The U.S. Supreme Court is one of the most powerful institutions on the planet. In just the last few years, its opinions have transformed the $3 trillion U.S. healthcare industry, opened up marriage to same-sex couples, and declared an end to 400 years of racial discrimination. At Cockle Legal Briefs, we are as passionate about the Court as soccer fans are about…well, “football,” I guess. So of course, as the FIFA World Cup kicks off in Brazil, we look to the Supreme Court to help us understand how the teams will perform.

540629_33302906The Spanish side enters the FIFA World Cup at the top of the rankings, and looks primed to defend its World Cup crown. Right-back Juanfran says he’s 100% recovered from his ankle injury. And if the team needed any more incentive to win, striker David Villa has announced his retirement following the tournament. But the Court has shown mixed feelings about Spain. Yes, the justices recently turned back a challenge to Spain’s ownership of recovered shipwreck treasure, but it also refused to hear Spain’s claim of sovereign immunity in a case brought by the family of a Holocaust survivor seeking to recover a Pissarro stolen by the Nazis. The history between Spain and the Court has been a little chilly, going all the way back to U.S. v. The Amistad, with a judgment against Spain in 1841, and a major motion picture in 1997.

Brazil hosts the FIFA World Cup this year, and comes in ranked third. With a culture so thoroughly steeped in futebol, Brazilians are giddy with anticipation. And they should be: in a 2002 tobacco liability case brought against a cigarette manufacturer, the Court gave the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo a per curiam reversal, the result most coveted by petitioners. The Court’s judicial blessing, along with star player Neymar’s amazing campaign in the pre-tournament friendly matches, should have Brazilian fans eager for kick-off!

England enters the FIFA World Cup tournament a little wobbly. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain went down to injury in a recent friendly against Ecuador, and the team continues to dodge questions about its pitiable record in shoot-outs. But the U.S. Supreme Court has been singing God Save the Queen—in Brazilian Portuguese, no less—which should help the squad sail through its early group matches. The UK regularly weighs in with friend of the court briefs, and more often than not, the Court sides with England’s position. Recently SCOTUS bestowed GVR in a case where England urged a more restrictive interpretation of foreign liability under the Alien Tort Statute. And in the Moloney case—where Her Majesty’s Government subpoenaed tapes of IRA members held by Boston College researchers as a part of an oral history project—after first staying a lower court order in favor of England, the Court denied cert and allowed the subpoena to go forward. Tally ho!

The Court gave a broad lift to several FIFA World Cup squads with a big ruling issued two years ago. Arizona v. U.S. examined the state’s effort to fight illegal immigration, and the Court nullified most of the law. Nine of thirty-two World Cup participants filed amicus briefs in opposition to the Arizona law, including Argentina, Columbia, Costa Rica, Chile, Mexico, and Honduras. They won’t all end up as champions, but the ruling is certain to be a major factor as the tournament unfolds.

Looking for a World Cup/Supreme Court dark horse? Consider Uruguay. They’ve dropped to seventh in the most recent FIFA rankings, and the injured knee of Luis Suarez may not recover in time for him to make an impact in group play, so the team doesn’t get a lot of attention from fans and oddsmakers. But in 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld congressional authority to revise copyright law in a way that pulls works formerly in the public domain back into private ownership. Congress had made the change to implement the provisions of a global agreement known as…the Uruguay Round Agreement. Hmm.

Okay, so maybe the U.S. Supreme Court doesn’t determine who wins and loses on the field, the players do. The players, along with the coaches and the officials. The players, coaches, officials, and the Court. Well, it’s mostly the Court. It’s the Court that determines who wins and loses. Clearly.