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Chicago Fire Cuts Ties With And Sues Youth Soccer League

CHICAGO (STMW) - The MLS Chicago Fire has terminated its affiliation with and sued a youth soccer league, claiming it failed to pay more than $35,000 for use of team trademarks, violating a licensing agreement.

Chicago Fire Soccer LLC entered into a licensing agreement on Sept. 23, 2009, with Chicago Fire Juniors Inc. for use of its trademarks, names, logos, mascots and symbols, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Cook County Circuit Court.

CFJI agreed to pay the Fire $50 for every player on a CFJI team annually, excluding players placed on more than 50 percent scholarship, the suit said. More than 6,000 players are involved in the leagues in five states, according to a Wednesday statement from the Fire.

The suit claims CFJI failed to pay $35,950 that is due under the agreement. That amount represents 704 "full players" at $50 each and 75 "partial players" at $10 each.

The youth league also failed to get written approval and consent from the Fire or Major League Soccer to use the Fire logo on merchandise it sold or distributed, the suit claims. CFJI failed to submit reports on performance and assessment of players.

"The Chicago Fire Soccer Club has grown its Player Development program from 400 youths to over 6,000 across five states in just four years," the team statement said. "The Chicago Fire continue to invest in its Player Development Program to grow youth soccer in Chicagoland and across multiple states.

"As part of this measure the club is standardizing practices and centralizing its Academy and Juniors programs out of Toyota Park to provide youth soccer players greater access to a professional environment. The club continues to work with its affiliates to make sure that each affiliate club is in accordance with Chicago Fire Soccer Club standards," the statement said.

But according to the suit, the youth league didn't amend its bylaws to specify that at least one board position be a designee of the Fire, and didn't develop a plan to coordinate functions, operations and ownership as required in the agreement.

Mike Jeffries of the Fire emailed CFJI President Joe Fuster on Oct. 7, 2011, and explained the youth league was in breach of contract, the suit said. Jeffries also emailed Fuster on Nov. 4, 2011, to stress the Fire's desire to resolve the issues.

The Fire notified CFJI in writing on Nov. 22, 2011, of its intent to terminate the licensing agreement due to CFJI's failure to pay and the resulting breach of agreement, the suit said.

The agreement stated that if CFJI was in default, the Fire has the option to terminate the agreement effective 30 days after written notice, the suit said. The 30-day period lapsed on Dec. 22, 2011, without CFJI making payment or resolving the contract issues.

On Dec. 30, 2011, the Fire terminated the licensing agreement, the suit said. The Fire sent a cease and desist letter to CFJI demanding it stop unauthorized use of Fire trademarks, but the league continues to use them on its website and representations to the public, the suit claims.

The three-count suit claims breach of contract and seeks an injunction stopping CFJI from using Fire trademarks or stating any connection with the MLS team. It also seeks $35,950, attorney fees and court costs.

A Chicago Fire Juniors spokesman declined to comment on the suit.

© Sun-Times Media Wire Chicago Sun-Times 2012. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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