Spanish league loses court battle, won’t play match in US

MADRID — The match between Villarreal and Atlético Madrid in the United States next month was called off Friday after the Spanish league lost a court battle against the Spanish soccer federation.

The league said a Madrid court denied an injunction to force the federation to approve the staging of the match abroad. It had accused the federation of unfair competition.

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The league said the case against the federation will continue despite Friday’s ruling. It hopes to be able to stage a regular-season game in the U.S. beginning in February, when the case is expected to be settled.

Last season, the league unsuccessfully tried to take a match between Girona and Barcelona to Florida, an attempt also hindered by the federation’s lack of approval.

The league has a 15-year partnership with the group Relevent to promote soccer and bring games to the United States.

"Staging an official LaLiga match abroad is part of a long-term LaLiga strategy for international growth," the league said in a statement. "We hope that from February forth LaLiga will be able to organize an official match beyond Spanish borders."

The league complained the federation opposed the game but at the same time is organizing its own matches abroad, like the four-team Spanish Super Cup that it will host in January in Saudi Arabia. The Spanish Super Cup also was played abroad last season, in Morocco.

The federation argued it was different to play a league game abroad because it would affect the other 18 clubs participating in the competition. Real Madrid and Barcelona had reportedly expressed their opposition to the game in the U.S. because it would be played in a neutral venue, thus favouring Atlético, the away team.

Villarreal season ticket holders would have been compensated for losing out on a home game. They could have received a 40% discount on their next season ticket purchase, free entry, and travel for up to 3,000 fans to the away game at Atlético's Wanda Metropolitano Stadium or a paid-for trip to Miami for up to 600 people.

Similar compensation packages were offered to Girona fans last season, and many had already accepted them when the game near Miami was called off.

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More AP soccer https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

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