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What did MLS and USSF know about Traffic Sports’ improprieties?

chuck-blazer

With the CONCACAF Gold Cup about to kick off, the FIFA scandal should be on the front-burner for most American journalists. As the FBI indictments against several CONCACAF and Traffic Sports officials indicate, the governing body for the sport in North and Central America as well as the Caribbean, has held for much of the last two decades a continental championship whose very hosting and marketing has been compromised by alleged corruption.

Yet strangely as the tournament is about to kick off, the media attention in the United States that was so focused on the scandal when FIFA and the second-tier NASL were in the crosshairs has subsided while scrutiny should be placed on CONCACAF and US Soccer.

Much ink was spilled in the initial days after the scandal broke about the NASL, Traffic Sports and FIFA officials from other parts of the region. But once more of the discussion centered on Chuck Blazer, an American whose connections within FIFA and CONCACAF seem to have directly benefited the US Soccer Federation (USSF) and Major League Soccer (MLS), much of the US Soccer press began avoiding the story.

But now that the CONCACAF Gold Cup is beginning, questions need to be put front and center. What did MLS and US Soccer know about the corruption, bribes, money laundering and tax evasion that were pervasive under Chuck Blazer from 1990 to 2011 — and when did they know it? This is the same man who received MLS’ Commissioner’s Award in 2006 and was named “one of the most important people in the history of soccer in this country” by MLS Commissioner Don Garber.

SEE MOREYears of Blazer corruption raises serious questions for American soccer

How were Chuck Blazer’s alleged activities that appear to have benefited MLS and US Soccer not faced more scrutiny — such as MLS convincing Blazer to pressure FIFA to overturn the awarding of the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cup TV rights from NBC Sports and to give them to ESPN instead. As a result, ESPN decided to start paying MLS for TV rights. Previously, MLS paid ESPN and FOX Soccer to put its games on those networks.

Plus, many of the misdeeds that are have alleged to have taken place in the FIFA scandal took place on American soil from Blazer’s offices in Trump Tower in New York City.

And as Charlie Stillitano recently mentioned on his Sirius XM FC satellite radio show, Blazer and USSF President Sunil Gulati were best friends. Gulati and Blazer are pictured together on Blazer’s blog where Blazer refers to Gulati as his friend. Incredibly, in a 2013 interview with Sports Illustrated, Gulati claims he knew nothing about CONCACAF’s “staggering examples of improper behavior.”

Unlike other confederations, CONCACAF always holds either the bulk of or their entire continental championship in the United States. This has always been accepted as a fait accompli by many in the US Soccer press, but why is this? We now have been presented evidence that huge bribes may have been involved in the marketing of the tournament and the reasoning why the competition is held every two years is probably tied to this possible graft where there’s an opportunity to make more money than in other countries. The decision to award the Copa America tournament in 2016 to the United States, something that seemed bizarre from the get-go, was allegedly due to over a hundred million dollars in alleged bribery. On this matter, it’s hard to believe that high-ranking officials either at the USSF or around the game in the United States had zero knowledge of this.

Many of the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournaments have, according to the legal documents released in this matter, been caught up in alleged corruption either due to awarding of the event or the marketing rights related to the tournament. While it’s fair to note that the four Gold Cups that were marketed by MLS’ Soccer United Marketing (SUM) were not named in any of documents, the others marketed by Traffic Sports did take place on American soil, and without a doubt soccer in the United States benefited from the hosting of those tournaments.

Chuck Blazer’s influence in FIFA and relationship with Sepp Blatter no doubt benefited the United States. The net result at minimum was the nation gaining political influence within FIFA that was beneficial to growing the business of the sport in the United States. But perhaps it resulted in more than that, and those questions need to be asked by US-based journalists.

 

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15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. David Hughes

    September 14, 2015 at 6:06 pm

    I ask why aren’t Soccer Journalist investigating and reporting? Both USSOCCER and MLS have nothing to say and have gone completely quiet. Thanks for reporting this and keep on them we want answers to were our American Soccer money was stolen right in front of our nose?

  2. LE Eisenmenger

    July 20, 2015 at 8:37 pm

    Hosting 2016 Copa America in the US was designed to help the US develop relationships with CONMEBOL with the intent of creating a new tournament showcasing North and South America to attract US fans to the higher level of competition vs Brazil, Argentina, Chile, compared to say the lackluster Gold Cup. It’s a brilliant idea for improving the profile of US soccer. Traffic is a Brazilian company with experience that CONMEBOL trusted to manage it.

