Monday's soccer: Billionaire Stephen Ross sues U.S. federation for blocking Ecuadorian match

Bob Van Voris
Stephen Ross

Billionaire Stephen Ross claimed foul against the U.S. Soccer Federation for blocking his plans for the U.S. to host the first foreign-league soccer match that would count in local standings.

Ross’s Relevant Sports LLC is touting the proposed May 5 match between Barcelona Sporting Club and Guayaquil City F.C. of Ecuador’s Serie A league — the top professional league in the country — as its equivalent “of the Mets versus the Yankees.”

But the U.S. Soccer Federation is refusing to sanction international matches in the U.S. to protect Major League Soccer, the country’s top professional league, Relevant Sports claimed in a lawsuit Monday. It asked a New York state judge to order the federation to sanction the Serie A match.

Ross, whose net worth is estimated at $10.1 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, has a passion for both American and international football. He owns the NFL’s Miami Dolphins and is the founder of the International Champions Cup, a preseason exhibition tournament that features many of Europe’s premier teams including Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Manchester United.

Ross has a bachelor's degree from Michigan and a law degree from Wayne State. UM's Stephen M. Ross School of Business is named in his honor.

Relevant also claims U.S. Soccer improperly blocked Ross’s plan to host the final of South America’s Copa Libertadores in Miami after fan violence in Argentina forced its relocation. The game was played in Madrid in December.

U.S. Soccer spokesman Neil Buethe didn’t immediately return a voicemail seeking comment on the suit.

Chelsea moves up

Chelsea moved into the Premier League’s top four with a frustrating 2-2 draw with Burnley.

Goals two minutes apart from N’Golo Kante and Gonzalo Higuain put Chelsea on top at Stamford Bridge after Jeff Hendrick had given Burnley an early lead.

But Ashley Barnes pulled the visitors even in the 24th minute and Chelsea was unable to get the winner despite dominating possession and finishing with 22 shots.

Chelsea climbed into the final Champions League qualifying spot, one point above fifth-place Arsenal and three ahead of Manchester United, but has played one game more.

Along with the disappointment of dropping points, the Blues were also left frustrated by what they felt was time wasting on Burnley’s part.

“We wanted to win. They didn’t want to lose,” assistant coach Gianfranco Zola said. “There was too much time wasting. We couldn’t build important rhythm.”

Chelsea also has injury concerns after Kante left the game with a rib problem and winger Callum Hudson-Odoi was forced off by what he later said on social media was a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Burnley, meanwhile, all but guaranteed its Premier League status for another season.

The Clarets are nine points ahead of Cardiff in the final relegation place with three games left and have a far superior goal difference.