We won’t see the NASL lawsuit against U.S. Soccer Federation and MLS over alleged antitrust until early fall 2019 at the earliest, as a U.S. federal judge scheduled the end of discovery for April 30, 2019.
NASL and its attorneys had sought expedited discovery in pursuit of a December trial date — an extraordinarily unrealistic request. The wheels of justice do indeed turn slowly, and a scheduling date of a year in the future is the norm in federal court, no matter the scope of the case. And, in the case of a NASL lawsuit suing USSF and MLS, we’re talking about a pretty major case, including document review for 25 years of business dealings, at least 50-60 depositions, and plenty of expert witness prep and interviews. After the end of discovery, there will be plenty of time for pretrial motions, requiring answers and more prep time. The request for expedited discovery and trial was pretty much doomed from the beginning. From Law360:
“I understand and am sympathetic to your position, and I’ll try and expedite this as much as possible, but it’s a complicated case and I don’t think you can cut off discovery to meet some arbitrary deadline,” Judge [U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven L. ] Tiscione told attorneys for NASL….
An attorney for U.S. Soccer, Lawrence E. Buterman of Latham & Watkins LLP, had argued setting a schedule that could see the trial take place in May was unrealistic, given that discovery could involve nearly 60 depositions and 25 years worth of records, not to mention expert discovery.
“To set a trial-ready date in May will in essence gut ourselves,” Buterman said.
NASL argued that the discovery burden would be lessened given all of the disclosures made in its unsuccessful bid for a preliminary injunction, and proposed limiting the deposition count to no more than 10 per side.
For NASL, it probably means that the 2019 season and maybe the 2020 season will be scrapped as well. The league is down to three teams — New York Cosmos, Jacksonville Armanda and Miami FC — and with the chance the league could walk away from the case with virtually nothing, raising money and adding franchises would be a monumental task. And with Rocco Commisso’s offer to bring in $500 million to revive NASL rejected by U.S. Soccer Federation officials, the paths forward for NASL teams are very limited.
The core of the lawsuit: NASL is arguing that U.S. Soccer Federation conspired with MLS to irreparably harm the NASL by demoting it to Division III and raising USL to Division II status, with professional league standards (PLS) preventing NASL from reaching Division I status. While the NASL has cleared an initial hurdle in showing that the league was indeed harmed by the demotion, it wasn’t enough for a court to reinstate Division II status for 2018, leading to the current situation.
Image courtesy NASL.
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