Six years after the United States began investigating international soccer officials for corruption, and two years after dozens of them were indicted, three aging South American men settled into their seats in an overflowing, wood-paneled courtroom in Brooklyn on Monday for the start of the FIFA trial.

The three defendants on trial, facing charges of racketeering conspiracy as well as wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy, were Manuel Burga of Peru, Juan Ángel Napout of Paraguay and José Maria Marin of Brazil. Each man is a former president of his country's soccer association, and the most serious charges that each faces carry up to 20 years in prison.

With references to cash drops, "bag men," and efforts to obstruct justice, the prosecution's opening statement echoed the organized crime cases with which the assistant United States attorneys gathered in the courtroom had significant experience.

The defense lawyers — emphasizing the sprawling web of relationships in international soccer and the long arm of American justice — urged the jury not to jump to conclusions about their clients simply because of their associations with convicted criminals.

"If you've ever watched kids playing soccer, there are always one or two, they're standing there but they're not really playing," Charles Stillman, Mr. Marin’s lawyer, said, likening his 85-year-old client to a clueless bystander. "He is like the youngster on the side picking up daisies."

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