On the heels of US Soccer revoking the North American Soccer League’s Division 2 status for 2018, the NASL has fired a shot back, filing a lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation alleging that the USSF is violating antitrust laws through the division structure of its leagues.
US Soccer decided to end the NASL’s Division 2 status this month because the league didn’t meet a minimum requirement of 12 teams, and hadn’t for several years. The NASL has struggled financially, requiring waivers from the USSF to continue operating as a Division 2 league, and it still only has ten teams planned to compete for next season. The league’s former board chairman, Aaron Davidson, also pleaded guilty last year to charges of federal racketeering conspiracy and wire-fraud conspiracy.
In the lawsuit, the NASL claims that the USSF has manipulated the division structure and given favorable exceptions to benefit its business partner, MLS, at the expense of rival leagues, therefore limiting competition. In 2014, US Soccer and MLS signed a joint eight-year TV and media deal, which meant rights to MLS games were sold packaged with US national team games.
The lawsuit is a last-chance move for a struggling league potentially fighting for survival, as the NASL’s marquee club, the New York Cosmos, reportedly were only bought by new owner Rocco B. Commisso on condition that the NASL remain in Division 2. Meanwhile, the second-tier USL—which contains both local clubs and reserve squads for MLS teams—has continued to expand, and was granted Division 2 status this year.