NASL Files Federal Antitrust Suit Against USSF

IMAGE, NASL

nasl logoThe North American Soccer League is not ready to go quietly.

After recently having its application to extend its Division 2 sanctioning rejected by the U.S. Soccer Federation, the NASL filed an antitrust lawsuit against the federation in Brooklyn federal court on Tuesday.

The New York Cosmos majority owner Roccco Commisso was the only the NASL official quoted in the league’s news release about the lawsuit. The release listed Commisso as the chairman of the NASL’s Board of Governors, which is the first time the Mediacom founder has been acknowledged as such.

In the statement, Commisso said, “The USSF left the NASL no choice except to file this lawsuit. 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 NASL’s release did not sugarcoat the league’s grievances. The league is alleging the USSF’s decision to revoke the league’s D2 sanctioning was done with the intention of destroying the NASL to the benefit of Major League Soccer and the United Soccer League. In addition, the claim alleges that the USSF is in violation of antitrust laws by acting as a commercial partner with MLS and the league’s marketing arm, Soccer United Marketing, and has actively sought to prevent the NASL from competing with MLS since the league’s inception by conspiring with other partners.

In the complaint, the NASL is seeking a declaratory judgment against the USSF and a permanent injunction striking down the federation’s “Professional League Standards and other divisional rules” as violations of antitrust laws. More immediately, however, the NASL’s complaint includes a request for an injunction to keep its D2 sanction while the lawsuit is pending. Without D2 sanctioning in 2018, the NASL would almost assuredly fold.

From the complaint filed in court:

The commitment of the NASL teams and owners that will compete in the 2018 season is dependent upon the NASL maintaining at least its Division II status under the existing regime of anticompetitive USSF rules, so that the NASL can maintain its credibility with fans,sponsors, players and broadcasters while it continues to build so that it can eventually compete against MLS in the top tier of men’s professional soccer leagues located in the U.S. and Canada.

USSF President Sunil Gulati is listed as a defendant in the case. The MLS, USL and SUM are all included as co-conspirators in the lawsuit. The high-profile antitrust and sports lawyer Jeffrey Kessler is representing the NASL. Kessler drafted a letter for NASL owners threatening an antitrust lawsuit against the USSF over arbitrary division standards two years ago.