Masl Receives Congressional Support To Allow Visas For Foreign Players

19 September 2023

The Major Arena Soccer League (MASL) has received support from the U.S. House of Representatives Soccer Caucus in addressing visa issues that highly talented players face when trying to play in the United States.

Despite Congress's clear intention to allow professional athletes to enter the country, professional soccer players from around the world have been experiencing difficulties obtaining visas to play in the U.S. In 2019, the MASL had 76 players with active P1 Visas, but today, only eight players have active P1 Visas. This shift has forced many talented individuals to return to their home countries, even after establishing themselves as valuable members of their communities in the U.S.

The MASL represents the highest level of professional indoor soccer globally and attracts top-tier players from around the world, including international stars. To maintain the fast-paced, technical, and exciting games that fans and sponsors love, teams need to recruit the best talent from the global soccer community.

The U.S. House of Representatives Soccer Caucus, co-chaired by Darin LaHood (R-IL 18th District), Rick Larsen (D-WA 2nd District), Don Bacon (R-NE 2nd District), and Kathy Castor (D-FL 14th District), has taken action to address this issue. The Caucus has sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, urging the Department of Homeland Security to take immediate steps to resolve the visa problem.

This issue has created significant challenges for professional soccer players and their families, many of whom rely on their income to support themselves in the United States and send money back to their families in their home countries. Moreover, many of these players have previously been in the United States on visas and have been exemplary citizens both on and off the field. They often give back to their communities by visiting hospitals, schools, and conducting soccer clinics for young and underprivileged children.

For example, Claysson Azevedo De Lima, a Brazilian national, had been in the United States on P1A status since joining the Ontario Fury (now Empire Strykers) before the 2017-18 MASL season. After leading Ontario Fury to the Ron Newman Cup Finals in the 2020-21 season and being named "Goalkeeper of the Year," his P1A status was renewed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as an internationally recognized athlete in August 2022. However, in June 2023, USCIS revoked his P1A status, preventing him from playing professional soccer in the United States.

The MASL, along with members of the U.S. House of Representatives Soccer Caucus, is calling on Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas to address this situation promptly. The league, its fans, coaches, ownership, and, most importantly, its international players, are seeking the same protections that have been extended to players in other major sports leagues.