Legal Battle Between NASL, U.S. Soccer Intensifies


The ongoing legal dispute between the NASL and the U.S. Soccer Federation appears to be intensifying, with the league sending a demand letter to USSF. 

Ever since USSF’s September 2017 announcement that the NASL would not retain its Division II status for 2018, there has been a legal dispute between the two sides. The league filed an antitrust lawsuit against the USSF, alleging that the federation violated federal antitrust laws through its structure that denied Division II status. It also sought a preliminary injunction to remain a Division II league while the case unfolded, only for that request to be denied in a November ruling.

The November ruling is currently under appeal, but the dispute has taken another turn. On February 1, the NASL issued its demand letter to USSF. In that letter, the league sought all records and materials that are relevant to what it sees as potential violations of New York Not-for-Profit Law (N-PCL) on the part of the federation. More from ESPN FC:

The letter, dated Feb. 1, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN FC, was sent via certified mail to the USSF’s general counsel, Lydia Wahlke, by the NASL’s counsel, Jeffrey Kessler. The NASL is entitled to view the records so long as it is a “member of record” of the USSF for at least six months prior to the date of the letter.

“NASL is informed and believes that the members of the Board of Directors of the USSF have engaged in certain conduct in violation of the New York Not-for-Profit Corporation Law and in breach of the fiduciary duties,” the letter reads.

The letter asks that the USSF turn over all minutes and materials from meetings of the Board of Directors as well as any relevant committees relating to several decisions made by the USSF.

These topics include the latest renewal or continuation of the commercial rights agreement between the USSF and Soccer United Marketing (which is the marketing arm of MLS); the September, 2017 decision to revoke the NASL’s status as a Division II league for the 2018 season; and the Jan. 2018 decision to sanction the United Soccer League as a Division II league for 2018.

According to ESPN FC, the USSF responded with a February 5 email that referred the NASL to its website for available financial records and meeting minutes. In regards to information that goes beyond financial details or minutes, the USSF said that “NASL’s request for additional ‘materials’ appears overly broad in scope and raises concerns that NASL is attempting to use [N-PCL] to attempt to circumvent the limits on discovery in the pending litigation that your firm commenced on behalf of the NASL against U.S. Soccer.”

Last month, the NASL announced that it would follow the international soccer calendar for its 2018-19 season, effectively creating an August-to-June slate. In the period since USSF’s announcement that the league would not retain its Division II status, both North Carolina FC and Indy Eleven have departed for the Division II USL, while the San Francisco Deltas folded and FC Edmonton shut down operations for 2018. Most recently, Jacksonville Armada announced that it will compete in the semi-pro National Premier Soccer League until the NASL’s future is settled.

Image courtesy Miami FC.

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