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US Club Aug 02, 2010

US Youth Soccer accuses US Club Soccer of “discriminatory” policies of new leagues

By Tom Myrick

The United States Youth Soccer Association has issued a formal complaint to US Club Soccer, claiming that specific club organizations are enacting “discriminatory” policies that “deny players, coaches, teams, and clubs the right to participate in US Youth Soccer’s and other Federation Organization Member programs.”

In a strongly-worded letter sent to the US Club Soccer offices last week, US Youth Soccer accused the Elite Clubs National League and NorCal Premier Soccer of violating the interplay policies of the United States Soccer Federation, which prohibit Federation organizations from discriminating against players, coaches and teams based on an existing affiliation with another organization.

US Club Soccer and the ECNL have firmly denied these allegations, calling them baseless. US Club Soccer and US Youth Soccer are peer organizations as well, meaning US Youth has no direct authority over US Club.

In the letter, US Youth Soccer claims that ECNL have prohibited their member teams from participating in the US Youth Soccer National Championship Series, citing an article published by the Elite Soccer News Network, “ECNL members to drop State cup next year,” as evidence. The article, written by Robert Ziegler at the league’s general meeting in July, announces that the ECNL will not be entering teams in the annual US Youth National Championship beginning with the 2011-2012 season.

US Youth also speculated that ECNL has discouraged its players from playing in the Olympic Development Program as well, though no hard evidence was offered to that end in either the letter or Ziegler’s article. The latest ECNL Rules and Regulations offer no language explicitly banning its members from either the National Championship Series or the ODP.

Likewise, US Youth Soccer also accused NPS of keeping their members from participating in US Youth Soccer events, pointing to changes announced on the NPS website on July 14. The rule changes prohibit in-season NPS teams from competing in another league at the same time.

NPS officials maintains that they created these changes “due to experience with teams who have tried to play in two leagues simultaneously – which caused not only scheduling difficulties but also exposed their players to an unhealthy number of games in a short period of time.”

As a corrective measure, US Youth Soccer has demanded that ECNL and NPS immediately overturn these “discriminatory policies” as well as put a monitoring system in place to ensure it does not happen again in the future. In addition, US Youth also wants ECNL and NPS to both issue statements on the US Club Soccer website acknowledging and apologizing for their violations, and wants the individuals responsible for creating the offending legislation to sign a statement “pledging not to engage in any such or similar conduct in the future.”

Should these stipulations not be met, US Youth has threatened to file a grievance against US Club Soccer, the ECNL and NPS, meaning that the dispute would likely go before an independent arbitrator for resolution.

Neither US Youth Soccer nor US Club Soccer immediately accepted a request to comment on the situation, though US Club Soccer spokesman Adam Augustine said to expect a formal response in the next week.

Should the ECNL and NPS be found in violation of the Federation’s interplay policies, it remains to be seen what impact that would have on the USSF’s own Development Academy, which enforces strict regulation on the participation of its members. Currently, Academy members are only allowed to play in matches with their respective Academy team, with the only exceptions being high school contests and national team duty.

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