NASL’s Fate Rests on Preliminary Injunction

IMAGE, NASL

nasl logoIf the North American Soccer League and the New York Cosmos are going to see another season on the field, it will be determined in a Federal court room in Brooklyn in a few weeks from now.

Jeffrey Kessler, the lawyer representing the NASL in its antitrust case against the U.S. Soccer Federation, made it clear on a conference call with the news media on Thursday that the request for a preliminary injunction to keep the USSF from revoking the league’s Division 2 status is crucial to the league’s survival. A hearing for the injunction has been set for Oct. 31.

Should Judge Margo K. Brodie deny the injunction, the NASL would fall apart. The Cosmos owner and NASL chairman Rocco Commisso intimated that the case in which the league is suing to do away with divisional designations entirely could proceed without the preliminary injunction. The NASL, however, would have no recourse to continue operating without D2 status next year.

“In order for the NASL to continue in 2018, and to grow and to survive, it needs to obtain a preliminary injunction from the court to retain its Division 2 status,” Kessler said. “It hopes and it expects that it will win that motion. If it does not, it does not have any other plan, option or pathway to be able to continue in its current format as the NASL.”

Interim NASL Commissioner Rishi Sehgal also spoke on the decision to bring the case against the USSF. Sehgal claimed the NASL outlined to the USSF in early September a three-year plan to satisfy all of the D2 standards. This proposal included expansion into San Diego and Orange County, Calif., and updates on significant headway with groups in New Orleans, Detroit and Atlanta.

Apparently, none of what the NASL proposed was enough to convince the USSF the league had righted its ship enough.

“As with any organizational reform, some things could take more time than you’d like. That is why we asked U.S. Soccer for a period of three years to become in complete compliance with their standards for Division 2,” Sehgal said. “We felt a three-year period would be consistent with what should be our mutual goal of growth and stability for NASL. Instead of granting the three-year period, the federation took a cold decision to compromise the investments of our owners and threatened the very existence of our league. We have several more markets that want to join NASL. However their decisions, like our current owners, are predicated on NASL retaining D2 status in the federation’s current system.”

Commisso feels the NASL’s proposal fell on deaf ears. After trumpeting his maneuvers to keep the NASL alive by swooping in at the last hour to buy the Cosmos and demanding the USSF maintain the league as D2 in January, Commisso has found the federation to be less flexible.

The Cosmos’ owner was irate while describing what he viewed as disrespect shown by the USSF when the NASL made its decision. During his long opening remarks, Commisso complained about the USSF making NASL representatives wait six hours past the scheduled start time with no explanation and also alleged that one of the independent directors of the USSF’s board fell asleep during the presentation.

The NASL found out its sanctioning extension had been denied not long after the presentation and also that the rival United Soccer League had been given a month to resolve its issues before the USSF made a final sanctioning decision.

“We were told an appeal of that decision would be fruitless, even if we presented a modified plan,” Commisso said. “It is also significant that the federation, whose plain purpose is to promote American soccer at all levels, did not offer any meaningful way for the NASL owners to avoid total loss of their investment or to protect the interest of employees, players, fans, local businesses or the many others whose interests would be seriously harmed if the teams were forced to stop playing competitive soccer.”

Commisso continued, “Let the fans, not the federation bureaucrats, decide whether they play in major league soccer or minor league soccer, and whether the league will ultimately succeed or fail.”

Maybe someday fans will be able to make those kinds of decision. For now, the NASL’s fate rests in the hands of lawyers and a judge.