New York Cosmos Owner and Chairman Rocco Commisso recently spoke exclusively to World Soccer Talk about the state of the North American Soccer League (NASL) that his club plays in, which has been sanctioned as a second division by the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) since 2011. On September 1, 2017 at the USSF Board meeting that preceded the United States humiliating 2-0 World Cup Qualifying loss to Costa Rica at Red Bull Arena, NASL was denied a continuation at the Division 2 level for 2018 due to the league’s failure to meet the USSF’s Pro League Standards (PLS).
Following this denial of sanctioning, the NASL filed an anti-trust lawsuit against US Soccer alleging among other things a conspiracy from USSF and Major League Soccer (MLS) to weaken the league.
Eric Wynalda, who is a candidate for USSF President, last month alleged that a conspiracy to weaken NASL had been undertaken at the direction of long-time USSF President Sunil Gulati. Wynalda is perceived as sympathetic to NASL, while Gulati has been largely seen as not only pro-MLS but someone who is willing to use the levers of power within US Soccer to protect the current top division in the US.
During the last several weeks, I have spoken on background to several figures who indicate that conscious efforts to weaken NASL took place at the board level due to the presence of owners who eventually left the league to join the MLS-affiliated USL while pursuing an MLS expansion franchise. Far more will be said on this at a date in the near future, specifically related to the exits of San Antonio and Tampa Bay from the league in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
Similarly questions have been raised about North Carolina FC Owner Steve Malik whose purchase of the team then known as the Carolina RailHawks in October 2015 and then his decision to stick with NASL despite courting from USL in late 2016 can be interpreted as having saved the league. However during 2017, the actions of Malik, who by this time had launched an expansion bid to join MLS and who had purchased a league in the USSF-subsidized and aligned National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), have been questioned. Last month, Malik’s North Carolina FC formally switched leagues from the NASL to USL.