FIFA resolves lawsuit by sports promoter owned by billionaire Ross

By Thomson Reuters Apr 8, 2024 | 6:26 PM

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) – FIFA has settled an antitrust lawsuit accusing soccer’s world governing body of illegally banning foreign clubs and leagues from staging official matches in the United States.

The settlement with Relevent Sports, a sports promoter controlled by billionaire Miami Dolphins American football team owner Stephen Ross, was disclosed in a Monday filing with the U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

It came a little over a year after the federal appeals court in Manhattan revived Relevent’s case, which a trial judge had dismissed in 2021. The U.S. Soccer Federation remains a defendant.

Lawyers for FIFA and U.S. Soccer did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In a statement, Relevent said FIFA will consider changes to its rules about whether games can be played outside a league’s home territory.

Some European and South American teams already play “friendly” matches in the United States.

It was not immediately clear whether the settlement would result in non-U.S. teams playing regular season matches there.

FIFA, which has 211 member associations, announced its foreign match policy in October 2018, after Relevent arranged with Spain’s La Liga to host a regular season match between FC Barcelona and Girona FC in Miami.

Barcelona eventually withdrew, and Relevent sued U.S. Soccer in September 2019 after it scuttled a match in Miami between two Ecuadorean teams. FIFA was added as a defendant a year later.

Relevent, based in New York, also operates the International Champions Cup.

The hosting by U.S. stadiums of regular season matches between foreign teams could draw away fans and sponsors now supporting FIFA-affiliated Major League Soccer.

That league got a boost when soccer star Lionel Messi, who helped Argentina win the 2022 World Cup, began playing for Inter Miami last year.

The United States, along with Canada and Mexico, will co-host the World Cup in men’s soccer in 2026.

The case is Relevent Sports LLC v U.S. Soccer Federation Inc et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 19-08359.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Chris Reese)