NASL Files Federal Antitrust Lawsuit Against USSF After Division II Status Revoked
Two weeks after having its D-II status revoked, the NASL yesterday "filed a federal anti-trust lawsuit" against the U.S. Soccer Federation that claims the sport's NGB and MLS have "conspired to 'destroy' it," according to Mark Zeigler of the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. N.Y. Cosmos Owner and NASL BOD Chair Rocco Commisso said the USSF "left the NASL with no choice except to file this lawsuit." Zeigler notes the future of the league, which "planned to include" an '18 expansion in San Diego, now "likely rests in the hands of a federal court." The NASL "asked for two things in its 71-page complaint: a temporary injunction that preserves its second-division status; and a permanent injunction preventing U.S. Soccer from sanctioning pro leagues so that 'the competitive market and consumer preference' determine which ones 'are top tier, second tier or some other competitive level' instead of arbitrary standards set by the federation." The second demand "could take years, dozens of lawyers and millions of dollars." The temporary injunction, though, may be "more integral to the league’s immediate survival and the prospects of the fledgling San Diego franchise" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 9/20). ESPN FC's Jeff Carlisle noted the NASL's complaint "alleges that the USSF has violated federal antitrust laws through its anticompetitive 'division' structure that splits men's professional soccer for U.S.-based leagues based on what the NASL describes as 'arbitrary criteria that the USSF has manipulated to favor Major League Soccer.'" The release also said that the USSF's "business arrangements 'include multi-million dollar media and marketing contracts with Soccer United Marketing, MLS's marketing arm that also jointly sells and markets MLS rights combined with rights to U.S. national soccer teams operated by the USSF'" (ESPNFC.com, 9/19).
WHAT'S NEXT? SI.com's Brian Straus wrote if the NASL is "granted the injunction, it theoretically would maintain" its D-II status next year. That might provide an "opening to fight against the standards themselves -- which govern stadium and market size, owner investment and net worth, facilities and other criteria -- along with the alleged conspiracy among U.S. Soccer, MLS and the USL, which affiliates to the higher league" (SI.com, 9/19).