Judge Margo Brodie denied the NASL’s request for a preliminary injunction suspending U.S. Soccer’s denial of the league’s second division sanctioning in a 43-page court decision on Saturday morning.
She felt that the league was “seeking to alter rather than maintain the status quo.” See also didn’t see USSF’s professional league standards as inherently anti-competitive, as the NASL was asserting.
“Defendant’s divisional designation is granted on an annual basis. Although designated as a Division II league for 2017, Plaintiff has already been denied Division II status for 2018. Plaintiff’s requested relief would disrupt the status quo by effectively requiring Defendant to reverse its previous denial,” the decision reads.
However, Brodie thought that the league had proven irreparable harm stemming from the loss of second division sanctioning.
“Defendant thus understands that a drop in divisional sanctioning may indeed ‘deal a death blow to the NASL.’ Given the likely total loss of business, Plaintiff has established irreparable harm,” she wrote in the decision.
Judge Brodie did recognize a conflict of interest between MLS and the USSF, but there was insufficient evidence to prove any sort of conspiracy. She felt any evidence presented was circumstantial and did not show that any part of the sanctioning denial was agreed upon prior to the final vote, which ended 9-1 against the NASL.
“While there is evidence of a conflict of interest between Defendant and MLS, Plaintiff fails to present sufficient evidence of undue influence in the actual standard-setting process, i.e., the process pursuant to which the PLS is revised,” the decision reads.
This ruling leaves open a lot of speculation as to the future of the NASL, but the league isn’t giving up its legal battle, according to a league statement issued shortly after the ruling was released:
“We are very disappointed with the Court’s decision in denying our motion for a preliminary injunction. We remain steadfast in our pursuit of antitrust claims against the U.S. Soccer Federation and are confident that justice will ultimately by served. In light of the extreme hard this decision poses to the NASL and our teams, players, coaches, and fans, we will immediately begin reviewing all of our legal options including the process for appealing today’s ruling.”
U.S. Soccer responded with a statement as well:
“U.S. Soccer’s responsibility is to endure the long-term stability and sustainability of all professional leagues operating the United States, as well as the teams the compete within those leagues. After providing numerous opportunities over the years for the NASL to meet the professional league standards, or at least provide a pathway to meed those standards, the elected and independent members of the U.S. Soccer Board of Directors ultimately made a decision not to sanction the NASL as a Division 2 league. The decision was made in the best interest of soccer in the United States, and today’s decision confirms it was the correct decision. U.S. Soccer is committed to finding ways to improve the long-term viability of all leagues and teams and, by doing so, continue building upon the growth of soccer in the United States. U.S. Soccer is committed to working with the NASL as it considers its future.”