Desanctioned Minor Soccer League Loses Appeal

MANHATTAN (CN) – Though hope remains for a second-half turnaround, the Second Circuit refused Friday to make the U.S. Soccer Federation reinstate a Division II men’s league.

The North American Soccer League brought the lawsuit in September 2017 shortly after losing its Division II standing in the U.S. Soccer Federation after a six-year run.

Though the league cast its treatment as anticompetitive, the federation said the league failed to meet requirements that it maintain a certain number of teams in a certain number of time zones.

Represented by Jeffrey Kessler at Winston & Strawn, the league appealed to the Second Circuit when a federal judge denied it an injunction.

A three-judge panel in Manhattan affirmed Friday, finding the league unlikely to succeed on the merits.

Kessler told the court that an injunction would maintain the status quo, but U.S. Circuit Judge Richard Wesley disagreed.

“Conflating status with status quo, the parties center their arguments on NASL’s status as a Division II league,” Wesley wrote. “However, the status quo is not that NASL regularly received a Division II designation, nor is it NASL’s lack of a Division II designation for 2018.  The status quo is the parties’ pre‐controversy position vis‐à‐vis the other.”

Judges Barrington Parker and Denny Chin concurred in the ruling, which concludes with the note that “NASL has a case left to make.”

“But we cannot say at this point that NASL has shown a clear likelihood of its success on the merits,” the ruling says.

Kessler litigated the landmark antitrust case McNeil v. NFL, which precipitated the establishment of free agency in the National Football League, and Brady v. NFL, which led to the end of the 2011 NFL lockout.

Representatives for NASL did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Earlier this month, the league brought civil corruption claims in Manhattan against the U.S. Soccer Federation. The league is represented in that case by Mayer Brown.

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