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Soccer clubs lose case to force promotion-relegation on MLS
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By GRAHAM DUNBAR
GENEVA (AP) A long-running lawsuit looking to force promotion and relegation on to Major League Soccer has failed.
Lower-tier clubs Miami and Kingston Stockade filed a challenge in 2017 with the Court of Arbitration for Sport against FIFA, North American soccer body CONCACAF and the U.S. Soccer Federation.
Miami owner Riccardo Silva, the former head of media rights agency MP & Silva, sought to disrupt the closed MLS system of new clubs paying franchise fees up to $200 million.
The clubs' case cited a sub-section of FIFA statutes stating "a club's entitlement to take part in a domestic league championship shall depend principally on sporting merit." The FIFA article also notes participation "may be subject to other criteria."
CAS ruled this week that FIFA never intended the promotion-relegation principle to apply to the U.S. and Australia.
The ruling, seen Friday by The Associated Press, said that although FIFA may not like closed leagues they can be allowed if a domestic professional championship never had promotion and relegation between divisions.
Closed leagues are the norm in the United States and lawyers for the two clubs "did not argue why such practice could not be maintained in soccer," the ruling stated.
Miami and Kingston Stockade said being unable to "climb the ladder" from lower divisions into the MLS system denied them access to "premium club markets" of international competitions run by CONCACAF and FIFA.
The case was heard in a one-day session in New York last May. It included witness statements from former FIFA secretary general Michel Zen-Ruffinen and former USSF presidents Alan Rothenberg and Sunil Gulati.
The court ordered both clubs to each pay 15,000 Swiss francs ($15,350) toward USSF's legal costs and 7,500 Swiss francs ($7,675) to each of FIFA and CONCACAF.
The ruling was made weeks before the Inter Miami franchise, led by David Beckham, kicks off its debut MLS season.
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Updated February 7, 2020