Relevent lose USSF anti-trust case and right to stage foreign league matches in US

By Paul Nicholson

July 22 – US Soccer had another significant win in court this week in the lawsuit brought against the federation by Relevent Sports who have been campaigning to stage regular season league matches from non-US leagues in the country.

Relevent, who had been refused permission by the USSF to sanction a regular season league match between LaLiga’s Catalan rivals Barcelona and Girona in January 2019, claimed that the USSF were illegally conspiring with FIFA to prevent foreign clubs and leagues from holding competitive matches in the US.

In April 2019, US Soccer also refused Relevent’s application to host a match between two Ecuadorian clubs, despite having approval from the Ecuadorian FA and South American regional confederation Conmebol.

The USSF lawyers, Latham & Watkins, successfully argued that there was no conspiracy or restraint of trade and had their motion to dismiss the Relevent claim in the Southern District of New York granted.

Latham & Watkins were also successful in having a second allegation moved to mandatory arbitration. Relevent had claimed that the USSF unlawfully abuses its position to commercially favour its marketing partner Soccer United Marketing (SUM) claiming that it interfered with its existing and prospective business relationships.

The decisions are a blow for Relevent who have a built a business on bringing Europe’s elite club sides to the US as part of pre-season tour friendlies that make up its International Champions Cup series. Relevent, who have a deal with La Liga, were hoping to develop that business with the introduction of regular season games in what would be a more lucrative commercial market for certain games.

For the US and its leagues, and the MLS in particular, it is an important win in that allows the federation to develop its own national game and build domestic fans and resources without the commercial and consumer interference teams and leagues from other countries would bring.

Relevant said in a statement: “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. We’re considering what our options are.”

Latham & Watkins have had a busy but successful time with USSF business in recent months. In May a federal judge dismissed key parts of the US women’s national team’s wage discrimination lawsuit against the USSF.

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