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Spanish court to decide fate of Spanish league game in USA

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MADRID (AP) A Spanish court will decide whether the Spanish league will be allowed to play the Villarreal-Atletico Madrid game in the United States next month.

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A court hearing is scheduled for Thursday in Madrid to hear arguments from the league and the Spanish soccer federation, which is against taking the regular-season match abroad.

The league has called for an injunction to force the federation to give its approval. It accuses the local soccer body of unfair competition.

The league also needs the approval of UEFA and American soccer bodies to be able to play the match, which is scheduled for Dec. 6 in Miami.

The commercial court hearing the case is expected to issue a ruling within the next few days.

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U.S. Soccer opposes USWNT request for class certification

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The U.S. Soccer Federation has filed a motion opposing the U.S. women’s national team request to certify the players’ lawsuit seeking equitable pay as a class action.

The women filed its motion for class certification on Sept. 11, asking the court to include all players called up to the national team in the lawsuit, in addition to those originally named. U.S. Soccer filed its response to the request on Monday night.

Twenty-eight players, including Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe, sued U.S. Soccer in March alleging institutionalized gender discrimination that includes inequitable compensation compared to players on the men’s national team.

U.S. Soccer maintains that compensation for each team is the result of separate collective bargaining agreements, and that the pay structures are different as a result. Men’s team players are paid largely by appearance and performance, while the contract for the women’s team includes provisions for health care and other benefits, as well as salaries in the National Women’s Soccer League.

The federation argued in its motion Monday that four players for the U.S. team – Morgan, Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd and Becky Sauerbrunn – were each paid more than the highest paid player on the men’s national team in four years over the period between 2014-2019. The four earned more even when NWSL salaries were removed, the motion said.

U.S. Soccer maintains that because those players made more they lack the standing to represent a class.

Representatives for the players did not immediately respond to comment Monday night.

The motion says the four players made more in 2015, and then from 2017-2019 than the highest-paid men’s player in each of those years.

The men’s team did not make the field for the 2018 World Cup in Russia and had fewer matches, and therefore fewer call-ups and training camps from 2017-18. The team has also transitioned to new coach Gregg Berhalter, who was hired last December.

The women’s team won this year’s World Cup in France and had additional games leading up to the event, including qualification matches. The women also won the World Cup in 2015. The team also played in victory tour matches following those World Cup victories.

The lawsuit accused the federation of paying players on the women’s team less than similarly situated male national team players on a per game basis.

Following a failed attempt to mediate the matter, a May 5 trial date was set in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

Promoter intends to drop sanctioning suit against USSF

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A promoter intends to drop its lawsuit that asked a court to order the U.S. Soccer Federation to sanction international league matches in the United States.

The USSF in April denied an application by Relevent Sports, a company owned by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, to have Ecuador’s Barcelona and Guayaquil clubs play on May 5 at Miami Gardens, Florida. The USSF cited an Oct. 26 announcement by FIFA that its ruling council “emphasized the sporting principle that official league matches must be played within the territory of the respective member association.”

Relevent sued in New York Supreme Court, and a lawyer for the USSF argued the court should not hear the dispute and it should be sent to arbitration. A decision by Justice W. Franc Perry was pending.

Marc Litt, a lawyer for Relevent, sent a letter to Perry on Monday stating “that our client has decided to discontinue this proceeding.”

Relevent also attempted to stage the first Spanish La Liga match in the U.S., between Barcelona and Girona, at Miami Gardens on Jan. 26. That effort fell through following opposition from the governing body of Spanish soccer, the Real Federacion Espanola de Futbol, and the players’ union, the Asociacion de Futbolistas Espanoles.

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La Liga scraps plan to play January match in US

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MADRID (AP) The Spanish League has given up on its plan to play a regular-season match in the United States next month because Barcelona backed down from its commitment.

The Catalan club said on Monday it did not intend to play the game against Girona near Miami because there was no consensus among all stakeholders.

The club’s board of directors said Barcelona remained behind the idea of the game aboard, but the “project will not prosper until there is an agreement between all parties.”

“From the beginning we have said that participation in the game abroad is voluntary,” the league said in a statement. “If FC Barcelona wishes not to attend, the game scheduled in Miami can’t be staged on the agreed date.”

The Spanish league last month took legal action against the country’s soccer federation in an effort to get approval for the Jan. 26 match at Hard Rock Stadium. A court decision was expected as early as Thursday.

“La Liga will continue the planned action so an official league game can be played outside of Spain,” the league said. “La Liga is convinced that (the federation) is not acting in accordance with the law.”

