Home > NASL II, United Soccer Leagues > USSF Errs on Release, and Other TOA/NASL/USL Thoughts

USSF Errs on Release, and Other TOA/NASL/USL Thoughts

The USSF released a short statement regarding the USL-1 Team Owners Association Breakaway League:

High-ranking members of U.S. Soccer met with representatives from the United Soccer League and North American Soccer League to discuss Division II plans for 2010. In the meeting was U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati, CEO/Secretary General Dan Flynn and Professional Council Chairman Don Garber.

“We had a productive meeting and the discussions will continue,” said Gulati of the meeting in a statement released on USSoccer.com. “In the interim we have asked both groups to submit additional information.”

Both leagues have been asked to submit further information regarding their future plans to U.S. Soccer’s Professional League Task Force by December 9th.

From there, the task force will advise the U.S. Soccer board of any further action that may be necessary regarding the two leagues.

I am surprised that the Federation would release a statement referring to the breakaway league as the NASL rather than the USL Team Owners Association. The NASL has not been sanctioned and as of now from an official standpoint, the organization of clubs should not be referred to as a league.

When a separatist region of a nation is in diplomatic mediation with a third party that has not formally recognized the rebellious or breakaway area within that nation, they are not given equal official status (ie. here a league equates to national status) by the party mediating.To do so would be to prejudiced the mediator.

I do not believe the USSF is prejudiced towards the TOA/NASL based on my reporting, but this press release could be construed as being biased.

Getting back to the major issue itself, the USSF must at this moment make a clear cut decision. Do they want what’s best for the future of American club football/soccer, or are they as an entity in place to protect the financial interest of MLS. Secondly, they must also consider that any attempt to sweep these problems under the rug until the awarding of the World Cup in 2018/2022 may end up backfiring if this dispute opens back up again just as FIFA is awarding the 2018/2022 World Cups.

In my opinion, the best course of action for the USSF would be to sanction to NASL, but again because of MLS’ insecurity about their own position and concerns about the NASL’s ambition this may not happen. If the USSF does not sanction the NASL, they must force NuRock to restructure USL-1, allowing it to be run independently of the rest of USL by the TOA.

SET PIECE ANALYSTS DAILY PODCAST:  Hear why I believe USL has gained the upper hand in this dispute despite public opinion being squarely on the side of the TOA/NASL.  AND MUCH MUCH MORE. Guests include Inside Minnesota Soccer’s Brian Quarstad, and Pasion Naraja’s Kristian Vazquez.

SPA Daily Pod: TOA/USL Situation broken down

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  1. AVR
    December 7, 2009 at 5:31 pm | #1

    I agree with your premise, but disagree that the USSF is not partial towards the TOA. By referring to it as the NASL they have tipped their hand. Sanctioning is coming and USL is being screwed. NuRock needs to sue both the USSF and all the NASL owners when it happens.

  2. December 7, 2009 at 5:36 pm | #2

    I mentioned this on Inside MN Soccer… there is a compromise that will work for everyone here. USSF should push to force a sale of USL-1 to NASL/TOA. It’s too late to try to have things operate inside USL and all TOA wanted in the first place was to be able to buy the league. This would give NuRock back some of it’s investment and let it focus on the rest of USL and let NASL/TOA go on their way as the Division 2 league. It would have to be enough money to make NuRock not want to sue anyone and then it’s as close to a win/win as we are going to get here.

  3. December 7, 2009 at 5:38 pm | #3

    The communication, or lack thereof, from USL and USSF in recent weeks is a result of a request by USSF that all parties involved stop posting press announcements and counter PA’s (this is from someone with direct knowledge). My understanding is that USSF was not happy with Rochester’s announcement that they were leaving for the TOA.

    Do I agree with the fact that referring to the NASL in a formal press announcement from USSF sends the wrong message, which is that they’re a formally approved league? Yes. However, what concerns me more is that the is no general public available status on what’s going on. With the “gag” order from USSF, teams cannot send messages to fans. In some cases, this is actually preventing ticket sales (as is the case with our own team) which puts either league in financial jeopardy.

