USSF Bylaw 705 (see U.S. Soccer bylaws) sets forth the procedures for filing an appeal with USSF, as well as the procedures that USSF will follow in resolving appeals. Generally, to initiate an appeal, the appellant must fill out a Notice of Appeal. However, it is important to remember that not every disciplinary decision is appealable.
(1) When is a Decision "Appealable"?
Section 1 of Bylaw 705 provides that the Appeals Committee shall consider decisions rendered by Organization Members relating to activities sponsored by USSF and the Organization Member or its members. This means that if a league or a district issues a decision, and that decision is appealable to the Organization Member, it is not yet appealable to USSF. It is not until the Organization Member has rendered a decision - for instance, upholding a league suspension or even upholding the charges while reducing a punishment - that the appellant can file with the USSF.
Section 1 also provides that a decision is not appealable if it has "no consequence beyond the competition." "Competition" can mean a game, a tournament, league play, or a regular season. The best way to understand this rule is through some examples:
Example 1: A coach is suspended from all state-affiliated activities for one year for punching another coach in the Snickers Cup. This is appealable - even though the Snickers Cup is not USSF-sponsored, the consequences of the suspension extend beyond the competition.
Example 2: A coach punches another coach in the Snickers Cup, and is suspended for the remainder of the tournament. This is not appealable - the consequences do not extend beyond the competition. (Note - it may be appealable to USYSA or some other committee).
As a general rule, decisions about what team a player plays on, or what league a team plays in, are also not appealable, as they do not have consequences beyond the competition.
While the above examples provide some guidance as to what is "appealable," in general the answer to the question will depend, in many cases, on the exact circumstances. As a result, appellants usually cannot be advised as to whether a certain decision is appealable until they first submit their notice of appeal and a description of the circumstances. If the appeals committee then determines that the decision is not appealable, the appellant will receive a letter so stating, and will receive a refund of their appeals fee.
(2) Appeals Procedures
Appeals procedures are set forth in Bylaw 705 and Policy 705-1.
(a) Filing the Appeal
An appeal is initiated by submitting a notice of appeal (download Notice of Appeal Form). This must be filed within 10 days of receiving the final decision from the organization, and should be sent to all opposing parties, as well as the Appeals Committee at the following address:
The United States Soccer Federation, Inc. Appeals Committee
c/o USSF Secretary General
1801-1811 S. Prairie Ave.
Chicago, IL 60616
The appellant must include with the completed notice of appeal a money order or cashier's check for the appeals fee - this fee is currently set at $300.
(b) Appeals Schedule
Once USSF has received the notice of appeal and the appeals fee, the Appeals Committee considers the appealability of the case. Assuming the case is appealable, the parties will be issued a scheduling letter. The Bylaws do not provide any mechanisms for shortening the timing of this process.
The scheduling letter will set the dates for submissions by the parties: the Organization Member whose opinion is being appealed will be asked to send copies of the official record to USSF and all parties within 10 business days; the appellant will be asked to send any argument it wishes to make 10 business days after that; and finally the opposing parties will be asked to send in any arguments 10 business days after that.
Once all parties have had the opportunity to send in arguments, the Chair of the Appeals Committee will select an "Appeals Panel," made up of three members of the Appeals Committee, to hear the case. The Panel will promptly set up a time for deliberation, either in person or on the phone, to discuss the case. These meetings are usually scheduled within one or two weeks of submission of the arguments.
The panel will render a final written decision within 10 business days of the completion of deliberations.
A. Appellant's Argument
The Notice of Appeal form provides a space for the appellant to organization the reasons they are appealing. Many appellants attach a full explanation, with supporting documents, setting forth the reasons for their appeal and all arguments for why the appeal should be upheld. This is acceptable, and these materials are distributed to the appeals panel.
The appeals process provides an additional opportunity for the appellant to submit argument, 10 business days after the record is sent in. The appellant can indicate at this time that his or her argument is fully set out with the notice of appeal, can submit a full argument at this time, or can ask to make new arguments to be considered along with those attached to the notice of appeal. All of these arguments will be considered by the panel, as long as they do not improperly offer new evidence that is not part of the record.
Policy 705-1 specifically prohibits presentation of new evidence to the Appeals Panel unless circumstances have "materially changed" or new facts are discovered that were previously unavailable. If an appellant would like the Appeals Panel to consider new evidence, it is advisable to submit as part of the argument an explanation as to why it should be considered.
The decision of the Appeals Panel will be issued in written form. The decision will not be communicated before the written opinion is issued. If all parties provide facsimile numbers, the Committee will distribute the opinion by facsimile and regular mail. Otherwise, the opinion will be distributed via overnight delivery service.