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NASL’s request for injunction against U.S Soccer denied

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The ruling upholds U.S. Soccer’s previous decision to deny Division II status to the NASL.

Soccer: Carolina Railhawks at New York Cosmos Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

The NASL suffered a setback this morning as a federal judge denied the league’s request for a preliminary injunction against U.S. Soccer. As a result, U.S. Soccer’s decision to deny the league Division II status remains in effect. The ruling comes after both sides spent the past week arguing in front of Judge Margo Brodie in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

The North American Soccer League’s lawsuit alleged that U.S. Soccer, MLS, Soccer United Marketing, and the USL were engaged in a conspiracy to hurt the league by changing the Professional League Standards (the criteria used to determine Division 1-3 status). NASL also claimed that it was simply asking the court to “maintain the status quo” by seeking to be granted Division II status.

Judge Brodie ruled that, "Although the Court finds that Plaintiff has shown irreparable harm, that the balance of hardships tips in its favor, and that an injunction would not harm the public interest, because as set forth below, the Court finds that Plaintiff has not made a clear showing of entitlement to relief, the Court denies Plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction.”

Regarding NASL’s request to “maintain the status quo,” the judge wrote: “Although designated as a Division II league for 2017, Plaintiff has already been denied Division II status for 2018. Plaintiff’s requested relief would disrupt the status quo by effectively requiring Defendant to reverse its previous denial. With or without court intervention, Plaintiff required Defendant to act affirmatively in its favor to receive any designation in 2018.”

Despite ultimately ruling against the NASL, Judge Brodie recognized that the league had suffered irreparable harm from losing its Division II status.

She also acknowledged that there is a conflict of interest in the relationship between U.S. Soccer and MLS: “While there is evidence of a conflict of interest between Defendant and MLS, Plaintiff fails to present sufficient evidence of undue influence in the actual standard-setting process, i.e., the process pursuant to which the PLS is revised.”

NASL released a statement that said:

We are very disappointed with the Court's decision in denying our motion for a preliminary injunction. We remain steadfast in our pursuit of antitrust claims against the U.S. Soccer Federation and are confident that justice will ultimately be served. In light of the extreme harm this decision poses to the NASL and our teams, players, coaches and fans, we will immediately begin reviewing all of our legal options including the process for appealing today's ruling.”

U.S. Soccer released the following statement:

It’s now unclear what NASL’s future holds. If the league does fold, its teams could look to join the USL or the newly proposed National Independent Soccer Association (NISA), which is expected to begin play in 2018. This will certainly affect the United States soccer pyramid and will be something to watch as the dust settles.