A dispute over training compensation in US Soccer: Youth Soccer Clubs v USSF, MLS & MLSPU

Football on American flag under spotlight
Tuesday, 18 April 2017 By Andrew Visnovsky

Several American Youth Soccer Clubs[1] sued the MLS Players’ Union (MLSPU) and three former and current MLS players[2] in the Eastern District of Texas federal court in July 2016 to enforce the training compensation and solidarity payment provisions[3], contained in FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (RSTP). The complaint[4] was brought in United States District Court of the Eastern District of Texas by Youth Soccer clubs, Dallas Texans Soccer Club, Crossfire Foundation, Inc., and Shocker’s FC Chicago LLC (together, the Youth Clubs). These clubs were training clubs for Clint Dempsey, DeAndre Yedlin, and Michael Bradley respectively. The Youth clubs name the MLS Players’ Union (MLSPU) Dempsey, Yedlin, Bradley, and “all those similarly situated” as defendants in their complaint. On March 29, 2017, the Court dismissed the case on jurisdictional grounds. 

The transfers that were subject of the complaint are:

On or about August 3, 2013 Clint Dempsey, a US professional soccer player, was transferred from Tottenham Hotspur Football Club of the Football Association of the United Kingdom to the MLS and the United States.

On or about August 13, 2014, DeAndre Yedlin, a US professional soccer player, was transferred from MLS to Tottenham Hotspur Football Club of the Football Association of the UK.

On or about January 9, 2014, Michael Bradley, a US professional soccer player, was transferred from AS Roma of the Italian Football Federation to the MLS (Toronto FC) in Canada.” 

While the instant suit was arguably flawed (for reasons we’ll explore below), it does raise several serious questions about the international transfer market and the governance of soccer, most notably: do FIFA RSTP rules violate U.S. law? This article examines the question, looking specifically at:

  • Background to the dispute
    • Youth soccer in the United States;
    • Training Compensation and Solidarity Mechanisms in the RSTP
    • The parties
    • The complaint

  • Procedural deficiencies
    • Dismissal on Jurisdictional Grounds
    • Ripeness of the Claim & Federal Arbitration Policy
    • Wrong parties

  • Legality of FIFA RSTP Training Compensation Rules for U.S. Clubs
    • Memorandum of Understanding between the MLSPU and the USSF
    • The MOU, the FIFA RSTP, and their Application
    • Violation of US Soccer’s agreement with FIFA

  • Legality of FIFA RSTP Training Compensation Rules for U.S. Clubs
    • Labor exemption
    • Sherman Act analysis

  • Conclusion

Views expressed through this article are the authors own, unless otherwise stated.

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About the Author

Andrew Visnovsky

Andrew Visnovsky

Andrew (pronouns: He/Him) is a lawyer, sports management consultant, and founding member of Ad Victoriam Sports Group, a sports management consultancy specializing in North American soccer and the global transfer market of athletes and esports talent. 

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