Clubs take US Soccer to CAS over promotion-relegation system

North American Soccer League (NASL) team Miami FC and fourth-tier National Premier Soccer League outfit Kingston Stockade have filed a claim with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) calling for the US Soccer national governing body to introduce a promotion and relegation system for the sport in the country.

Unlike the majority of countries, the US does not employ such a system, meaning clubs in the top-tier Major League Soccer are free of the threat of relegation. Lower-league teams wishing to compete in MLS must apply for an expansion franchise due to the absence of a promotion system.

The claim filed by Miami and Kingston Stockade contends that US teams are “illegitimately blocked” from the same opportunities presented to clubs from around the world due to US Soccer’s stance. 

Both clubs said that US Soccer is failing to comply by the rules of global governing body Fifa by denying sides the chance of promotion. Miami said in a statement that the US and Australia are the only two of Fifa’s 211 member associations that do not practice promotion and relegation.

The claim names Fifa, US Soccer and the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (Concacaf) as respondents.

Miami chief executive Sean Flynn said: “The closed system for soccer used here in the United Sates is in violation of Fifa rules. By adopting the rules followed by virtually every other soccer playing nation around the globe, soccer in America will be open, resulting in better teams through all divisions, compelling story lines to increase fan excitement and greater financial success for everyone involved in this beautiful game.”

The claim comes after Miami won the NASL spring title earlier this year.

Miami’s statement added: “Promotion and relegation is not just embedded within Fifa's statutes, it is a basic principle of the global soccer pyramid. It means the right to qualify to a soccer competition must be based on the sporting merit of soccer teams, exercised through qualification games and through promotions and relegations as the outcome of legitimate competition, instead of qualifying for a soccer competition as a result of paying a certain amount of money.”

The claim also said that the introduction of a promotion and relegation system would allow the US to compete with other leading football countries, and aid the progression of clubs and the US national team.

Miami added that the 2018 campaign should be the first season in which a “fair, open and meritocratic” system is implemented in the US.

In a statement reported by the ESPN website, US Soccer said: “We are aware of the submission to the Court of Arbitration for Sport by Miami FC and Kingston Stockade FC. We are in the process of reviewing the document and have no further comment at this time."