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NASL cancels 2018 season, to maintain legal battle

The North American Soccer League (NASL) has cancelled its 2018 season amid its ongoing legal battle with the United States Soccer Federation (USSF), but has pledged to maintain its antitrust lawsuit against the governing body.

News of an impending cancellation was first reported by SportBusiness International and was confirmed yesterday (Tuesday). The NASL made the move after failing to receive a preliminary injunction preventing the USSF from revoking its Division II status. 

NASL, which was sanctioned by the USSF as a Division II league from 2011 to 2017, lost its sanctioning in September 2017 for the 2018 season and soon after filed a major antitrust lawsuit claiming the USSF had colluded with Division I league Major League Soccer (MLS) to stifle the growth of NASL. 

The USSF had claimed the NASL had failed to meet standards such as a minimum number of teams and the distribution of these clubs geographically. The NASL had already cancelled its spring season amid the legal battle, but had planned to resume play in August.

On September 19, NASL filed an antitrust suit in Federal Court in the Eastern District of New York seeking a preliminary injunction to preserve the NASL’s Division II status while the Court considered the underlying claims. On November 4, the District Court denied the NASL’s motion for a preliminary injunction and on Friday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the District Court’s decision.

NASL interim commissioner Rishi Sehgal said: “The focus of the antitrust suit to date has been obtaining a preliminary injunction to save the 2018 season. Unfortunately, with USSF’s decision and the loss of the preliminary injunction, playing the 2018 season is no longer a possibility.

“The focus of the antitrust suit now shifts to securing the long-term advancement of soccer in this country, not only for the NASL, but for all soccer fans, clubs, and communities impacted by the USSF’s restrictions on competition. 

“Also, the NASL is prosecuting a breach of fiduciary duty action against certain USSF board members for conflicts of interest and derelictions of duty which have harmed the NASL and countless other constituents in U.S. Soccer. The NASL and its clubs will look at all avenues to return to the field for the 2019 season.”

During the NASL’s hiatus from competition, three NASL members – Jacksonville Armada, Miami FC, and New York Cosmos – will be fielding teams in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL), with play scheduled to begin on April 15. The NPSL is effectively the fourth division of football in the US.