The NASL‘s request for a preliminary injunction that would allow it to retain Division II status was heard on Tuesday, and a ruling could come later this week.
If granted, a preliminary injunction could allow NASL to forward as a Division II circuit in 2018, something that league officials have said is essential to the circuit’s survival. In September, the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) revealed that the NASL would not retain its Division II status for the 2018 season, claiming the league had not made sufficient progress to reach Division II criteria: 12 teams across three time zones, with minimum standards for stadium sizes, market sizes and owner net worth. The league later countered by filing an antitrust lawsuit against the USSF, alleging that the federation violated federal antitrust laws through its structure that denied Division II status.
During Tuesday’s hearing, which is one part of the ongoing legal battle, some additional details were learned. NASL entry North Carolina FC is currently expected to shift to the USL for 2018, while the San Francisco Deltas are not expected to continue next year under their current ownership. A third team, FC Edmonton, could also eventually make the jump to the upstart Canadian Premier League.
In the Brooklyn federal courtroom, both sides were able to make their case to Judge Margo Brodie. More from The San Diego Union-Tribune:
It essentially has two parts: the lawsuit itself, which could take years to resolve, and the more immediate request for an injunction to remain second division that was heard Tuesday morning in Brodie’s Brooklyn courtroom.
The key determinant is whether the eight-team NASL would suffer “irreparable harm” by not competing as a second-division league in 2018. NASL lead attorney Jeffrey Kessler argued it would go “out of business” in the third division and “the extreme harm is the murder of an organization.”
U.S. Soccer offered evidence that, as a third-division league in 2016, USL had higher ticket revenue than NASL and that NASL teams lost an average of $5 million. Federation attorney Russ Sauer argued that the league must prove irreparable harm instead of merely claiming it: “Simply saying (they’re) going out of business is not enough … Division III is not a death blow.”
Also noted in the Union-Tribune is that, along with expansion clubs 1904 FC and California United FC, “NASL said it would add six others in 2018 if granted second-division status,” with those clubs currently in the National Premier Soccer League. It also states that those teams would be partially funded by NASL until permanent ownership is obtained.
In the aftermath of Tuesday’s hearing, NASL Interim Commissioner Rishi Sehgal released the following statement: “We are thankful to have our day in Court to present our arguments before the Judge. We remain hopeful for a ruling in our favor, which of course we believe is supported by the law, the facts, and justice. We look forward to the Court’s ruling in the coming days.”
Image courtesy NASL.
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