NEW YORK – The North American Soccer League announced Tuesday that it has filed a federal antitrust lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation in Brooklyn federal court.
In a press released from the league, the NASL’s complaint alleged that the USSF — aka U.S. Soccer — has violated federal antitrust laws through its anticompetitive “division” structure that divides men’s professional soccer for U.S.-based leagues based on arbitrary criteria that the USSF has manipulated to favor Major League Soccer, which is the commercial business partner of the federation.
The suit was filed less than three weeks after the U.S. Soccer board of directors voted to deny the NASL Division 2 status for 2018. According to U.S. Soccer regulations, Division 2 leagues must have a minimum of 12 teams. The NASL has eight for this season with two expansion teams ready to join the league next year.
“The USSF left the NASL no choice except to file this lawsuit,” said NASL board of governors chairman Rocco B. Commisso said in a statement. “The NASL has taken this step to protect not just the league, but also the game, fans, and everyone with a stake in the future success of professional soccer leagues based in this country.”
Commisso also is principal owner of the Cosmos, who plays their home games at MCU Park in Brooklyn.
U.S. Soccer’s business arrangements include multi-million dollar media and marketing contracts with Soccer United Marketing (SUM), MLS’s marketing arm that also jointly sells and markets MLS rights combined with rights to U.S. national soccer teams operated by U.S. Soccer.
The complaint alleged that the USSF has applied and waived its divisional criteria to suppress competition from the NASL, both against MLS and against United Soccer League.
In a press release, the NASL claimed that under U.S. Soccer’s divisional criteria, there are European clubs that have successfully operated for decades that would be considered ineligible for “Division I” or even “Division II” status due to arbitrary requirements like stadium capacity and market size.
The NASL complaint also alleged that U.S. Soccer sought to limit competition from the NASL to MLS and USL, and now seeks to destroy the league by arbitrarily revoking the NASL’s “Division II” status for the 2018 season.
According to the press release, the suit seeks only injunctive relief against the USSF’s conduct regarding its divisional designations.
A U.S. Soccer spokesman said that the organization does not comment on impending litigation.