NASL Sues Strikers’ Owners

Fort Lauderdale Strikers

By JAKE NUTTING

imagesThe Fort Lauderdale Strikers, a club that is on indefinite hiatus from playing in the North American Soccer League, is being sued by the league.

The NASL on Wednesday filed a crossclaim against Miami FC, LLC — the corporate entity of the Strikers ownership group — in the lawsuit brought by Tampa Bay Rowdies owner Bill Edwards seeking repayment on multiple loans made to the team last year. The league was included as a defendant in the case only to establish Edwards’ primary interest in Fort Lauderdale’s collateral.

The NASL alleges that Fort Lauderdale’s ownership is in breach of a loan agreement the parties entered into last September to ensure the cash-strapped club could finish the season. The Strikers received an initial loan of $250,000 and had a line of credit extended to $430,000 two weeks later before it was extended a final time in October to $774,000.

Repayment on the loan was due on March 1, but the league waited until April 28 to send a letter demanding restitution to the Strikers majority owner Paulo Cesso. According to the NASL, Cesso and the other owners defaulted on the loan when they failed to make payment within 10 days of receiving the letter.

The NASL’s legal move against Fort Lauderdale’s owners was taken shortly after Edwards was awarded a summary judgment in his lawsuit. Both Edwards and the league have secured interests in the team’s assets through their loan agreements, though Edwards had claimed that his interests superseded the NASL’s. With this recent action, the NASL is attempting to protect its interest now that it believes Edwards, who moved his team to the USL, is likely to proceed with a sale of Fort Lauderdale’s assets.

In its crossclaim, the NASL contends the value of Fort Lauderdale’s assets could exceed the amount of Edwards’ judgment. Edwards was seeking foreclosure on Fort Lauderdale’s assets to recoup $300,000 in loans he made to the team, as well as damages and attorney fees. The NASL asserts that it is entitled to any potential excess from the sale of assets.

While the legal maneuvering continues, the NASL is still trying to find new investors to revive the Strikers. Last month, the Strikers former managing director Luis Cuccatti said in a deposition for the Edwards lawsuit that the NASL is leading the effort to sell the team and that completing a deal was a priority given the ongoing legal headaches stemming from the team’s financial mismanagement.