NASL had sued USSF over the demotion from Division II after the league failed to meet specific criteria (less than 12 teams, smaller stadiums, etc.) and playing at Division II on a provisional basis in 2017. NASL owners sued and asked for an immediate injunction. That failed, and NASL appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit; that appeal failed today, although the original lawsuit will proceed. This was basically an early referendum on the merits of the case; if the courts thought the NASL had a likely chance of winning the lawsuit, a preliminary injunction likely would have been issued. But that was not the case, per ESPN:
The suit also alleges that with the help of the standards, the USSF, MLS, the second-tier United Soccer League, and Soccer United Marketing (the marketing arm of MLS) have engaged in a conspiracy to drive the NASL out of business, by illegally stripping it of its Division 2 status so that the USL will be the only Division 2 league while MLS will maintain its status as the only Division 1 league in the U.S….
“We evaluate NASL’s motion under the heightened standard applicable to mandatory preliminary injunctions,” the latest ruling read. “NASL has not demonstrated a clear likelihood of success on the merits of its antitrust claim against USSF under 15 U.S.C. §1. Accordingly, we AFFIRM the order of the District Court denying NASL’s motion for a preliminary injunction, and we REMAND the matter for further proceedings on the merits of NASL’s claims.”
NASL interim commissioner Rishi Sehgal told ESPN: “We’re studying the decision with our lawyers, and we don’t have further comment.”
New York Cosmos owner Rocco Commisso says he will pursue the lawsuit, but the NASL numbers are dwindling. FC Edmonton and San Francisco Deltas folded after the end of the season, and Indy Eleven and North Carolina FC bolted for USL. Two California teams are slated to join NASL, but that’s contingent on the league surviving, and the Jacksonville Armada are playing in a semipro league. NASL says it will play an international schedule beginning at the end of the summer — if enough teams survive.
Image courtesy Miami FC.
RELATED STORIES: Legal Battle Between NASL, U.S. Soccer Intensifies; Jacksonville Armada Shifts to NPSL, But Doesn’t Quit NASL; NASL Moves to International Soccer Calendar; Best of 2017, #2: Trials and Tribulations of NASL; NASL Appeal to be Heard Friday; Miami FC in Limbo as Decision on NASL Awaits; Bad News for NASL: Deltas, FC Edmonton Close Shop; North Carolina FC Departs NASL for USL; Palmer: Jacksonville Armada Without a League; San Francisco Deltas Uncertain for 2018; NASL to Appeal Legal Defeat on 2018 Division II Status; NASL Lawsuit Fails to Retain Division II Status for 2018; NASL Preliminary Injunction Hearing Set for Tuesday; NASL Lawsuit Alleges That SUM Tried to Shut Down Cosmos; Commisso Blasts US Soccer’s Gulati, Calls for Resignation; NASL Calls for Preliminary Injunction to Survive; NASL Lawsuit Challenges US Soccer Over Loss of Division II Status; USSF Will Not Extend NASL’s Division II Status into 2018