    I feel that I’m sharing a fairly common opinion, which is whether you’re for the NASL or USL or some combination therein, this issue must be resolved. My expectation is that if the leagues’ leadership cannot mediate a solution on their end, it’s up to USSF to step in, or recommend a third party who does not have a “dog in the hunt”. Seeing a press announcement like USSF’s today, although benficial in that it’s something, gives me the feeling of, “Why waste our time with a statement like that?!?!”

  4. December 7, 2009 at 5:41 pm | #4

    Both Daniel and Matthew make practical and workable suggestions that the USSF would be wise to take.

    For some reason though, I am not holding my breathe. That’s because the USSF is excessively political.

  5. December 7, 2009 at 5:41 pm | #5

    They don’t refer to it as a USSF sanctioned league. From the trademark applications, the North American Soccer League is a registered corporation. Using the name of the business does nothing to signal the USSF’s intent, and is 100 percent accurate.

  6. Not So Casual Observer
    December 7, 2009 at 5:44 pm | #6

    I think your argument is a bit pedantic. There is nothing stopping NASL from playing next year without USSF sanctioning and calling themselves a “soccer league”.

    They would have issues related to player contracts and transfers…I’m not saying it is smart to do so, but USSF’s blessing doesn’t make it a league or not. USSF’s blessing makes it a “sanctioned league”.

  7. Ray
    December 7, 2009 at 5:51 pm | #7

    ” Getting back to the major issue itself, the USSF must at this moment make a clear cut decision. Do they want what’s best for the future of American club football/soccer, or are they as an entity in place to protect the financial interest of MLS. Secondly, they must also consider that any attempt to sweep these problems under the rug until the awarding of the World Cup in 2018/2022 may end up backfiring if this dispute opens back up again just as FIFA is awarding the 2018/2022 World Cups.”

    You bring up a very worrying issue here that has been in the back of my head. Will the USSF try and put the thing back together until FIFA decides on the 2018 bid, and thus set the club game back long term in this country. By that time more USL teams could have gone under and more and more fans in non MLS markets may have quit on the domestic game because they have been denied high quality local soccer.

    Also, I am concerned they will pressure the MLSPU to give in to MLS bullying owners in order to ensure the World Cup comes here and they can make money.

    In my opinion it is a massive conflict and the USSF should step aside and let FIFA mediate NASL vs USL.

  8. December 7, 2009 at 6:04 pm | #8

    The press release shows the USSF is not impartial.

    Kartik, whose reporting has been skewed towards the rogue clubs got this one right.

    These clubs should have a choice. Play in USL next year or fold. The owners knew what they were signing up for. They knew the rules of USL. They knew the financial structure. If they didn’t like it, then don’t invest in it.

    We are trying to find sympathy for multi millionaires that lost money in USL BECAUSE OF THEIR OWN DOING.

    The TOA rebel league must be rejected. If it is sanctioned, it is critical for all fans of the game and of USL to boycott it.

  9. December 7, 2009 at 6:24 pm | #9

    USL Supporter, boycott the new league? Who are you? The NuRock owners? Holt? Give me a break… it is the LEAGUE that brought this mess and it was NUROCK who refused to negotiate and listen to their own clients. They are reaping exactly what they sowed and now the teams are taking action to protect their teams. It has become clear through this press statement that they take the NASL seriously. What’s the big deal? They look more like a league now than the USL ever did, so they deserve to be recognized as such.

    The USL had its chance and they blew it. The USSF needs to make them pay for their mistakes and sanction the NASL. The teams have spoken, and they want a change in the way soccer is done in this country. I hope NASL refuses to back down and draws the line. They have the major chips in this game and they must push as hard as they can to make sure USSF gives them sanctioning. As soon as that happens, it’ll be a happy day for soccer in North America. I’m tired of being in a league that treats itself as minor league and that no one cares about. It’s time for a new direction. Thanks for reporting, Kartik.

  10. December 7, 2009 at 6:57 pm | #10

    When will this ever end?

    I hope whatever happens, the teams in USL or NASL continue to be good sides that can push MLS teams in Open Cup and CONCACAF. MLS needs to the competition, because right now they are arrogant and fall down against Mexican teams.

