The NASL‘s appeal of a previous court ruling will be heard Friday, with the league hoping to secure an injunction that will allow it to remain a Division II circuit.
Back in September, the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) announced 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.
As part of the legal fallout, the NASL previously sought to obtain a preliminary injunction to maintain its Division II status while the antitrust lawsuit against USSF unfolds. In a November ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Margo Brodie denied the request for an immediate injunction based on antitrust claims, saying that while there is merit to the NASL’s arguments, there was not a compelling argument for a preliminary injunction that maintained the league’s 2018 Division II Status. From there, the NASL quickly announced that it was pursuing an appeal of that ruling.
The appeal will be heard on Friday by federal judge Robert Katzmann. More from The San Diego Union-Tribune:
“If the requested preliminary injunction is not granted, the NASL will likely cease to exist within weeks.”
The decision likely hinges on the type of injunction the NASL is seeking. The league’s attorneys claim it needs only a preliminary injunction, which compels a lower level of potential damages than a mandatory injunction. Brodie, in a 49-page decision, ruled the NASL required the latter type and, while sympathetic to its plight, didn’t meet the heightened standards.
A mandatory injunction generally seeks to alter rather than maintain the status quo. U.S. Soccer argues in court documents that it determines league standing on an annual basis and, because it didn’t designate the NASL as second division for 2018, the status quo would indeed be altered — hence the necessity for a mandatory injunction and its loftier burden of proof.
“While the NASL offers no shortage of excuses and finger-pointing,” the USSF says in court documents, “it has no one to blame for its situation but itself … (It) is a classic example of self-inflicted injury that cannot establish irreparable harm.”
While the statuses of several of its clubs remain in limbo because of the uncertainty surrounding the league’s future, the NASL has already seen some changes to its slate of teams. North Carolina FC revealed shortly after Brodie’s ruling that it was departing for the USL, while both FC Edmonton and the San Francisco Deltas announced that they would cease operations, leaving five active teams and at least two expansion clubs expected for 2018. Katzmann could issue his ruling on the appeal next week.
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