By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A U.S. judge on Tuesday dismissed a sports promotion company’s antitrust lawsuit accusing soccer’s world governing body FIFA and the U.S. Soccer Federation of blocking foreign clubs and leagues from staging competitive matches in the United States.
U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan said Relevent Sports LLC failed to show an illegal conspiracy to restrict where teams play, despite a 2018 FIFA policy against official matches outside teams’ home territories.
Caproni said that even absent a formal “meeting of the minds” there were “obvious rational reasons” for U.S. Soccer to honor the ban, including the prospect that FIFA might otherwise exclude U.S. men’s soccer players and teams from the World Cup.
She also rejected New York-based Relevent’s “conclusory” claim that U.S. Soccer and Major League Soccer pushed FIFA for the ban.
“In short, plaintiff’s amended complaint is devoid of any factual allegations to support the inference that the defendants in this case agreed with anyone, let alone with all 210 other National Associations and countless leagues and teams, to do anything, including to adhere to the policy,” Caproni wrote.
Lawyers for Relevent did not immediately respond to requests for comment. FIFA, U.S. Soccer and their respective lawyers did not immediately respond to similar requests.
Relevent, which organizes the International Champions Cup, wanted to arrange regular season games in the United States from leagues such as Spain’s La Liga, its partner in a joint venture.
Some European and South American teams play “friendly” matches in the United States, but not regular season matches.
Caproni gave Relevent until July 30 to decide whether it wants to arbitrate a separate claim against U.S. Soccer for interfering with its business.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Ken Ferris)