Supreme Court Seeks Biden's Input on U.S. Soccer Federation's FIFA Lawsuit
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court sought input from President Joe Biden's administration regarding the potential consideration of the U.S. Soccer Federation's appeal to prevent a lawsuit accusing it of conspiring with FIFA to restrict foreign teams from playing official matches in the United States.
The case in question involves the U.S. Soccer Federation's appeal of a lower court's decision to permit a lawsuit brought by Relevent Sports, a New York-based entity. Filed in 2019 in the federal court in Manhattan against both U.S. Soccer and FIFA, the lawsuit alleges that the ban on foreign teams playing official matches in the United States violated American antitrust laws. Relevent Sports sought an injunction to prevent the implementation of this ban.
As a member of FIFA, the international governing body for soccer, U.S. Soccer is at the center of this legal dispute. While the United States currently hosts "friendly" games involving foreign professional teams, such matches do not contribute to league standings. Should Relevent Sports prevail in the lawsuit, it could pave the way for the United States to host significant matches featuring prominent professional clubs and players from around the world.
The legal challenge involves the application of antitrust laws to a member of an organization or association based on their membership and adherence to shared rules. U.S. Soccer contends that it played no role as a FIFA member in the formulation of the international organization's 2018 policy, which banned foreign clubs from hosting competitive matches outside their home countries.
A federal judge initially dismissed Relevent's lawsuit in 2021, but the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York reinstated it in March. The appellate court ruled that U.S. Soccer could be held liable if FIFA's rule is found to violate antitrust laws, as the federation had agreed to adhere to FIFA's rules as a member of the international body.
In its submission to the Supreme Court, U.S. Soccer characterized the 2nd Circuit's decision as "radical" and warned that it posed a threat to numerous entities belonging to membership associations, potentially undermining pro-competitive benefits across various industries.
Conversely, attorneys representing Relevent argued that the 2018 policy implemented by FIFA "explicitly restrains competition." The Supreme Court's request for the Biden administration's perspective adds another layer to this complex legal battle, emphasizing the significance of the case's potential implications on antitrust law within membership associations.