By SBI SOCCER
New York Cosmos COO Erik Stover certainly pulled no punches in discussing the proposed NASL lawsuit against U.S. Soccer.
At a recent Cosmos fan gathering, Stover stated that he believes that there is “a fundamental problem in the way soccer is run in this country”. In addition, the Cosmos COO revealed details regarding the potential lawsuit against U.S. Soccer, who the NASL accuses of adding a series of new standards to prevent the league from attaining Division 1 status.
“How can we ever be first division if you keep changing the rules,” Stover asked fans at a viewing party in New York City last week, “and your committee is made up of nine people from the MLS, someone from the USL, three from the Women’s league and [NASL Commissioner] Bill Peterson? How can we have a fair opportunity to grow?”
“In a sense, this is a game of chess,” Stover added. “NASL made the first move. Now we’re waiting for U.S. Soccer to make the next move. Obviously, you’re trying to win the game, but how you win the game, you don’t necessarily know for sure. It will start when the lawyers sit to have a meeting, and then the leaders of NASL will have a better understanding of what the next move is and what they hope to get out of it.”
Stover added that recent reports of the lawsuit fail to “scratch the surface” of changes that the league hopes to see enforced, although he admitted he wasn’t at liberty to go too far in specifics. In particular, Stover revealed that the NASL is challenging the alliance that has developed between the USSF and MLS.
Stover cited what he sees as a “stacking” of the USSF board with MLS operatives, as well as the duo’s shared sponsorships and MLS’ larger cut of television money.
Stover, who previously worked in MLS as managing director of the New York Red Bulls, also scoffed at a rule stating that that a Division I league must have at least 16 teams, while 75 percent of the teams in the league must have a population of at least two million, up from one million. In addition, all stadiums must have a seating capacity of 15,000.
“For example, the Premier League would not be first division under U.S. Soccer’s rules because Bournemouth stadium is below 15,000,” Stover said of the requirement. “La Liga wouldn’t be first division because Eibar and one other stadium isn’t 15,000. These rules that keep changing, with number of teams and sizes of stadiums and sizes of cities, Athletic Bilbao wouldn’t be allowed into an American first division and it’s crazy. It’s changed and it’s changed every year for three years.
“It’s not so much that we’re making an argument for first division right now. What we’re saying is, ‘How can we ever be first division if you keep changing the rules?”
Citing the team’s clash with the Red Bulls, and comments from the opposing coaching staff in the aftermath, Stover said the product on the field is at a first division level. Yet, Stover added that the current label of “second division” is hurting the Cosmos financially while making it harder to operate as a club.
With attorney Jeffrey Kessler leading the charge, Stover says the NASL is ready for “a game of chess” with the higher powers of soccer in America.
“Our lawyer is as good as they come and he doesn’t take cases he thinks he has a chance of losing,” Stover explained. “Kessler beat the NFL with the Tom Brady deflategate thing, and not a little bit, he whipped their ass. This guy is good.
“He’s won cases like this before. He’s one of the most renowned attorneys in this country. Just putting his name on the letter sent to U.S. Soccer, we know for a fact, sent fear through people’s minds.”