Judge rules for US Soccer in antitrust suit

A federal judge ruled for the U.S. Soccer Federation in an

antitrust and racketeering lawsuit filed by a defunct promoter but

also reaffirmed his decision that Congress’ amateur sports act gave

the governing body authority over only Olympic events and not the

entire professional sport in the country.

The USSF was pleased with the opinion by U.S. District Judge

Harry D. Leinenweber in Chicago in the six-year-old case, saying

his interpretation of the amateur sports act would not impact its

authority over the professional sport because it was derived from

FIFA, soccer’s world governing body.

Leinenweber issued a summary judgment Friday in a suit filed by

ChampionsWorld LLC against the USSF and Major League Soccer, a case

that claimed the two conspired to put the promoter out of business.

But he refused to change his 2010 decision that the Ted Stevens

Olympic and Amateur Sports Act of 1998 ”gives USSF no more of an

antitrust exemption or authority over professional soccer than

necessary for it to oversee Olympic and related events.”

”USSF’s request for reconsideration is denied,” Leinenweber

wrote. ”USSF seems to argue that the 1975-77 President’s

Commission on Olympic Sports’ final report, which notes that USSF

was unique among the national governing bodies in that it had

professional members, compels reconsideration. Even assuming that

Congress noted that fact in passing the Act, this is insufficient

to change this Court’s conclusion as to the law as Congress

actually adopted it. That law was directed at the authority of the

national governing bodies relating to amateur and Olympic sports. A

note in the commission’s report that USSF exercised authority over

its professional members does not mean that the Act bestowed any

such authority.”

The USSF says it has sole authority over professional soccer in

the United States because it is recognized by FIFA.

”We are pleased that the court ruled in U.S. Soccer’s favor,”

said Russ Sauer, the federation’s lead lawyer in the case.

”Neither the earlier ruling nor the Ted Stevens Act impacts U.S.

Soccer’s authority over professional soccer. U.S. Soccer has

authority over domestic professional leagues because they have

agreed to be members of U.S. Soccer. U.S. Soccer also has authority

over foreign national and club teams playing in the United States

by virtue of their membership in FIFA. Lastly, U.S. Soccer has

control over its World Cup teams as required by FIFA.”

ChampionsWorld, the company run by former MetroStars executive

Charlie Stillitano, promoted games in the U.S. but filed for

bankruptcy in 2005 and went out of business the following year. It

claimed the USSF and MLS, who combined to establish Soccer United

Marketing, wanted the market for themselves.

The USSF charges a fee of 5.25 percent of the gross gate for

games in the U.S. involving one international club and 9 percent

for matches involving two international clubs. For games involving

national teams, it charges 11.25 percent of the first $200,000 and

15 percent of the remainder. The fee is cut in half if the match is

part of a doubleheader involving MLS teams.

In litigation that sprawled across the Atlantic, FIFA’s player

status committee ruled the USSF has the right to sanction matches

in the U.S. and to charge sanctioning fees. a decision upheld by

the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport. In a 2010


Leinenweber ruled ChampionsWorld did receive consideration for

its fee: game officials arranged by the USSF and the sanction. He

accepted the CAS decision that foreign clubs and national teams

would not have participated in unsanctioned games.