(Reuters) - Two lower-tier American teams that want the U.S. Soccer Federation to adopt promotion and relegation have taken their battle to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
North American Soccer League second-tier side Miami FC and Kingston Stockade FC of the fourth-tier National Premier Soccer League claim that by not practicing promotion and relegation, the United States violates the basic rules of world football's governing body FIFA.
They say U.S. teams are being denied the opportunity afforded to clubs in countries where results decide which division a team plays in.
"When it comes to soccer success, America lags behind the rest of the world," Stockade owner Dennis Crowley said in a joint statement.
"One reason is because our system is not an open system and is actually blocked from becoming an open system.
"By embracing pro/rel and using this tried-and-true system, we would have a greater ability to unlock additional soccer markets, reward investment in those markets, and create new talent pools within the United States."
U.S. Soccer has confirmed it was aware of the claim, which names FIFA, U.S. Soccer and CONCACAF, football's governing body in North and Central America and the Caribbean as respondents, and is in the process of reviewing the document.
At present, the only way to gain entry to Major League Soccer, North America's top league, is by paying about $150 million and being selected by an expansion committee as a viable location for a new team.
"The closed system for soccer used here in the United Sates is in violation of FIFA rules," said Miami FC chief executive Sean Flynn.
"By adopting the rules followed by virtually every other soccer playing nation around the globe, soccer in America will be open, resulting in better teams through all divisions, compelling story lines to increase fan excitement and greater financial success for everyone involved in this beautiful game."
The clubs say the "disregard" of a critical FIFA rule is detrimental to the sport of soccer in the United States, depriving fans of a better product, and teams of opportunities and revenue.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; editing by Julian Shea)