The NASL is calling for a preliminary injunction to retain its Division II status, arguing that it is essential to the league’s survival.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) announced that the NASL would not retain its Division II status for the 2018 season. The NASL later countered by filing an antitrust lawsuit against the USSF, alleging that the federation has violated federal antitrust laws through its structure that saw NASL denied Division II status.
More details were provided on Thursday, when the NASL argued that it cannot survive without Division II status. The league has filed a preliminary injunction seeking to remain a Division II circuit until the legal dispute is resolved and, with arguments set to be delivered in a Brooklyn courtroom on October 31, the league says that it needs relief through the injunction. Otherwise, as NASL attorney Jeffery Kessler claims, it would be forced into an unsustainable situation by operating at a lower level. More from The Edmonton Journal:
“This is essential, because without it’s D-2 certification, the league will not be able to keep its players, fans, sponsors and arrangement to continue the fight that this lawsuit will require over the next year to two years until we get to the final decision,” Kessler said. “We hope to get that interim relief on or around Oct. 31 when the court has scheduled a hearing on this preliminary injunction motion, unless the court decides the motion without a hearing. We are hopeful that a just result will be obtained and that the preliminary junction will be granted.”
If the injunction is not granted, Kessler said NASL owners are not interested in running the league without sanctioning as an alternative.
“That is not an option. You are not going to be able to attract the best players in an unsanctioned league through FIFA,” he said. “You’re not going to be able to engage in player transfers. You’re not going to be able to play in FIFA competitions or any of the regional competitions on the club basis. Fans, sponsors, broadcasters will not give you credibility if you do not have a FIFA sanction.
“It’s not a viable strategy, and Division 3 is not a viable strategy for this league. That is not their intention to play at the lowest level, at a developmental level, so the answer is without this injunction, there are not a lot of options for this league, which is why the preliminary injunction is so important.”
In its decision to not grant the NASL Division II status for 2018, USSF officials said that not enough progress was being made to reach Division II league criteria: 12 teams across three time zones, with minimum standards for stadium sizes, market sizes and owner net worth. Not that every team in fellow Division II circuit USL meets these criteria, either, so the argument is that U.S. Soccer is being unfairly arbitrary in applying these standards. The NASL has played the 2017 season at eight teams and was looking at the addition of two California clubs in 2018, but it is also faces the prospect of losing additional teams. (FC Edmonton, Indy Eleven and North Carolina FC are reportedly looking at leaving NASL, and the San Francisco Deltas’ status for 2018 is uncertain.)
One of the league’s owners, the New York Cosmos’ Rocco Commisso, points to the investments made by NASL clubs, and argues that the loss of the league will hurt professional soccer in the United States. More from SFGate:
Comisso said that the rival USL, which also met with US Soccer about its sanctioning, also did not meet all of the standards as well but were given till October 3rd to formulate a plan to come into compliance.
Comisso said that the eight current NASL team owners invested over fifty million dollars collectively to fund their league this year. Without the Division 2 sanctioning it was possible that all of the owners would lose all of their investment. Additionally, the loss of the league will not help the advancement of professional soccer in the United States.
In addition to the preliminary injunction, which could give the league a clearer path to the 2018 season, the NASL is seeking a permanent injunction to lift the standards enforced by the USSF.
Image courtesy NASL.