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Will Clint Dempsey be suspended from the Gold Cup for the United States?

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Why US Soccer once again finds themselves in an awkward position regarding a star player going into a major tournament.

Jennifer Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

After a whirlwind of controversy surrounding US Soccer's decision to include Hope Solo in the World Cup roster despite her arrest on domestic violence charges, the federation may have a new and similar problem on its hands. Last night in a US Open Cup match between the Seattle Sounders and the Portland Timbers, the United States captain went and did this:

After a call he disagreed with, Clint Dempsey grabbed the referee's book and tore it in half. Needless to say, he received a red card.

Obviously red card suspensions don't carry over from competition to competition, but according to US Soccer's own disciplinary language, Clint Dempsey's actions could very well open him up to a mandatory 6 game ban across all competitions.

The following is some relevant language to consider from the USSF 2014-2015 Pollicy Manual, which I will link in full here.  The relevant section is "USSF League Standards Regarding Referee Abuse and Misconduct" which states the following:

1. Any player, coach, manager, club official, or league official who commits an intentional act of physical violence at or upon a referee ("Referee Assault") shall be suspended without pay for a period of at least six consecutive matches (the "Assault Suspension").  The Assault Suspension shall commence with the first match after which the individual has been found to have committed this act.
2. For purposes of this subparagraph 2
a. "Referee Assault" shall include, but is not limited to: striking, kicking, choking, grabbing or bodily running into a referee; spitting on a referee with ostensible intent to do so; kicking or throwing an object at an official that could inflict injury; or damaging the referee's uniform or personal property
3. The Professional League Member may not provide for a penalty shorter than the Assault Suspension but may provide for a longer suspension and/or a fine.

The rule clearly states that damaging the referee's property is considered assault and it's hard to argue that Dempsey didn't do this when he ripped up the referee's book.  The language also suggests that it does not matter that this happened in the Open Cup.

For  purposes  of  the  Assault  Suspension  and  the  Abuse Suspension, a "match" shall mean any official match of that individual's team  in  the  Professional  League  Member  for  which  there  is  paid attendance, i.e., regular season, playoff, officially sanctioned cups and tournaments, and international games played in the United States.

While we do not know for certain that the US Open Cup falls under the "officially sanctioned cups and tournaments"  clause, the fact that the paragraph goes on to include international games suggests the scope of the federation's jurisdiction on the matter is quite large and it's completely within reason to assume the US Open Cup would fall under the "officially sanctioned cups and tournaments" language.

And here is where it gets awkward for US Soccer. It goes on to say,

The Suspension shall preclude the suspended individual from participating in any soccer competition until the suspension has expired.

Seattle has 4 matches before the start of the Gold Cup and if a suspension is coming and doesn't get here by Saturday when they play the Earthquakes, Dempsey will only be able to serve 3 games of the suspension prior to the Gold Cup. That means Dempsey would miss a minimum of 3 games in the Gold Cup.

Assuming there isn't some loophole in the rules which we have overlooked, US Soccer may once again find themselves going into a major tournament having to decide whether or not to suspend one of their star players.