Miami, Kingston Stockade Take U.S. Soccer to Arbitration

Miami FC Owner Riccardo Silva, along with the NPSL's Kingston Stockade FC, has filed a claim against FIFA and U.S. Soccer to force the adoption of promotion and relegation in America. Image, Miami FC

By JAKE NUTTING

Two teams from the United States’ second and fourth divisions have partnered to force the issue of implementing promotion and relegation.

The North American Soccer League’s Miami FC and the National Premier Soccer League’s Kingston Stockade FC filed a claim with the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland on Thursday morning to force the U.S. Soccer Federation to adopt the open system used in leagues across the world.

Miami and Kingston Stockade filed the claim together, but separately from their respective leagues. NASL owners were not informed of the Miami FC owner Riccardo Silva‘s intentions before the filing was made public. Last year, the NASL sent a letter to U.S. Soccer threatening andanti-trust lawsuit over proposed changes to division sanctioning.

Thursday’s claim boils down to an essential, frequent complaint — since U.S. Soccer refuses to follow FIFA’s mandate and establish promotion and relegation, owners of lower-division teams are prevented from seeing their investments rewarded the same way as others operating in a promotion and relegation system.

To back up their argument, the claim cites Article 9 of FIFA’s rules:

“A club’s entitlement to take part in a domestic league championship shall depend principally on sporting merit. A Club shall qualify for domestic league championship by remaining in a certain division or by being promoted or relegated to another at the end of a season.” 

“The closed system for soccer used here in the United Sates is in violation of FIFA rules,” said Miami FC’s chief executive, Sean Flynn. “By adopting the rules followed by virtually every other soccer playing nation around the globe, soccer in America will be open, resulting in better teams through all divisions, compelling story lines to increase fan excitement and greater financial success for everyone involved in this beautiful game.”

CONCACAF is listed as a defendant in the claim alongside FIFA and U.S. Soccer. Miami and Kingston Stockade contend that they are denied access to “premium club market” both in the region and globally as a result of Major League Soccer teams having the only shot at three of the country’s four allotted spots in the CONCACAF Champions League. Lower-division teams can only reach the tournament — which offers a chance to qualify for the FIFA Club World Cup — by winning the U.S. Open Cup. Only one lower division team has won the Open Cup since MLS was launched in 1996.

“When it comes to soccer success, America lags behind the rest of the world. One reason is because our system is not an open system and is actually blocked from becoming an open system,” said the Kingston Stockade Owner Dennis Crowley. “By embracing pro/rel and using this tried-and-true system, we would have a greater ability to unlock additional soccer markets, reward investment in those markets, and create new talent pools within the United States.”

Last week it was reported that Miami’s owner had a $4 billion offer to manage MLS’ international media rights rejected by the league. Silva’s one stipulation to the offer was that MLS and U.S. Soccer implement promotion and relegation. Because contractual stipulations with its current media partners, MLS was not able to engage in talks with Silva about the offer, but MLS officials noted the league was not interested in having a conversation about promotion and relegation anyway.

“We’re taking this action,” Flynn said, “because we believe that the benefits of soccer should be shared by the many, not the few, and that soccer’s top division should include the best teams, not the teams that pay certain sums of money.”