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My story on Training Compensation/Solidarity Payments got a great reception (thanks!), and aside from the issues involving the MLSPA’s reluctance to agree to participate, the other focus was on USSF’s use of the “Consent Decree” from the Fraser case to justify not implementing a training compensation/solidarity system. Or, at least not facilitating payments that were offered by teams from other countries signing U.S. youth players to their first professional contracts.

In that story, I highlighted MLS’ (apparent) stance on the issue (the tl;dr version being: “Don’t look at us; talk to the MLSPA”). However, some emails have come to light which show that along with the USSF, MLS was far more involved in the use of the so-called Consent Decree than perhaps they’d like you to believe.

BACKGROUND:

A couple of things. The documents I’ve obtained are emails regarding a youth player from a MLS academy, who eventually went to sign and play outside of the United States. Per the wishes of the parties involved, I’ve agreed to redact the identifying information, though I’m free to use the substance of the emails. I have the full emails, though I’ll be using screenshots for this story.

As this case involved a player signing their first pro contract, we are dealing with Training Compensation, so we’re setting Solidarity Payments to the side completely. You can read all about the FIFA regulations here.

USSF, MLS AND TRAINING COMPENSATION:

This matter involved a player who was in the Chicago Fire academy, who eventually came to terms with a team outside of the United States. When the time came to finalize the deal, the team requested information on where to send the appropriate Training Compensation payments. From that point, a party representing the player sent a correspondence to the USSF, requesting clarification on the Training Compensation issue, so that the player could be registered. The following passage from the email confirms a previous conversation between the player’s representative, and Lisa Levine, at the time General Counsel for the USSF.

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So the “proof” that justifies USSF not awarding/imposing training fees to former amateur clubs in the U.S. is a link to a lawsuit? What? Second, as I discussed in my previous story, the Consent Decree has nothing whatsoever to do with Training Compensation. Finally, were other teams from other federations previously (and subsequently) going off the “word” of USSF/MLS officials on this issue? This couldn’t have been the first time this came up. On a final note, this is why it’s always good to follow-up important verbal conversations with a written correspondence. Good for you, person who wrote this.

In any case, Ms. Levine followed up a few days later.

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Of course, we know that the Consent Decree does NOT prevent the USSF from any such thing. There is no “Order” to that effect. The Consent Decree had to do with transfer fees and out-of-contract players, which was outlawed in the Bosman ruling, and FIFA amended their statutes anyway.

Apparently, the club looking to sign the player needed some assurances from the club that would be due those Training Compensation payments, so enter: The Chicago Fire. As the parent club of the youth academy, they were the ones who would have been entitled to any fees. However, they were quick to assure the club signing the player, that they (Fire/MLS) would not accept any such payments.

Screen Shot 2018-07-11 at 8.16.48 AMThe coordination between the USSF (Ms. Levine) and MLS (Mr. Di Cuollo) is definitely on full display here; Chicago seems to be something of an afterthought, even though they were the party that stood to benefit. Now I should note that this “case” happened within the last five years, so it’s entirely possible that the positions of the USSF and MLS have changed. As I wrote in the original story, Sunil Gulati’s reasoning, as he was leaving his position as President, shifted from hiding behind the Consent Decree, to a fear that the MLSPA would sue (and believe me, I’ve heard some things behind the scenes on that issue that may render that defense worthless too).

Whatever their positions now, the fact is that Training Compensation specifically is still something that is not allowed in the US. Whether that changes in the near future is anyone’s guess, but it doesn’t seem like the USSF or MLS are in a particular hurry to change the status quo.

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