  11. jmb321
    December 7, 2009 at 7:01 pm | #11

    Kartik Krishnaiyer :
    Both Daniel and Matthew make practical and workable suggestions that the USSF would be wise to take.
    For some reason though, I am not holding my breathe. That’s because the USSF is excessively political.

    Kartik, You nailed it … the USSF is a organization with a political bent. It is not what you know, but who you know and following the path of least resistance. Organizationally, the NASL guys do not have the pull within the USSF …yet. To significantly upset the apple cart would be to provide an outright sanction to the NASL which will lead to law suits, injunctions and a distraction from the game. All this during a year of potential labor unrest in the MLS and the World Cup. As I outlined before, the USSF is going to call for a year-long “cooling off” period and “promote” a compromise between the 2 parties. If USSF sanctioning was not that important to the NASL and they would go rogue regardless, it would not be their stated fulcrum for which all future development has been predicated.

    There will be a forced compromise.The USSF compromise will mandate the USL relinquish control over all macro functions, like expansion, appointment of a commissioner, national sponsors, marketing and promotion, etc. they will be getting the vast majority of their stated objectives. They will be USL in name only. They will not be happy and the USL/Nurock will give up this league control very reluctantly but that is what compromise means. Nobody will be happy but the USSF is not going to sanction 2 Division II leagues during 2010. I am sure they would have hoped the 2 parties could have found this solution themselves but obviously the personalities got in the way of rational business discourse.

  12. j
    December 7, 2009 at 7:13 pm | #12

    FIUJoel :
    I’m tired of being in a league that treats itself as minor league and that no one cares about. It’s time for a new direction. Thanks for reporting, Kartik.

    I love how you, as a Miami FC fan, keep trying to make this point. It won’t matter what league your club is in next year, they’ll still continue to draw flies… Miami FC’s issues are totally the work, or lack there of, of Miami FC club, and the “marketing geniuses” that make up the ownership group.

    USL has issues, but they have nothing to do with Miami’s failures.

  13. December 7, 2009 at 9:15 pm | #13

    It’s up to the USSF to do what is best for the game. Approve NASL and let the teams get on with the next season and building a new league.

  14. CoconutMonkey
    December 7, 2009 at 9:30 pm | #14

    jmb321: “but obviously the personalities got in the way of rational business discourse.”

    Damn straight.

    While I am all for compromise, I’m not quite sure I understand why the NASL wouldn’t receive the Federation’s sanctioning.

  15. Rhinos Fan
    December 7, 2009 at 9:35 pm | #15

    The NASL has to be approved!

    USL is a bad business deal for all franchises and the league isn’t visible enough nationally to make any impact.

    Thankfully Rob Clark our owner made the right choice. I was worried the Rhinos were going to stay in USL.

  16. December 7, 2009 at 9:41 pm | #16

    j :

    FIUJoel :
    I’m tired of being in a league that treats itself as minor league and that no one cares about. It’s time for a new direction. Thanks for reporting, Kartik.

    I love how you, as a Miami FC fan, keep trying to make this point. It won’t matter what league your club is in next year, they’ll still continue to draw flies… Miami FC’s issues are totally the work, or lack there of, of Miami FC club, and the “marketing geniuses” that make up the ownership group.
    USL has issues, but they have nothing to do with Miami’s failures.

    And I’ll keep making this point: this year things will start off fresh. New league, new image, new strategy and hopefully better marketing. I know the league alone is not the only reason why Miami FC has struggled, but down here we have no choice but to hope that Traffic, now getting what they wanted, will invest more in the franchise. After this year, there is no excuse for them.

  17. December 7, 2009 at 10:01 pm | #17

    Why is this still an issue?

    USL has consistently lied to its clubs and fleeced them. The truth of the matter is that if the USSF has any compunction at all they will tell the USL to shut up and sanction the NASL. If they don’t do it, the game will suffer and some great local markets and teams will go down the drain thanks to the USSF’s lack of courage and willingness to let Holt and Marcos bully them.

