The Major League Soccer Players' Union, along with Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, DeAndre Yedlin and potentially thousands of players are named in a class action lawsuit filed by three youth soccer clubs.
The plaintiffs -- the youth club teams of Yedlin, Crossfire Premiere of Redmond, Washington; Dempsey, the Dallas Texans; and Bradley, Sockers FC of Chicago -- are seeking "to recoup hundreds of thousands of dollars in training and solidarity fees," according to an exclusive report by Vice Sports.
BREAKING: Youth clubs file class action lawsuit against MLS Players Union, Dempsey, Yedlin, and Bradley. https://t.co/NaWHhQAJsu
- VICE Sports (@VICESports) July 1, 2016
The teams state they are owed money for transfer fees in part because of their role in player development for the three U.S. national team players.
The report quotes Article 21, Section VII of the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players regarding solidarity compensation, which states: "If a professional is transferred before the expiry of his contract, any club that has contributed to his education and training shall receive a proportion of the compensation paid to his former club [solidarity contribution]."
However, the U.S. Soccer Federation maintains that U.S.-based youth teams are not eligible to collect such fees and have instructed domestic leagues including MLS and NASL to follow its guidelines, not the ones mandated by FIFA regulations.
Vice Sports obtained the complaint, which reads in part: "The class is so numerous and geographically widespread that joinder of all members is impracticable. At a minimum, the class consists of thousands of players."
The plaintiff's attorney, Lance D. Reich, a Seattle-based partner in Han, Santos & Reich PLLC, said that his clients' hand was somewhat forced in regard to naming player names, while clarifying the basis for the suit in the first place.
"We are being accused that if we implement training compensation and solidarity fees in the U.S., or if U.S. clubs take solidarity payments from say Tottenham, that it's a violation of anti-trust law, and we'll get sued," Reich said. "We don't want that. We're not going to break the laws of the U.S. if that's true. That's what we're asking about.
"[Naming players] is an unfortunate [part] of the law. There's a case form the NHL versus their players union where when you file a case like we filed, they said the players are the ones that own the anti-trust action. So we said, 'Fine, we'll name the players. We really don't want to, and we'll drop them the first second we can.'
"It's just about who holds the anti-trust cause of action if we are violating anti-trust. That's why we named them. It's nothing personal at all. It's not really contentious."
A spokesman for the youth clubs said in a statement:
"The US Youth Clubs had to name the players, Dempsey, Yedlin and Bradley, as well as the defendant class of players, solely for a legal reason to maintain the Complaint. Our clubs have no desire to, in essence, sue their own kids and don't really believe the players are needed here to resolve this, but the law is what it is. The US Youth Clubs have asked the MLSPU to stipulate that the players are not needed to maintain this action and if they agree, the US Youth Clubs will immediately drop the players."
Bernie James, the director of coaching for Crossfire Premier tried to further explain the rationale behind the suit from his club's perspective.
"I can absolutely tell you from our club's point of view, we're not interested in money," James said. "We're interested in clarification of the rules, of FIFA rules. Just give us a simple clarification, once and for all, and do FIFA rules apply and where do they apply? That is the absolute truth.
"Whatever the outcome is, we want to know what it is, and so do the other clubs involved. What is the rule? How is it enforced? How does it work in this country as opposed to others? Stuff like that. It's about as innocent as you can get."
ESPN FC writer Jeff Carlisle contributed to this report.