A lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation (USSF) and FIFA alleging antitrust regulation violations is getting closer to the US Supreme Court. The lawsuit comes from Relevent Sports, which wants to host an official La Liga match in the United States. Relevent wants to bring meaningful games to the United States in a bid to increase the league’s popularity.

However, FIFA established a policy in 2018 that strikes down any chance of a league game from one country or territory happening in another. That policy was enacted two months after La Liga announced the friendly between Barcelona and Girona in Miami in January 2019. Relevent then sued USSF for violating the Sherman Antitrust Act.

Originally, a lower court judge approved the USSF’s motion to dismiss the case. However, the 2nd US Court of Appeals reinstated the case. The appeals court noted that Relevent had an argument, and it did not require evidence as the lower court claimed.

“Relevent plausibly alleges that the 2018 Policy reflects a contractual commitment of head-to-head competitors to restrict competition,” the appeals court said.

After this, both FIFA and the USSF filed for dismissal of the case for different reasons. FIFA said this case involved the USSF, and US Soccer was not its agent in the United States. The USSF argued the claims were moot based on a previous settlement with Relevent.

Did US Soccer and FIFA violate antitrust policies according to the Supreme Court?

The reason the appeals court reinstated the case was because the USSF did not act independently.

“Rather, it participated in a membership association that adopted a policy binding the association’s members, and it invoked that policy as its stated rationale for denying approval of the proposed matches,” the US government wrote.

The Biden administration then took the side of Relevent Sports in pushing for the Supreme Court. USSF previously requested the Supreme Court take up the case to overturn the appeals court. As a result, the justices heard a brief stating the opinion from USSF.

The future of US Soccer

The implications of this potential Supreme Court hearing are widespread. For example, there could be competitive league games from other countries played in the United States. Previously, this issue arose when La Liga wanted to host a game in the United States. If the Supreme Court sides with Relevent Sports, the promoter (and many soccer leagues) would be free to play competitive games in the United States. Therefore, the hypothetical Barcelona-Girona game in Miami Gardens could be real.

This is also major for US Soccer. The original policy to bar other leagues from playing games in the United States prevented competitive overseas soccer from being played in the United States. In a way, it allows direct comparison between league play in Europe and league play in the USA. Friendlies serve a different role as the results don’t impact a team’s standing in a league. But in the example of Barcelona playing Girona on US soil, that game could prove crucial for both teams during their season.