  18. Miami Ultra
    December 7, 2009 at 10:16 pm | #18

    The USL has brought this situation on themselves. They didn’t listen to the TOA for the last two years, and then through a sneaky sale to NuRock only worsened the situation. Now NuRock has failed to listen to the TOA clubs and this is what happened. USSF denying sanctioning to NASL or forcing any sort of compromise with USL would be the worst possible thing they could do.

    This was caused by USL so let them deal with the consequences. And with the classless way they killed the City Stars in Cleveland, they certainly deserve what’s coming to them.

  19. December 7, 2009 at 10:37 pm | #19

    C’MON USSF! Sanction NASL and tell USL to take a hike.

  20. December 7, 2009 at 10:39 pm | #20

    For a league that has been around twenty years, USL certainly is invisible.
    I think it is in everyone’s best interest long term that the NASL successfully get this league going and keep a solid, stable second division that maintains a certain degree of consistency from year to year together. It is also important that the league is marketed better to the press and TV. USL has zero presence in markets that are not smallish minor league sports markets like Charleston and Richmond.

    Even in Atlanta, Miami, Minnesota and Cleveland the league was a total after thought. If the NASL can brand the league in a fashion to get it on local TV and local news, that will be critical.

  21. December 7, 2009 at 11:22 pm | #21

    I find it most offensive that USL would be willing to just write off franchises. Wilmington, Cleveland, the TOA teams.

    The league as Kartik stated on some pod I listened to just seems to want to collect franchise fees from new investors every couple of years and actually hopes the current teams either go out of business or drop divisions.

  22. LZR
    December 7, 2009 at 11:57 pm | #22

    Calling the USSF political is an understatement.

    They are looking to protect MLS and a World Cup bid.

    Gulati & Co. really do not care about the game other than how they can make money off it.

    A pity when the head of the federation acts more like an MLS employee than a fair arbiter.

  23. MH
    December 8, 2009 at 2:09 am | #23

    For once, it seems, someone finally has “the balls” to view soccer in America as a legitimate sport and treat it as such. I hope the new NASL wins the day because I’m far more interested in what they’re proposing to do than what MLS currently does. This single-entity crap, while certainly understandable in its inception, is beginning to stunt the maturation of professionalism. If MLS can’t evolve and play the same game as the rest of the world does, then it’s time for a new direction.

  24. LZR
    December 8, 2009 at 12:01 pm | #24

    I’m disgusted by listening to your podcast. Not at you or the other guests. I agree, but am disgusted by the talk of lawsuits and USL winning by using the lawyers to impede progress of soccer in America.

    Maybe that is why we never move forward and every major tournament despite the expectations ends the same way. Even in 2002, good breaks also were exposed by our bad play against Poland and some bad moments in the other games. 2010 despite an easy draw will be the same. We will advance but really not making progress.

    USL has served its purpose and should have been dismantled years ago. MLS has done okay, but if they don’t change the CBA radically this time around, MLS like USL will become more a problem than something that moves us forward.

  25. December 8, 2009 at 12:43 pm | #25

    If the USL wins this, I may simply quit watching this sport domestically.

    Sorry, but enough Euro soccer on TV, I no longer need to waste my time with a tainted localized product.

  26. December 8, 2009 at 1:20 pm | #26

    Ronnie T :

    If the USL wins this, I may simply quit watching this sport domestically.

    Sorry, but enough Euro soccer on TV, I no longer need to waste my time with a tainted localized product.

    I’d urge you to support USL or your local team if USL does come out on top.

    However, I do not realistically think USL can recapture all the previous support the league had after this saga.

    I will continue to believe the best course of action would be for the USSF to find a way to either sanction the NASL or leave USL-1 in the control of the TOA.

    USL, as I stated on the podcast has seen 80% of its professional teams disappear in the last ten years, either dropping to amateur levels or simply folding up shop. They have proven they have a hard time running a legitimate, stable second division. However, if they are what we have in this country, we must support them. MLS is a flawed product as well, but we support that league.

  27. December 8, 2009 at 1:30 pm | #27

    Kartik Krishnaiyer :

    Ronnie T :
    If the USL wins this, I may simply quit watching this sport domestically.
    Sorry, but enough Euro soccer on TV, I no longer need to waste my time with a tainted localized product.

