US Soccer appeals to Supreme Court to overturn ruling that would allow LaLiga to play in the US

August 11 – Boris Gartner, CEO of La Liga North America, speaking as the Spanish league completed its pre-season showcase in the US, said: “Having official matches here, it’s not a matter of if, but when.”

To be able to do that relies on LaLiga’s US partner Relevent Sports winning their appeal in the US courts against an initial ruling that disallowed them from organising regular season fixtures of from international matches.

Gartner is bullishly confident that the court will overturn an initial ruling made on anti-trust grounds. The U.S. Soccer Federation has appealed to the Supreme Court to overturn the appellate court ruling.

The dispute between Relevent and US Soccer arose after Relevent, via their 15-year agreement with LaLiga signed in 2018, proposed staging a regular season match between Barcelona and Girona in Miami.

FIFA rules do not allow leagues to play outside their own national jurisdictions. A global outcry from football stakeholders including UEFA, the Spanish federation and the USSoccer Federations, led to the refusal to sanction the match.

In 2019 Relevent filed suit claiming that the USSF illegally conspired with FIFA to prevent foreign clubs and leagues from holding competitive matches in the US.

“This boycott has deprived fans of international soccer in the US of the opportunity to attend Official Season International Soccer Game Events in the US and is a blatant anti-trust violation,” the filing in US District Court in New York said.

This was the second lawsuit Relevent had filed against the USSF in New York State Court claiming it is threatening Relevent’s soccer promotion business and has a conflict of interest in sanctioning professional matches.

Relevent had wanted to stage an Ecuadorean first-division match between Barcelona S.C. and Guayaquil City, on May 5 in Miami, for which it had written approval for the match from both Ecuador’s soccer federation and Conmebol (approvals it did not have from the Spanish federation or UEFA for the proposed Barcelona vs Girona league fixture). US Soccer refused to sanction that match ostensibly over concerns around whether Relevent’s match agent Charlie Stillitano (also the company’s chairman) was a properly registered match agent.

In 2021, US District Court judge Valerie Caproni dismissed Relevent’s case saying that Relevent had not proved that there was an illegal conspiracy between FIFA and US Soccer to restrict where teams play.

However the Second Circuit court reversed the lower court’s decision to dismiss Relevent’s case and denied U.S. Soccer’s request for a rehearing. The decision revived the lawsuit, however U.S. Soccer has petitioned the Supreme Court in the hope the justices will overturn the appellate court’s ruling, effectively killing the case for good.

The Relevent case is simple. It argues that a monopoly (propagated by the USSF’s following of FIFA rules) has damaged its business and in doing so caused it damage. That is anti-competitive and in a free market should be ruled against.

Football’s case (and it is pretty much the whole of the football world against Relevent and LaLiga in terms of stakeholder opinion), is that LaLiga is a Spanish league played in Spain by Spanish clubs. Competitive leagues in the US are played between US clubs in front of US fans.

While LaLiga has designs on grabbing a chunky slice of the US commercial marketplace, US Soccer is attempting to protect the growth of its own league, in particular the MLS, and not see money that filters through football, pays players and management and goes into a wider eco-system and pyramid in the US, disappear to Spain and a league that is behaving in an increasingly entitled way in their country.

The US this summer has been a fantastically lucrative market for leading clubs from the Premier League and LaLiga to generate new income and build fanbases.

For LaLiga, Gartner and Relevent, that isn’t enough – like a starving person at a banquet, they want it all. The thing is, LaLiga is far from starving.

It is an overstatement to say that the financial fate of domestic US professional soccer is in the hands of the US Supreme Court, but there is a huge principle for football at stake here. And any money earned in the US but spirited away to the world’s second biggest football league ultimately does mean that US professional soccer will be the loser – financially and in fandom.

Contact the writer of this story at moc.l1718772446labto1718772446ofdlr1718772446owedi1718772446sni@n1718772446osloh1718772446cin.l1718772446uap1718772446