North American Soccer League v. United States Soccer Federation: Use of Competition Law to Break Open the US’s Closed Soccer System

North American Soccer League v. United States Soccer Federation: Use of Competition Law to Break Open the US’s Closed Soccer System

On 19 September 2017, the North American Soccer League, LLC (NASL) filed a complaint against the United States Soccer Federation, Inc. (USSF), alleging that the USSF violated sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and seeking both a preliminary injunction to “maintain” the NASL’s Division-II status pending the resolution of the action and a permanent injunction to enjoin the USSF from imposing standards that prevent competition in top-tier and second-tier competition levels for professional soccer within the United States.    

US District Court for the Eastern District of New York, 4 November 2017, NASL v. USSF

 

The first top-tier men’s professional soccer league in the US began in 1968 under the NASL name. However, the league folded in 1985 after losing 17 clubs in just four years because of a weak economy and an overly rapid league expansion, which combined, caused clubs to experience significant financial losses. Without a top-tier soccer league for nearly a decade, professional soccer sputtered within the US until the USSF created and granted Division-I status to Major League Soccer (MLS) in 1993. Establishing a Division-I soccer league was a condition that FIFA required when it awarded the 1994 World Cup to the United States. In reaction to the previously unsuccessful leagues that preceded the MLS, like the NASL, the MLS was organizationally structured in a unique “single entity structure” and bidding clubs were required to pay franchise...

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