    I’d urge you to support USL or your local team if USL does come out on top.
    However, I do not realistically think USL can recapture all the previous support the league had after this saga.
    I will continue to believe the best course of action would be for the USSF to find a way to either sanction the NASL or leave USL-1 in the control of the TOA.
    USL, as I stated on the podcast has seen 80% of its professional teams disappear in the last ten years, either dropping to amateur levels or simply folding up shop. They have proven they have a hard time running a legitimate, stable second division. However, if they are what we have in this country, we must support them. MLS is a flawed product as well, but we support that league.

    Kartik, I respect your point of view about rallying around anything American, but I am done. I go to Railhawks games, and I know what garbage USL is. We need a league owned by the teams and managed by the teams that follows international guidelines and is promoted as something more than ma and pa local semi pro soccer.

    Plenty of viewing options in Europe, Brazil or Mexico for me to watch. I will not waste my time with either USL or MLS if NASL is not approved.

  28. December 8, 2009 at 1:35 pm | #28

    USL is simply protecting its business interests as any business would do. But it’s about time us Soccer fans and others involved in the game realized both MLS and USL serve the interests of the respective investors- in MLS’ case team owners, in USL’s case NuRock and the staff, rather than the sport.

    I have no doubt that if the NASL is rejected and USL continues to serve as the second division that the sport itself is ultimately hurt. You’ll see waning interest in the NASL cities, and also a league whose model is better suited for youth soccer of the 1990s, continue to have a lot of influence over pro soccer into the 2010’s.

    The sport will lose fans and a chance for remarkable growth if the NASL is rejected. I say this as someone who has worked with USL extensively on the youth level in the past. Sadly, USL doesn’t care any longer about moving the sport forward but simply hanging on to some claim of legitimacy.

    The whole ordeal is horrid for the game in the US, particularly the Southeast US.

    I will continue my involvement in the game but predict many people will drop off if the NASL is not properly sanctioned.

  29. December 8, 2009 at 2:02 pm | #29

    I don’t really have much use for USL or MLS right now.

    MLS does not want NASL sanctioned because they want to squeeze the players in the CBA negotiation. A viable NASL means their is a place for the MLSPU players to play for a year while they strike.

    USL does not want NASL because they want to continue to bleed their clubs dry of cash while making money for Francisco Marcos and NuRock.

    Screw them both.

    I’m with Ronnie. It’s European Footy for me from now on.

  30. December 8, 2009 at 2:31 pm | #30

    The USSF has to consider the fan reaction if they say no.

    Ultimately, I think they will be forced to sanction the NASL because of this potential backlash.

  31. December 8, 2009 at 2:59 pm | #31

    The USSF will have a very hard time justifying the rejection of a league with good owners, in big markets and with a clear plan for the future in favor of what is essentially a failed professional league.

    Ultimately, that is why I think Kartik, BQ and all these posters are panicking about nothing. The NASL will be sanctioned at the end of the day. We need the appearance of due diligence not actual due diligence by the USSF, because of the potential lawsuits and they doing such right now.

  32. December 8, 2009 at 3:16 pm | #32

    Nomo- you assume satisfying soccer fans is the only consideration for the USSF. Sadly, it is not. They are a political entity with lots of external concerns.

  33. December 8, 2009 at 3:17 pm | #33

    I agree that the fan reaction is going to be almost universally negative. That’s why the USSF may be forced to say “play 2010 in USL, but come 2011 we’ll sanction you.” Who knows. Lots of reasonable options on the table, and had the Federation intervened earlier some of this could have been averted.

  34. evan eleven
    December 8, 2009 at 4:05 pm | #34

    there’s no way i can support USL after all this nonsense. my team, the California Jaguars, was one of the dozens of teams who couldn’t make the USL business model work and folded 10 years ago. i only follow now out of curiosity. but if USSF screws up this chance to sanction NASL and give pro soccer the fresh start it seriously needs, then forgetaboutit, i’ll just watch MLS and EPL on TV. NuRock should just know when they’ve lost and sell USL-1 to NASL, it can’t be worth more than peanuts now anyway…

  35. ERic
    December 8, 2009 at 6:11 pm | #35

    Kartik Krishnaiyer :
    I agree that the fan reaction is going to be almost universally negative. That’s why the USSF may be forced to say “play 2010 in USL, but come 2011 we’ll sanction you.” Who knows. Lots of reasonable options on the table, and had the Federation intervened earlier some of this could have been averted.

