Alejandro Bedoya's recent move to the Philadelphia Union is the latest transfer to be drawn into the dispute with youth clubs over training compensation and solidarity payments.
Earlier this month, U.S. international Bedoya completed a move from French side Nantes to MLS, with sources telling ESPN FC that the fee was $1 million.
Because Bedoya's transfer took place before the expiration of his contract with Nantes, FIFA stipulates that his youth club, Florida's Weston FC, is entitled to a cut of the transfer fee paid by MLS, according to the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (RSTP), in what is called a solidarity payment.
Bedoya played for Weston FC through his 18th birthday before attending college, first at Fairleigh Dickinson University and later at Boston College. Depending on when Bedoya first joined Weston FC, the club could be entitled to collect as much as 2.5 percent of the transfer fee, or about $25,000.
Houston-based attorney Cory Roth, representing Weston FC in the matter, said he is in the process of sending a demand letter to the U.S. Soccer Federation, MLS, and the Philadelphia Union requesting that the solidarity payment be made. If they payment is not made -- which seems almost certain -- then Roth said he plans to take up the matter with FIFA's Dispute Resolution Chamber on Weston FC's behalf.
Earlier this summer, a trio of other youth clubs filed a class-action lawsuit against the MLS Players Union as well as U.S. national team players DeAndre Yedlin, Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey, seeking similar payments. Roth said Weston FC is still deciding whether to join the class-action.
In the past, Roth has filed training compensation claims on behalf of Beaverton, Oregon-based Westside Timbers, as it relates to FC Utrecht forward Rubio Rubin, as well as the Minnesota Thunder Academy in relation to Colorado Rapids defender Eric Miller, who started his professional career with the Montreal Impact.
"[Weston] wants to get this money, reinvest it into the club, and provide more scholarships," Roth said.
The U.S. Soccer Federation, citing U.S. law, has long forbidden U.S. youth clubs from collecting training compensation and solidarity fees, and MLS has followed its lead. Specifically, the concern is that implementing RSTP in the U.S. could result in a restraint of trade and thus violate U.S. antitrust law.
RSTP stipulates that training compensation is charged when a player signs his or her first pro contract, and there is a change of national association, while solidarity payments are collected when a player is transferred before the expiration of his contract, and there is a change of national association.
Underpinning the USSF's position is a consent decree involving the USSF and MLS that came as a result of the lawsuit Fraser vs. MLS. The decree, a copy of which has been obtained by ESPN FC, states that the "USSF will not impose, implement, or enforce in any way, those roles, statues, or regulations adopted by the Federation Internationale de Football Association relating to the payment of transfer fees or training and development fees ('transfer fee rules') for professional soccer players who are free of contractual obligations to other teams ('out of contract players')."
The decree goes on to add: "USSF will not directly or indirectly prevent a player from playing in Major League Soccer ("MLS") by failing to register an out of contract player in the United States because MLS has not complied with the transfer free rules with respect to out of contract players."
Nowhere in the consent decree does it mention what should happen in the case of players who are still under contract.
Roth insists that the consent decree shouldn't apply in this case.
"It's clear as day. There's 80 years of precedent that says a consent degree is an agreement between two parties," Roth said. "It's not binding or enforceable by or against any third party. It's cut and dried, black and white."
Lance Reich, the attorney representing the three clubs in the separate class-action lawsuit, told ESPN FC in July that their action is a preemptive strike against the MLSPU, which through executive director Bob Foose threatened to file an antitrust lawsuit if the collection of solidarity payments took place.
The three clubs had previously taken their complaint to FIFA's Dispute Resolution Chamber (DRC). Reich reiterated in a recent interview with ESPN FC that a decision by the DRC is imminent.