The academy director of PA Classics, the youth club that helped produce U.S. international Christian Pulisic, says he is "90 percent" sure that the club will not pursue a claim for solidarity payments in the wake of the player's transfer from Borussia Dortmund to Chelsea.
On Wednesday, it was announced that Chelsea will pay Dortmund $73.1 million to acquire Pulisic, a record for an American player, and more than triple the $22 million that Bundesliga side Vfl Wolfsburg paid for defender John Brooks in 2017.
FIFA's Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (RSTP) stipulate that when a player is transferred from one club to another prior to the end of the player's contract, and that transfer involves moving to another country -- a change of association, according to FIFA -- then upwards of five percent of the fee is paid to the youth clubs that developed the player in the form of a "solidarity payment."
But the U.S. Soccer Federation has long forbidden the implementation of RSTP in the U.S. Among the reasons cited are fears that RSTP violates child labor laws or would result in litigation on anti-trust grounds by various stakeholders, including the MLS Players Association, who feel that enforcement of RSTP could restrict the flow of players to foreign clubs. The USSF has also contended that a consent decree contained in the legal case Fraser vs. MLS, one that prevented the payment of transfer fees for out-of-contract players, prohibited it from enforcing RSTP.
Based on the most conservative estimate of Pulisic's tenure with PA Classics, the club would be entitled to at least $548,000. If Pulisic's time were to include the period spent in residency with the U.S. Under-17s, a time where he was still registered as a PA Classics player, that amount could exceed $1 million. But Steve Klein, who serves as the coaching director and academy director of PA Classics, is leaning towards not pushing to receive the money.
"We haven't made a decision yet. I would say 90 percent 'no,' that we don't move forward with anything," said Klein, who in addition to his responsibilities with PA Classics has served as an assistant on various U.S. youth national teams. "I know it goes against some of the conventional wisdom. I know a lot of people would like us to, but there's still a part of me that [feels] Christian made himself. I don't like being on the side that we are due this money because we created Christian Pulisic. That's where my comfort level drops. We were a part of it, but I don't know if I like trying to gain off of his success."
Other U.S-based youth clubs have been more aggressive in their bids to receive the funds they believe they are owed. Washington-based club Crossfire Premier currently has a claim in front of FIFA's Dispute Resolution Chamber related to the 2014 transfer of U.S. international defender DeAndre Yedlin to Tottenham. A decision is expected any day.
Klein said his reluctance is also influenced by the fact that PA Classics is a pay-to-play club, and has already been compensated in terms of developing its players.
"If we were a club that wasn't pay-to-play, it would be a whole different ball game," he said. "Our kids pay to play, so that's how we make our money. Now, we scholarship a lot of kids, but that's where the difference is for me a little bit. If we were one of those European clubs where everyone is free, or an MLS club where everyone is free, and signed him as a pro ... we're not even a pro club."
Klein admits that the lure of receiving the money is tempting, but that it wouldn't necessarily cover much of the team's budget, especially if they hired a lawyer.
"If you fully funded one academy age group like the U17s, you're probably looking at $300,000 for one team," he said. "You couldn't really fund your full academy for one year. The money is great, trust me. Maybe you could put a lit turf field in, which would be awesome. The money is significant. I don't want anyone thinking, 'Aw that's peanuts to PA Classics.' It's not, it's just a matter of all the extra stuff that would come with it. I'm just not sure."
But for Klein, appearances matter, in particular the image of piggybacking on Pulisic's accomplishments.
"It comes back to we were part of Christian Pulisic, but I don't want the story to be: We feel we are owed money because of his success," he said. "It really is a tough dilemma. We're just really big on the character of the player. So for me, it's kind of hypocritical.
"We would be justified. Everyone else in the world does it, but it's just not our style and that's what I've tried to impress upon a kid like Christian, being humble. If we move forward with it, I don't think it changes how I approach things, but to me, it still has a tint of that [hypocrisy] and it could turn in that direction.
"That's not what we want for our club."