The North American Soccer League Antitrust Lawsuit: A Detailed Analysis

The North American Soccer League (NASL) has been embroiled in a long-standing legal battle with the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) and Major League Soccer (MLS). The lawsuit, which alleges antitrust violations on the part of the USSF and MLS, has finally been given the green light to proceed to trial after a federal judge denied one of the motions for summary judgement filed by the defendants. The NASL, which operated from 2011-17, ceased operations after losing its Division 2 designation from the USSF in September of 2017. The lawsuit was filed shortly after this decision, signaling the beginning of a lengthy legal dispute.

The crux of the NASL’s complaint revolves around the USSF’s alleged violation of federal antitrust laws through its division structure, which the NASL claims has been manipulated to favor MLS at the expense of other leagues, including the NASL itself. The complaint specifically points to the USSF’s application of Professional League Standards (PLS) as a means of stifling competition and propping up MLS and the United Soccer League (USL). By selectively applying and waiving the PLS criteria, the NASL argues that the USSF has effectively suppressed competition from other leagues, leading to the demise of the NASL.

Court Ruling and Implications

In a recent ruling, Judge Brian M. Cogan of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York dismissed some motions while allowing others to proceed to trial. While the NASL’s assertion that the mere existence of the PLS violated antitrust law was dismissed, the claim that the USSF and MLS used the PLS to put the NASL out of business will be examined further during the trial. Cogan emphasized that there are enough questions of fact to warrant a trial, indicating that the case is far from being resolved.

With the trial scheduled to begin on Sept. 9, all eyes will be on the courtroom as the NASL, USSF, and MLS present their arguments and evidence. The outcome of this legal battle could have far-reaching implications for the landscape of professional soccer in the U.S. If the NASL is successful in proving its antitrust claims, it could potentially lead to significant changes in the way the USSF regulates and sanctions professional leagues. On the other hand, a ruling in favor of the USSF and MLS could solidify their positions of power within the U.S. soccer hierarchy.

The North American Soccer League antitrust lawsuit represents a critical juncture in the ongoing debate over competition and regulation in American soccer. As the trial approaches, the spotlight will be on the courtroom as the NASL seeks justice and the USSF and MLS defend their practices. Whatever the outcome, one thing is clear – the outcome of this legal battle will have lasting ramifications for the future of professional soccer in the United States.


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