On Monday, Crossfire Premiere, a youth club based in Redmond, Washington, sent a letter to FIFA's Executive Committee asking for the right to collect solidarity fees in regards to former academy product DeAndre Yedlin, who last year transferred from Major League Soccer's Seattle Sounders to the English Premier League's Tottenham Hotspurs for a reported $4 million fee. U.S. Soccer guidelines prohibit youth clubs from collecting these fees—which are meant to reward youth clubs for helping develop players—despite the fact that FIFA mandates that these payments be made by professional teams. MLS abides by these U.S. Soccer guidelines and does not pay out any fees to youth teams that it receives in the transfer of MLS players, such as Yedlin.
No U.S. based youth team has ever petitioned FIFA to challenge U.S. Soccer or MLS on their stance toward solidarity fees. But should Crossfire get a positive result out of their inquiry—which could result in either FIFA's Executive Committee making a judgment on the claim, or FIFA allowing Crossfire to pursue litigation in the United States against U.S. Soccer and MLS in the form of a class action lawsuit—a radical change could be coming to the U.S. youth team structure.
The letter—obtained by VICE Sports—sent to FIFA on Monday by attorneys for Crossfire states:
Article 21, Section VII of the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players states regarding solidarity compensation: "If a professional is transferred before the expiry of his contract, any club that has contributed to his education and training shall receive a proportion of the compensation paid to his former club (solidarity contribution). "
The percentage of what a youth club can collect is calculated by the amount of time the player spent at the youth club, and the age of the player during the time he spent at the club. Yedlin's official FIFA paperwork states he trained with Crossfire from 2008-10, although Crossfire claims he trained there starting in 2004. One source close to the situation estimates that Crossfire could be owed as much as $100,000 through Yedlin's transfer.
U.S. Soccer has claimed that the decision in the Fraser vs. MLS antitrust lawsuit from 1998 dictates their guideline toward solidarity fees, although they have never explicitly said how so in numerous queries by VICE Sports. Attorneys for Crossfire also say in their complaint that U.S. Soccer has never clarified how the case pertains to solidarity fees.
In their petition to FIFA, Crossfire attorneys include as evidence several letters from Tottenham executives, who acknowledge that Crossfire should be owed some compensation for Yedlin.
But instead, Crossfire attorneys allege that all solidarity fees were sent to MLS, who did not distribute that money to the youth clubs where Yedlin trained.
The fact that MLS can accept training fees and Crossfire isn't allowed to do so is one of the major complaints in the petition:
Attorneys for Crossfire say in their letter to FIFA that as many as seven other youth clubs have similar complaints about solidarity fees regarding the transfer of other players, which would serve as the basis for a class action lawsuit against MLS and U.S. Soccer. But Crossfire can't proceed with any lawsuit until it receives permission from FIFA, soccer's governing body, due to FIFA's legal jurisdiction.
Furthermore, attorneys for Crossfire point out that MLS and U.S. Soccer's practices may be violating anti trust laws.