The league needs approval from the federation to be able to play abroad. The federation was yet to approve or deny the league’s request, having raised concerns that the overseas game would not comply with Spanish and international regulations and TV broadcast contracts. It also said the overseas match could harm the other 18 league clubs.

Barcelona said in its statement it “accepted that income from the game would be shared” among all first-division and second-division clubs following the criteria for television rights money distribution.

The league offered several compensation plans for fans of Girona, which would be relinquishing a home match.

Other stakeholders, including UEFA and CONCACAF, also needed to approve the match. The FIFA council recently opposed the idea, although its permission for the match was not mandatory.

Staging the game in the United States is seen as an important step for the Spanish league to continue expanding internationally and to close the gap on the powerful English Premier League. The Spanish league has a 15-year deal with sports and entertainment group Relevent to promote soccer and take games to the United States.

“We regret to disappoint our fans in the U.S. and will work to, in the shortest possible time, stage an official La Liga game in the U.S., just like the major American leagues (NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL) stage games outside their borders.”

The league last month launched a campaign to showcase the public support from American fans, asking them to sign an online petition in favor of the game.

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USMNT statement on anniversary of World Cup qualifying failure

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Has it really been a year? Sadly, it has. You may have tried to wipe it from your memory, but the darkest day in U.S. Soccer in several decades (if not ever) is hard to forget.

On October 10, 2017, the U.S. men’s national team lost 2-1 in Couva to Trinidad and Tobago as they failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

With the USMNT missing out on qualification for the first time since 1986, huge changes have taken place throughout the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) as a result of that shocking performance at T&T.

From Bruce Arena resigning, to a whole host of experienced USMNT stars not playing for the national team again or retiring altogether, U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati stepping down and replaced by Carlos Cordeiro, plus Earnie Stewart appointed as the new team GM, there has been a huge amount of change around the USMNT.

One year on, they issued the following statement on Wednesday (titled: “the future is US”) which didn’t directly address that it was one year since the debacle, but they said pretty much implied that with everything that was said.

“Today we look forward. With the march towards 2022 underway and the 2026 FIFA World Cup in North America as our guidepost, the U.S. Men’s National Team has embarked on a new journey. The hallmarks of the culture remain, with perseverance, grit and dogged determination fueled by the pride to represent the United States and each and every one of you. We take nothing for granted. The path ahead will be paved with successes and informed by setbacks. We will build strength through commitment and character, accepting challenges and rising every time we fall. We will be aggressive and play without fear, for history demonstrates that fortune favors the bold.

“Like any grand project, ours is a work in progress. We cannot do it alone. Pioneering a new path forward takes the will of a generation full of optimism and hope, bound by the belief that there is nothing we cannot achieve if we are united in the cause. This is the American spirit, from which is born the American dream. It is time to take our destiny in our own hands and turn that dream into a reality. And do it together. The future is US.”

A lot of this is waffly PR talk and most of it will either grate or resonate strongly with USMNT fans.

“Like any grand project, ours is a work in progress” is like saying, ‘hey, give us another year or so, because things won’t be great for a while’ or something along those lines.

And the acceptance that “the 2026 World Cup in North America as our guidepost” shows that the route ahead has been planned out and the 2022 World Cup is somewhat of an afterthought already. Of course, the U.S. will want to qualify, but having such a young squad getting the experience it has over the past 12 months is clearly focused on them succeeding on home soil in eight years time. A lot can change in eight years, but at least the USMNT know they will be in that World Cup (it has yet to be announced officially, but the expectation is that Mexico, the U.S. and Canada will all be handed automatic qualification).

The past 12 months have been somewhat of a wasted year for the USMNT. They have drifted along with no clear direction.

Amid the USSF presidential elections they lost plenty of time to plan and put key GMs and coaches in place to get this team back to where it needs to be. Interim head coach Dave Sarachan has done a very decent job steadying the ship and integrating young talent but this feels like the U.S. has just been treading water.

With an 18 month gap between that fateful night in Couva to their next meaningful game, a 2019 Gold Cup group stage opener in June, the U.S. men’s national team have become a bit of an afterthought.

In the next decade or so we will be talking about October 10, 2017 as either the key date where the USMNT turned itself around, or the day when things began to go badly wrong for the program.

With a promising group of youngster coming through, it seems like the former will be true. But as the USMNT acknowledge themselves, the road ahead will be an arduous one. If the future is really going to be “US” then first they need a new head coach and to get the ball rolling as to what the identity and plan is for this team.

There has been too much time standing still. The USMNT needs to get their act together, fast, if they’re going to rebound successfully from what happened one year ago today. This anniversary acts as a painful reminder as to just how much work still needs to be done to restore pride in the U.S. men’s national team.