St. Louis has a new outdoor soccer team, but there may be some legal hoops for its new league to jump through before AC St. Louis hits the field.
The USL filed suit on Tuesday in Hillsborough County, Fla., against three teams that have jumped from that league to the new North American Soccer League, claiming they violated contracts to play in the USL this season. The teams in question are Rochester, Tampa Bay and Baltimore.
The lawsuit, which the league said it would consider when Baltimore and Tampa Bay announced they were switching, is a do-or-die move by the owners of the USL. Without those teams, the league is down to four, possibly three, teams for this season scattered across the hemisphere. (The league granted an expansion franchise to New York in April but the club has yet to hire a coach or sign a player, though it has held tryouts.) Even if the three teams were ordered back into the league, the USL is on shaky ground. Those three teams are already unhappy with the league and being forced to play in a league they don’t want to is unlikely to change their opinion favorably. The teams would almost certainly look to change leagues after next season. And with the USL’s Portland franchise moving up to MLS after next season, the USL would be losing four of its seven clubs after the 2010 season.
Along with this, the U.S. Soccer Federation will rule soon on sanctioning the NASL as a Division II league. The league submitted its final paperwork on Wednesday and a federation spokesman said Thursday the decision would come «sooner rather than later.» A league must have eight teams to be sanctioned, though it can apply for a waiver if it has less.
AC St. Louis owner Jeff Cooper, who has been named acting commissioner of the NASL while the league looks to hire someone fulltime, is unconcerned about the suit.
«Rochester, Tampa and Baltimore are committed to playing in our league and there is nothing that will stop them from playing in our league this year,» said Cooper, an attorney. «They can try to seek any remedy they want to seek, there is no legal theory out there that I know of — I don’t know them all, but I know quite a few — that would keep them from playing in our league this year. Those are three great teams that are 100 percent committed.»