NEW YORK – Only days prior to the U.S. Soccer Federation’s Annual General Meeting that will elect a new president, the North American Soccer League Tuesday announced that it has filed a lawsuit in New York state court against most of the members of the federation’s board of directors.
The NASL’s complaint alleged that defendants – motivated by conflicts of interest and economic considerations which infect the operation of the board – breached their fiduciary duties to the league
The named defendants are USSF president Sunil Gulati, vice president Carlos Cordeiro and CEO Daniel Flynn. Also named were athlete representatives Valerie Ackerman, Christopher Ahrens, Carlos Bocanegra, at-large representative John Collins, Pro Council representatives Don Garber and Steve Malik, Youth Council representatives Jesse Harrell and Tim Turney, independent directors Liz Carnoy, Angela Hucles and Donna E. Shalala, Adult Council representative Richard Moeller.
U.S. Adult Soccer Association president John Motta, also a member of the board of directors, was not listed as a defendant.
The suit claimed that defendants arbitrarily refused to sanction the NASL as a Division II league for the 2018 season to protect controlling board members’ self-interested positions in Major League Soccer and Soccer United Marketing.
In September, the USSF rescinded the NASL’s Division Two status for 2018. Since then the league has filed for a preliminary injunction against the federation — which it is still waiting for a decision in appellate court — and an anti-trust lawsuit.
Through SUM, the complaint alleged, defendants have enriched MLS while wasting USSF assets and freezing out MLS competitors, such as the NASL. The complaint also said that Gulati and Garber have dominated board operations to advance MLS interests while enhancing their own clout and influence.
The NASL said that Cordeiro recently admitted, “[t]he unique ownership of SUM creates conflicts that need to be addressed.”
The NASL claimed its complaint underscored critical issues facing USSF members in Saturday’s presidential election.
A league press release said that “while that election presents an opportunity for reform, it also threatens to perpetuate the conflicts at the heart of the NASL’s complaint.”
The press release noted that SUM president Kathy Carter has campaigned “with strong backing from Gulati and Garber.” The NASL also claimed that Cordeiro has been Gulati’s longtime protégé and confidante and had pursued his own presidential campaign.
“U.S. Soccer cannot elect another president who permits SUM and MLS interests to dominate U.S. Soccer’s governing body,” the NASL said, adding that the complaint “seeks necessary changes to U.S. Soccer governance, in addition to relief which is essential to the NASL’s survival.”
At the present time, the NASL has no plans to play in 2018. If a decision comes through the appellate court, it might be able to kick off a fall season in August.
The USSF had no comment on the lawsuit.