Traffic Sports’ obsession with challenging MLS/SUM may have fueled alleged misconduct

But the business of lower division soccer in the United States has never been stable and when NASL faced sanctioning problems in late 2010 and early 2011, Traffic refocused on stabilizing the league and maintaining clubs that might otherwise have disappeared in Carolina, Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale and Minnesota.

SEE MORENASL’s ties with indicted President of Traffic Sports USA Aaron Davidson run deep.

By early 2012, NASL was stabilized, being the first Division 2 league in well over a decade not lose a team as a result of financial collapse. The only team that left NASL following the 2011 season was the Montreal Impact that jumped to MLS. With a solid foundation, NASL was looking good especially when compared to the relative instability that had been fostered in the years of USL’s control of Division 2 soccer.

During this period, MLS and NASL engaged in discussions about a potential loose partnership. While the conversations were not terribly advanced, they were still occurring and showed at least on some level that NASL, and by extension Traffic, had accepted a soccer pyramid with MLS at the top.

But then came two massive events in July of 2012 that changed the entire picture. Traffic Sports USA might have wanted to be a competitor for SUM but the reality was that they were not even in the conversation until Traffic Sports US Vice President Enrique Sanz was, in a shocking move, appointed General Secretary of CONCACAF. The appointment of Sanz sent ripple effects through the US Soccer community especially when coupled with the announcement days before that the historic behemoth New York Cosmos would be joining NASL rather than MLS.

SEE MOREInterview with NASL President Bill Peterson.

Suddenly, the rhetoric once again shifted within NASL and Traffic circles from stabilizing Division 2, to a pseudo-competition with MLS and SUM. Davidson began to talk openly of competition with MLS, and the NASL ended all discussions of partnering with the top flight American league. This would lead directly to the negotiations that culminated in the USL/MLS partnership we see bearing fruit today as USL, which was dropped to a D2 league in 2011, now looks poised to obtain D2 status next season due to increasing standards that can be credited to the MLS relationship.

As we now have learned thanks to the DOJ documents, the appointment of Sanz as well as the shift in rights from SUM to Traffic of CONCACAF properties was procured due to alleged bribes. Traffic changed its tune and was in “challenge MLS/SUM mode.” The desire to challenge MLS was echoed in repeated public statements by NASL officials in 2013 and 2014 while a feeling permeated around Traffic that having the New York Cosmos in the league suddenly made the league an international brand and would attract dozens of new investors and potentially more expansion teams.

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