WASHINGTON, D.C. — Now, this is something you don’t necessarily see every day.
In a stunning and historic development, the U.S. Soccer Foundation Thursday filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia seeking a declaratory judgment of non-infringement of trademarks in a dispute over who controls the foundation’s name and branding “marks.”
One of the missions of the foundation is to “enhance, assist and grow the sport of soccer in the United States, with a special emphasis on underserved communities.” For more than 25 years, the foundation has worked with the USSF, a foundation press release stated. The federation’s mission has been the official governing body of amateur and professional soccer, including the oversight of men’s, women’s and youth national teams.
The lawsuit was filed after a recent demand by the USSF that the foundation cease using its name and logos. According to foundation, the name and logos have defined the organziation’s “brand and charitable work” since its inception in 1994. According to foundation’s complaint, “the USSF has threatened to hijack the foundation’s trademarks for its own use — likely in an effort to capitalize on lucrative business opportunities when the United States hosts the World Cup in 2026.”
“The USSF’s actions present an existential — and unnecessary — threat to the Foundation and its mission,” a foundation press release said.
“We were surprised and deeply disappointed by the USSF’s demand that the Foundation cease using our word and logo marks after 25 years—a dictate that not only would deprive us of the enormous goodwill we’ve developed amongst the communities and children we serve, but effectively transfer it into the hands of the USSF,” foundation president and CEO Ed Foster-Simeon said in a statement. “The foundation has consistently expressed our unwavering commitment to maintaining and building upon the 25-year relationship we’ve enjoyed with the USSF, but faced with their unreasonable demand we felt compelled to defend our brand and mission in order to preserve the important work we do for children across America.”
The foundation noted that the USSF’s actions has come at a time when participation in competitive youth soccer has been on a decline and that the sport has continued to struggle with diversity and criticism over the expense of its “pay-for-play” model at various youth levels.
The foundation was established in 1994 as an independent non-profit with the surplus funds from the 1994 World Cup that was hosted in the United States that year. The organization has provided more than $100 million to support soccer programs and build fields in 50 states and the District of Columbia. The foundation also has distributed more than one million pieces of soccer gear and equipment to children in need.
FrontRowSoccer.com has asked the USSF for a statement.