The US Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit has denied the North American Soccer League’s (NASL) appeal to obtain a preliminary injunction that would have reinstated its status as a Division 2 league.
The ruling is the latest blow suffered by the NASL, though league insiders told ESPN they were not surprised at the decision.
Last September, the US Soccer Federation (USSF) Board of Directors voted to deny giving the NASL a Division 2 designation because it had not met the USSF’s Professional League Standards (PLS) for what constitutes a second-tier league. The standards include a minimum number of teams and how those teams are distributed geographically.
The NASL had been granted Division II status in previous years, including 2017 when the USSF opted to grant the NASL that status on a provisional basis.
The NASL responded by filing an antitrust lawsuit against the USSF. The suit alleges that the standards are anticompetitive and create a barrier to competition and thereby prevent the NASL from competing directly with Major League Soccer (MLS).
The suit also alleges that with the help of the standards, the USSF, MLS, the second-tier United Soccer League, and Soccer United Marketing (the marketing arm of MLS) have engaged in a conspiracy to drive the NASL out of business, by illegally stripping it of its Division 2 status so that the USL will be the only Division 2 league while MLS will maintain its status as the only Division 1 league in the US.
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