Here are some of the highlights from the hearing:
In a potentially decisive ruling, Judge Brodie ruled on Sunday that the "status quo" she was being asked to rule on was the U.S. Soccer's board of directors' decision on Sept. 1 not to grant the NASL Division 2 status for 2018, not the NASL's Division 2 status for 2017.
The issuance of a mandatory injunction -- ordering U.S. Soccer to change the status quo and overturn the BOD ruling -- is a much rarer ruling by a court than a prohibitory injunction -- ordering U.S. Soccer to maintain the status quo -- and generally carries a higher burden of proof: "a clear showing" the NASL will win its case for the abolishment of divisional standards or "where extreme or very serious damage" will result from the denial of the mandatory injunction.
In essence, U.S. Soccer is arguing the NASL has struggled to meet U.S. Soccer's sanctioning standards with the turnover of clubs in recent years and should not turn to the court for relief.
The NASL's position:
-- The sanctioning standards -- Professional League Standards -- are arbitrary and aren't pro-competitive;
-- A conspiracy between U.S. Soccer and MLS via its business relationships (Soccer United Marketing) impeded the NASL;
-- Conflicts of interest on the 15-person board of directors extend beyond the individual members who recused themselves on pro sanctioning and have tainted the entire board.
Some of the arguments related to the key elements for an injunction:
The NASL's position, as argued by its well-known sports litigator Jeffrey Kessler, is that it won't survive being "relegated" to Division 3.
The USSF's response from its principal outside counsel Russ Sauer: Just saying it's going out of business isn't enough to prove harm and any harm to the NASL has been self-inflicted. Also: USL clubs have succeeded at the Division 3 level.
U.S. Soccer is counting on the court's preference to defer to a governing authority's expertise on administrative matters and stresses the harm to that authority U.S. Soccer would be caused if its sanctioning decision was overturned by the court. It argued its activities were exempt from antitrust scrutiny under the Stevens Act, which gave authority to national governing bodies to regulate their sports.
The NASL's response: It did not dispute U.S. Soccer's authority on many soccer matters, but disagrees in this case, its disfavoring the NASL because of its commercial ties to MLS via SUM.
Judge Brodie, who was born in St. Kitts & Nevis, has admitted she knew nothing about soccer but was a fast learner, a quality of Federal judges delving into complex antitrust cases involving
obscure business markets. One possibility she raised was to hold off on a decision and hear from those who have made declarations, trying to get at the heart of the matter: will the NASL really fold
if it isn't a Division 2 league?
Among the facts that came out:
-- U.S. Soccer's board of directors voted 9-1 in favor of the decision to not sanction the NASL as a Division 2 league for 2018. The lone vote in favor of the NASL came from USASA president John Motta. Five board members recused themselves because of conflicts.
-- The expansion San Francisco Deltas will not return in 2018, and North Carolina FC, the only NASL team remaining from the 2010 USSF D-2 Pro League, will join the USL.
-- NASL clubs lost an average of $5 million in 2016.
NASL (Winston & Strawn): David G. Feher, Heather Lamberg-Kafele, Mark Edward Rizik, Jr., Jeffrey L. Kessler.
USSF (Latham & Watkins): Christopher S. Yates, Lawrence Edward Buterman, Russell F. Sauer, Adam Shamah.