    How much earlier? I’m pretty sure they intervened just about as early as they should — after the TOA started working toward their own league. And the reaction of both the USL and TOA? Screw the USSF and the TOA/USL. If the two parties aren’t willing to talk, what can the USSF do? Other than not sanctioning the NASL? What real power does the USSF have in this case?

  36. jmb321
    December 8, 2009 at 6:31 pm | #36

    My crystal ball says you are correct… Compromise will be as I outlined about 2 months ago. Nobody will be happy least of all the Division II fans. But that is not the USSF’s primary focus right now. 2011 will be a different story on a hole bunch of levels, so have faith.

  37. December 8, 2009 at 6:49 pm | #37

    ERic :

    Kartik Krishnaiyer :
    I agree that the fan reaction is going to be almost universally negative. That’s why the USSF may be forced to say “play 2010 in USL, but come 2011 we’ll sanction you.” Who knows. Lots of reasonable options on the table, and had the Federation intervened earlier some of this could have been averted.

    How much earlier? I’m pretty sure they intervened just about as early as they should — after the TOA started working toward their own league. And the reaction of both the USL and TOA? Screw the USSF and the TOA/USL. If the two parties aren’t willing to talk, what can the USSF do? Other than not sanctioning the NASL? What real power does the USSF have in this case?

    They did not intervene until Mid October. This started in August. Commitments had been made by the TOA owners to start a new league with sponsors, and other entities by that time. The USSF acted early on as if they simply wanted the thing to go away. They could have stepped in and ordered the teams back to USL, put a gag order and also forced USL to relinquish control of the first division to the TOA.

    But instead the USSF as is often the case with FA’s around the globe took the path of least resistance. People involved in the dispute were begging Gulati to get involved but he told the sides to sort it out themselves. Had the USSF shown some leadership initially, we’d have averted some this.

    All of this having been said, the USSF and Gulati/Flynn have made a real valiant effort since mid October. I just think they were late to the dance and many of us who were following the situation then were saying “where is the USSF” for weeks.

    All these issues with a World Cup bid in play are hanging out there.

    Then again, everything would have been averted if Nike had simply sold
    USL to Jeff Cooper.

    Think about that for a moment. The 11th hour switch from Cooper to NuRock is what unleashed this whole chain of events which threatens second division football in this country.

  38. O.f.
    December 9, 2009 at 5:44 pm | #38

    Kartik Krishnaiyer :I agree that the fan reaction is going to be almost universally negative. That’s why the USSF may be forced to say “play 2010 in USL, but come 2011 we’ll sanction you.” Who knows. Lots of reasonable options on the table, and had the Federation intervened earlier some of this could have been averted.

    I think you’re wrong here… I don’t think the USSF can tell the owners where to spend their money… if the NASL isn’t sanctioned I’d venture to guess many of those owners would say “screw this” and pull the plug on their team! Wait a year or two and try to get sanctioned again, leaving the USL with still 3-4 teams for this year!

    that’s what I would do, anyway!

  39. NASL Supporter
    December 11, 2009 at 12:13 pm | #39

    USL employees have been spamming blogs with false information and propaganda. The USL fan pages are all dead…don’t take my word for it, see for yourself. Thats because they all support the TOA and the NASL.

    NuRock does not have a product without fans. The fans now support NASL, bottom line.

    USL has also posted articles with false statements for which they do not allow responses. Enough said.

  40. Dave Windrock
    January 4, 2010 at 3:51 pm | #40

    The “USL” is nothing but a website that posts a schedule. If they don’t have enough teams to get sanctioned under the rules then too bad. If the NASL fits the rules for sanctioning then they should be sanctioned. The USSF basically used their influence to force an attempt for a merger…maybe good, maybe bad but is this their role?

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