  3. KapUSMC

    July 8, 2015 at 12:09 pm

    While I agree with most almost all of the article, I think one part was a bit of a stretch. As for being paid for tv coverage vice paying, that contract was signed at the beginning of the boon for sporting broadcast rights in a DVR world. They have since changed carrier for a different network on a contract worth significantly more with multiple bidders. There are many sports on TV that were previously, and the value of traditional US TV sports like NBA, NFL, and college football have quadrupled in value.

  4. Seth Israel

    July 8, 2015 at 11:24 am

    Years of Blazer hands in U.S. Soccer cookie jar will come to haunt US Soccer and MLS make no mistake Garber and Sunil Gulati.

  5. alex gago

    July 8, 2015 at 10:57 am

    ESPN Grant Wahl among others are much to blame as any of the corruption at US Soccer as they refuse to press the issue and demand answer from US Soccer.

    • R

      July 8, 2015 at 1:10 pm

      Can anybody explain to me why everything wrong with US Soccer is Grant Wahl’s fault? I know he’s not a very good writer, but it’s not like he’s Judith Miller cheerleading the Iraq War.

  6. Paul Scanling

    July 7, 2015 at 10:40 pm

    Why are you not asking about NASL’s knowledge of Traffic’s improprieties? This goes deeper than MLS. This goes deeper than USSF.

    • Christopher Harris

      July 7, 2015 at 11:00 pm

      We’ve asked NASL for an official comment, but they didn’t respond. Plus we’ve written extensively about their involvement with Traffic Sports in separate articles.

    • Kartik Krishnaiyer

      July 8, 2015 at 11:18 am

      Yeah I think we all at this point see the NASL as somewhat tainted by Traffic given all the revelations. Regardless of Commissioner Peterson’s preseason comments that Traffic simply owned one team in NASL, subsequent reporting has indicated the business ties are extensive and represent essentially Traffic being a business partner of NASL. But this isn’t just an NASL problem, Traffic is a bigger problem and we feel those questions needs to be asked.

    • Pakapala

      July 8, 2015 at 4:36 pm

      What Kartik is saying is that the US soccer media are not pressing USSF and MLS on their knowledge. They all went mum as if there’s a gag order. Kudos to WorldSoccerTalk for being the one at least raising the question none of the rest of the media here want to ask.

  7. Sgc

    July 7, 2015 at 5:35 pm

    Saying “Garber was friends with Blazer, who was friends with Traffic” is a lazy way of papering over SUM and Traffic basically being direct competitors. It also violates the “Facebook principle” (the friend of your friend is not necessarily your friend).

    As for US Soccer, “knowledge” is used as a fuzzy term here. . . does one mean what did they suspect, or what could they provide real, hard evidence of? US Soccer is not itself a party to the bidding on CONCACAF tournaments, even if they happen to be in the United States (this disconnect sometimes manifests itself through the selection of host cities or the timing of matches, which are sometimes obviously not what US Soccer would have chosen, were that power theirs).

    • Kartik Krishnaiyer

      July 7, 2015 at 6:56 pm

      That’s a fair point but many of the improprieties that are alleged to have benefited Traffic via Interforever Sports happened BEFORE SUM was formed at a time when the US was constantly hosting the Gold Cup without playing games in Mexico. The 1997, 1999, 2000 and 2002 Gold Cups were held completely in the US and marketed by Traffic subsidiary IFS. These Gold Cups are listed in the Blazer plea agreement.

  8. DivinityHope

    July 7, 2015 at 4:11 pm

    The simple answer, Nothing. Or Blatter wouldnt be the only American of the FIFA criminals to be in jail?Do people really think, Blatter wouldn give up Garder and Gulati?lol

    • Kei

      July 7, 2015 at 6:46 pm

      So at best, Gulati and Garber were completely oblivious to every single shady dealing that Blazer was involved in. At worst, they were willfully ignorant of their close friend and ally’s underhand tactics, which personally benefited them as well.

      Neither of those two can be considered a good look for either Sunil or the Don, can they?

  9. Realest Realist

    July 7, 2015 at 3:29 pm

    There’s a higher probability of Ted becoming the next USSF chairman than anybody within the American soccer media sphere asking any tough, necessary questions of Gulati, Garber, et al.

    To the extent that MLS = USSF, and USSF = American soccer, very few of those who cover American soccer for a living is going to want to say one bad thing or ask one annoying question. Access, privilege, and favors trump journalism every time, in soccer as with every other realm of coverage in 2015.

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