a resolution.

Relevent called Switzerland-based FIFA and Soccer United Marketing, an affiliate of Major League Soccer, non-party co-conspirators. Caproni wrote Relevent must either add FIFA to its lawsuit, show the court has jurisdiction over FIFA when the soccer’s governing body is not a party to the suit or show cause by Sept. 1 “why this entire case should not be dismissed.”

The USSF declined comment, spokesman Neil Buethe said.

“We are evaluating the decision, which gives us the option to refile the antitrust case and go forward, as well as pursue the tort claim in arbitration,” Relevent spokesman Ben Sosenko said. “We’re considering what our options are.”

Relevent filed the suit last September and is represented by Jeffrey Kessler, the lawyer retained by members of the U.S. women’s national team in their wage and gender discrimination lawsuit against the USSF.

Relevent initially sued in New York Supreme Court after the USSF refused to sanction a 2018-19 league match between Ecuador’s Barcelona and Guayaquil at Miami Gardens. The USSF cited an Oct. 26, 2018, announcement by FIFA that its ruling council “emphasized the sporting principle that official league matches must be played within the territory of the respective member association.”

Relevent withdrew the state court suit and filed this latest action in federal court, citing antitrust law.

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