by DAVE MARTINEZ
Despite saying he was “not at liberty” to discuss the NASL’s potential antitrust lawsuit against U.S. Soccer, New York Cosmos COO Erik Stover certainly painted a bright picture for the league’s case.
Meeting with Cosmos fans for a Q&A viewing party in New York City this weekend, Stover explained, at length, the league’s position for a potential lawsuit against American soccer’s governing body.
“When the Cosmos joined the NASL, there has been a clear pattern of moving the goal on [NASL], and that is something the Department of Justice looks very negatively upon,” Stover began.
The goal Stover is referring to is the evolving Division I standards which are being proposed within USSF requiring a Division I league to have at least 16 teams (Up from 12), 75 percent of the teams in the league must have a population of at least two million (up from one million) and all stadiums must have a seating capacity of 15,000.
Stover labeled these new standards “crazy.”
“The Premier League would not be first division under US Soccer’s rules because Bournemouth stadium is under 15,000. La Liga wouldn’t be first division because Eibar and one other team is under 15k. Atletic Bilbao wouldn’t be allowed in the American first division and it’s crazy. [Requirements] changed and it’s changed every year for the past three years.”
The NASL served notice to the USSF through attorney Jeffrey Kessler, a high-powered sports and antitrust lawyer, warning the Federation of potential litigation over these changes.
But the issue doesn’t stop with first division standards. As Stover explains, reports over the matter do not even “scratch the surface” of what the league hopes to challenge. The deeper issue is the embedded alliance between MLS and the USSF — a nonprofit organization whose stated goal is “to promote and govern the state of soccer in the United States.”
“How can we ever be first division if you keep changing the rules and your committee is made up of nine people from the MLS, someone from the USL, three from the Women’s league and [NASL Commissioner] Bill Peterson?” Stover said.
The Cosmos COO cites several vital tie-ins between MLS and U.S. Soccer that challenge the mission of the national organization. Those include “stacking” the USSF board with MLS operatives, tying sponsorships between the Federation and MLS, MLS’s new affiliation with USL and the mutual USSF, MLS TV deal which Stover says rewards MLS a larger cut than they should be entitled to.
Stover highlighted the collusion with a damning accusation, pointing a finger at MLS and U.S. Soccer for “planting” an article in the New York Times to hurt the NASL. The story in question focuses on the FIFAGate scandal hitting the shores of the U.S. in the form of a fan protest against the Traffic Sports’ owned Carolina RailHawks — a key player in the FIFA scandal.
“They put that article in the paper,” Stover insisted. “That is what we are going to be dealing with and I know we will be ready for the fight”
With what Stover labels “a fundamental problem in the way soccer is run in this country,” the NASL has enlisted Kessler to represent the league — who he labels “one of the most renown attorneys in this country.”
“Our lawyer is as good as they come and he doesn’t take cases he thinks he has a chance of losing,” Stover explained. “Kessler beat the NFL with the Tom Brady deflategate thing — and not a little bit — he whipped their ass!”
Admittedly, Stover says he doesn’t know where the NASL’s position will lead them. “I am not involved in the day to day discussions,” he said. “I know the NASL is very serious and has sent a letter to US Soccer and there will be discussions in the near future.”
Until then, he looks at the entire issue as “a game of chess.”
“NASL made its first move,” he said. “Now we are waiting for US Soccer to make the next move. Obviously, we are trying to win the game, but how we win the game we don’t necessarily know for sure.”
For full audio of the event, visit THIS IS COSMOS COUNTRY PODCAST on soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/ticc_pod/cosmos-country-podcast-extra-cosmos-coo-erik-stover-qa
UPDATE: A previous version of this article stated USSF passed the proposed D1 standard changes. That is inaccurate. The changes are still in a stage of consideration and have not been brought to vote.