New York (AFP) – The North American Soccer League filed a federal anti-trust lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation on Tuesday, accusing the body of unfairly revoking the league’s Division 2 status.
The NASL, which was reborn as a professional league in 2010, lodged its lawsuit in Brooklyn just weeks after the league was stripped of Division 2 status by the USSF.
Under USSF regulations, a league’s division status is determined according to different criteria, including the number of teams in a league, the stadium capacity of each team and minimum financial resources of team owners.
The USSF had relaxed the rules for the NASL over the years and gave the league provisional Division 2 status earlier this year even after four teams dropped out at the end of the 2016 season.
However when the NASL failed to meet certain conditions in time for the 2018 season, including a requirement to boost the league to 12 teams, the USSF revoked the Division 2 status of the league, which currently has eight teams.
The NASL’s lawsuit alleges that the USSF has deliberately manipulated its own criteria in order to favour Major League Soccer (MLS), which is the commercial business partner of the federation.
“The USSF left the NASL no choice except to file this lawsuit,” said Rocco Commisso, the chairman of the NASL’s Board of Governors and owner of the New York Cosmos, the league’s best known team.
“The NASL has taken this step to protect not just the league, but also the game, fans, and everyone with a stake in the future success of professional soccer leagues based in this country.”
The lawsuit alleges that the USSF has selectively applied and waived divisional criteria to prevent competition from the NASL against MLS and the United Soccer League (USL), the other league with Division 2 status in the United States.
The NASL is now seeking an injunction against the decision to revoke the league’s Division 2 status.
NASL officials fear that if the league is left as a Division 3 status league, it will be harder to attract professional teams to the competition.