By RYAN TOLMICH
As the league continues to grow, the NASL now looks set to go up against U.S. Soccer in pursuit of Division I sanctioning.
The Financial Times reported Monday that the NASL believes proposed rule changes by U.S. Soccer are blocking the league’s ability to achieve D1 status. In a letter, NASL alleges U.S. Soccer has protected MLS’ status because the federation would be able to benefit from several joint business transactions.
Under the proposed changes, a league would need 16 teams, up from 12 under 2014 rules, to acquire D1 sanctioning. In addition, 75 percent of a league’s teams must be based in cities with a population of more than 2 million people, up from 1 million, while stadiums would be required to meet a minimum 15,000-seat capacity for the entire league to qualify for Division I.
With regards to that stadium requirement, only two current stadiums, Ottawa Fury FC’s TD Place Stadium and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers’ Lockhart Stadium, would meet the criteria.
“Doubling the population criteria now is an anti-competitive bait and switch, with the purpose of entrenching MLS’s monopoly position at the very time when the NASL is threatening to become a significant competitor,” Jeffrey Kessler, an antitrust and sports attorney representing NASL, wrote in a letter to U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati.
“The financial damage is significant,” Mr. Kessler told the Financial Times. “Simply put, the actions by U.S. Soccer are hindering the league’s earnings potential with advertisers, broadcasters and other business partners, who will pay top dollar only for Division I, regardless of the quality of play or passion of the fans.”
The NASL went on to claim that second-division sanctioning causes difficulties in securing accesses to world-class tournaments and refereeing, while also proving to be a deterrent in adding top players and owners.
Founded in 2009, the NASL currently features 11 teams with two more, Miami FC and Puerto Rico FC, set to join in 2016.
What do you think of the allegations? Where do you see NASL on the soccer pyramid?
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