Soccer

This is why the Dolphins owner’s soccer promotion company sued U.S. Soccer Federation

Teams walk into the field before the start of ‘’El Clasico Miami’’ Barcelona-Real Madrid match as part of the International Champions Cup on Saturday, July 29, 2017, at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.
Teams walk into the field before the start of ‘’El Clasico Miami’’ Barcelona-Real Madrid match as part of the International Champions Cup on Saturday, July 29, 2017, at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. dsantiago@miamiherald.com

Relevent Sports, the soccer promotion company owned by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, on Monday filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation, claiming the sport’s governing body “has exhibited a pattern and practice of violating its own policies and procedures, dissuading the staging of international competitions in the United States.”

In a petition filed with the Supreme Court of New York, Relevent alleges that U.S. Soccer, without good reason, rejected two recent proposals by Relevent to host international matches at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. Relevent has been hosting international friendlies in the United States for six years, including high-profile matches such as Real Madrid vs. Barcelona in Miami.

The first match the USSF rejected was the Copa Libertadores final in late 2018, and the second was a proposed May 5 match between rival Ecuadorean teams Barcelona Sporting Club and Guayaquil City FC. The Ecuadorean and South American soccer federations had approved the match.

Under USSF rules, the federation is supposed to sanction matches “unless the Federation decides by clear and convincing evidence that staging the match is detrimental to the sport of soccer.”

Relevent contends that the federation is not abiding by its bylaws when it rejects applications that seem to comply with all the required regulations.

“At the end of 2018, when fan violence prevented the finals of the Copa Libertadores from taking place in Argentina as scheduled, Relevent and Mr. Ross reached out to USSF and its President, Carlos Cordeiro, to offer to stage the final in Miami, Florida,” the petition reads. “USSF and Cordeiro effectively refused to engage. According to published reports, Cordeiro `made his opposition clear’ to moving the final to Miami and, in part as a consequence, South America’s governing soccer authority moved the final to Madrid, Spain. Allowing this high-profile game to move to Europe, rather than to be played in Miami, was patently contrary to USSF’s stated purpose of promoting soccer, including international games, in the U.S.’’

As for the Ecuadorean match: “On March 29, 2019, Relevent submitted an application to host an official league match between two professional Ecuadorian soccer teams that play in the LigaPro Serie A — i.e. the top flight of Ecuadorian professional soccer — on May 5, 2019 (the “Match”). The Match would be an historic event: the first foreign league soccer match played on U.S. soil.

“Without issuing any formal denial, USSF has refused, on plainly false and pretextual grounds, to sanction the Match, without making any finding that the Match would be detrimental to the sport of soccer, much less a finding by clear and convincing evidence.”

The petition points out that the NBA, NFL, NHL and Major League Baseball all host games overseas; and says soccer in America would benefit from international matches on U.S. soil.

U.S. Soccer officials were reviewing the petition Monday afternoon and have not yet issued a response.

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Miami Herald sportswriter Michelle Kaufman has covered 14 Olympics, six World Cups, Wimbledon, U.S. Open, NCAA Basketball Tournaments, NBA Playoffs, and has been the University of Miami basketball beat writer for 20 years. She was born in Frederick, Md., and grew up in Miami.
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