U.S. Soccer rejects Kyle Martino's stadium selection claim

The U.S. Soccer Federation on Monday rejected as "categorically false" a claim from U.S. Soccer presidential candidate Kyle Martino that the federation allowed its marketing partner to select the site of a World Cup qualifier.

Martino, a former U.S. international and an analyst for NBC Sports, made the allegation in response to a survey question from the USSF's Athlete Council, which has 20 percent of the vote in next month's election.

He claimed the decision to play September's World Cup qualifying defeat against Costa Rica at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, was made by Soccer United Marketing (SUM), rather than U.S. Soccer itself, in order to "prioritize profit."

But the federation rejected that claim in a statement on Monday, writing: "Any assertion that Soccer United Marketing has ever decided the location of a U.S. National Team match is categorically false.

"U.S. Soccer unilaterally selects the venues for all home National Team matches, working closely with our senior team coaches to make the decisions that we believe will provide the greatest opportunity for on-field success. Claims to the contrary are irresponsible and misleading."

The qualifier, which the Americans lost 2-0, was the first-ever U.S. World Cup qualifier to be played in the New York metro area, and the crowd featured plenty of support for Costa Rica, despite efforts to control ticket sales.

Before the game, then-U.S. coach Bruce Arena defended the decision to host the game in New Jersey, telling reporters: "We're playing at home and I don't care what anyone says, we have a home-field advantage."

But Martino alleged that U.S. Soccer's marketing partner, SUM, made the decision in order to sell more tickets, and that Arena was not involved.

"SUM is the marketing partner for CONCACAF so it made a business decision, without consulting the coach of the National Team, to prioritize profit, which gave our competition an advantage by hosting a game in a location that would produce the highest turnout of their fans," Martino wrote.

In a response to U.S. Soccer's statement on Monday, Martino told SI.com that Arena "lobbied to have that venue changed and was told no." Martino added that in making his claim he was primarily pointing out the lack of transparency involved in such decisions.

SUM's perceived conflicts of interest and the unclear extent of its business have become major issues in the election. SUM is owned by the club owners of Major League Soccer and has an exclusive marketing rights deal with U.S. Soccer, which is a non-profit organization.

Also among the eight presidential candidates is Kathy Carter, who took a leave of absence as SUM president when she announced her candidacy.

In the Athlete Council survey, Carter defended SUM's role by saying U.S. Soccer simply outsourced its marketing to SUM in a move similar to most major college athletics programs.