Rocco Commisso Offers to Invest $500M in NASL–With Stipulations


New York Cosmos owner Rocco Commisso has offered to invest $500 million in the NASL, if U.S. Soccer will agree to certain stipulations. 

There have been a considerable number of questions surrounding the NASL’s future since the U.S. Soccer Federation announced last September that it would not grant the league Division II status for 2018. The NASL has suspended play for this season, and its remaining owners are pursuing an antitrust lawsuit against U.S. Soccer and MLS. Amidst the ongoing legal fallout, Commisso has emerged as a vocal critic of U.S. Soccer leadership and its decision to revoke the NASL’s Division II status.

Earlier this month, Commissio wrote to new U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro, explaining the terms in which he would invest $500 million–including $250 million of his own personal fortune–into the NASL over the next 10 years. One of those stipulations is that the federation allows the NASL 10 years to meet compliance, while undertaking measures to remove what Commisso perceives as conflicts of interest that boost MLS and USL–the latter of which played as a Division II league in 2017, and was deemed in compliance to maintain that status in 2018–to the detriment of the NASL. More from The Guardian:

In the letters, Commisso offers to meet with Cordeiro to discuss his potential investment – though the correspondence also contain the mix of grandstanding and polemic that has marked Commisso’s arrival onto the US soccer stage, and his criticisms of what he sees as the “intertwining” of US Soccer and MLS and their joint marketing venture Soccer United Marketing.

Commisso has characterized that partnership as an anti-trust issue that “disenfranchises” other stakeholders in the American game. When NASL lost its D2 sanctioning at the end of 2017, Commisso, believing his league had been treated more harshly than the competing USL, initiated an anti-trust law suit, that is still ongoing.

Commisso also laments the historic failure of the federation to fulfill a mandate to initiate the Fifa standard of promotion and relegation in the US – attaching a letter from then US Soccer president Werner Fricker, written in 1988, in which Fricker envisages the game going into the 21st century with “a sophisticated professional league structure encompassing three divisions in a promotion and relegation system”.

It’s that backdrop that provides the context for this month’s exchange. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the single response from Cordeiro is cautious – after Commisso’s initial offer letter on 13 April, Cordeiro replies six days later claiming that his support duties on the World Cup bid have kept him from replying sooner, and that those duties will prevent him from meeting in the near term. He does suggest sending someone from US Soccer’s leadership team to meet with Commisso, though requests “at a minimum, a detailed and transparent outline” of the initiative before determining that “the meeting you propose has a chance of being productive”.

The longterm future of the NASL is still very much up in the air. As noted, it has suspended play for 2018, and continues to pursue legal action stemming from last September’s decision by the USSF. Three of its remaining members–including the Cosmos, Jacksonville Armada FC, and Miami FC–are competing in the semi-pro National Premier Soccer League for 2018.

Commisso has been vocal in his past criticisms of U.S. Soccer leadership. Last fall, he called for the resignation of U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati after the U.S. men’s team was eliminated from World Cup competition (Gulati later opted to not seek another term as president). He has also taken USSF to task for other issues, including its decision to deny NASL Division II status while granting it to the USL and the agency’s relationship with MLS marketing arm Soccer United Marketing.

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