NEW YORK (Via NASL) – The North American Soccer League (NASL) announced Tuesday that it has filed a federal antitrust lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) in Brooklyn federal court. The NASL is a men’s professional soccer league that has operated since 2010.
The NASL’s complaint alleges that the USSF 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 (MLS), which is the commercial business partner of the USSF. Its 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 the USSF.
The complaint alleges that the USSF has selectively applied and waived its divisional criteria to suppress competition from the NASL, both against MLS and against United Soccer League (USL). For example, under the USSF’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 complaint alleges that the USSF sought to limit competition from the NASL to MLS and USL, and now seeks to destroy the NASL by arbitrarily revoking the NASL’s “Division II” status for the upcoming 2018 season. The complaint only seeks injunctive relief against the USSF’s conduct regarding its divisional designations.
Rocco B. Commisso, Chairman of the NASL’s Board of Governors and the principal owner of the New York Cosmos, which plays its home games in Brooklyn, stated: “The USSF left the NASL no choice except to file this lawsuit. 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.”