Reports: High-powered lawyer presses NASL demands

Sports attorney Jeffrey Kessler, who represented MLS players in the 1996 lawsuit against MLS, its owners and U.S. Soccer, is sticking his legal thorn into U.S. Soccer again. The Financial Times and New York Daily News reported that Kessler is representing the NASL and demanding that U.S. Soccer reconsider proposed changes to its Division I standards that he says are "anti-competitive."

Both publications cited a 13-page letter sent by Kessler July 23 to U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati and secretary general Daniel Flynn.

They said the proposed changes in Division I standards the NASL via Kessler objects to are:

-- 16 teams must play in the pro league, up from 12 (14 by Year 3);
-- 75 percent of the teams must be based in cities with more than 2 million people, up from more than 1 million.

U.S. Soccer: 2014 Professional League Standards

Both reports cited Kessler's claim the proposed changes were intended to benefit Division I MLS (which has 20 teams and plans to add teams in Atlanta in 2017, as well teams in Los Angeles, Minnesota and Miami) at the expense of the Division 2 NASL (which has 11 teams and two more planned to start in 2016 and would like to obtain Division I standing).

“Doubling the population criteria now is an anticompetitive bait and switch," Kessler wrote, "with the purpose of entrenching MLS’s monopoly position at the very time when the NASL is threatening to become a serious competitor."

In 1996, Kessler represented eight players who sued MLS, its owners and U.S. Soccer in Fraser v. MLS (Fraser was Canadian Iain Fraser) file in Federal district court, attacking MLS's single-entity system on antitrust grounds.

MLS won in district court and the verdict was upheld on appeal. The decision did not affirm or deny that MLS was a single-entity but rather ruled MLS could not as a matter of fact dominate the market for players since it was a global market.

U.S. Soccer's authority to regulate professional soccer -- specifically sanction international matches -- was the subject of another suit, ChampionsWorld LLC v. United States Soccer Federation, involving the bankrupt ChampionsWorld that operated an international series of gamees in the United States. U.S. Soccer and MLS won by summary judgment, and the case was settled after an appeal was filed.

Kessler, who is currently New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's lawyer in Deflategate, has ties in soccer going back to the old NASL, which he successfully represented against the NFL in its suit to have the NFL's cross-ownership ban lifted.
7 comments about "Reports: High-powered lawyer presses NASL demands".
  1. Garrett Isacco, September 1, 2015 at 9:04 a.m.

    Soccer is finally establishing a foothold in this country and MLS is having a successful year attendance and otherwise and we have to put up with idiot lawyers like this with their constant litigation. Kessler is just a grand stander who is only in this for himself and his large fees.

  2. Soccer Madness, September 1, 2015 at 9:28 a.m.

    Garrett, who is MLS in this for?? Are you blind?? NASL is right to sue USSF. The consumer should have the right to choose which model woks for us and let me tell you, I like where NASL is going with all this. NASL's business model will promote player dvelopment and will easily allow for paying trainining compensation and solidarity fees to youth clubs. I'm done watching MLS, who have more than proven that they dont care about American soccer or the USA National Team's improving. Its all about maximizing profits for them. How can anyone get behind that?

  3. R2 Dad, September 1, 2015 at 11:11 a.m.

    These solidarity fees will be a major thorn in the side of MLS unless Garber can figure out an equitable compromise. The courts won't make MLS do it, but there are thousands of clubs and only a couple dozen MLS teams. This tail will wag the dog unless it gets put to bed soon. It would be hilarious if Liga MX proposes a process/fee structure and non-hispanic teams started to funnel their players to Mexican clubs just so they can recover the cost of investment. This issue is not going away.

  4. Soccer Madness, September 1, 2015 at noon

    R2, and that is exactly what Liga MX is currently looking at. I heard that USSF will now turn to FIFA to enforce rules and not allow USSDA players to sign or even tryout with Liga MX teams until they are 18. How can you explain that and still argue player compensation violates child labor laws?

  5. Soccer Madness, September 1, 2015 at 4:02 p.m.

    NASL could make a strong statement if they voluntarily paid compensation fees to youth clubs. I would follow them on the internet if they did that along with signing more young American talent. I already follow Cosmos nonstop with the 2 U17's they recently signed.

  6. Gus Keri, September 1, 2015 at 5:50 p.m.

    If Kessler succeeds, it means we will have two division I leagues. This will force US soccer into having a play-off between the two league winners to decide the overall US champions. It might lead eventually to a merger between the two leagues; and the newly formed league might split into two divisions (Ia and Ib) with relegation and promotion system, like what happened in Japan's J-league.

  7. aaron dutch, September 1, 2015 at 8:09 p.m.

    This is great, I hope NASL wins. It would force USSF to have to start acting like a proper FA not the joke they are. NASL & NPSL can create a real platform. They need to partner with european clubs to fund their academy system and funnel young players to NASL.

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