Florida court documents filed on Tuesday indicate that the United Soccer Leagues have sued the Rochester Rhinos and two other clubs for breach of contract.
The Rhinos had allegedly committed contractually to play 2010 in USL’s First Division but instead opted to play in the yet to be sanctioned North American Soccer League. Also filed on Tuesday were lawsuits against prospective USL-1 clubs in Tampa Bay and (Crystal Palace) Baltimore who also have joined NASL after committing to the play 2010 in USL’s First Division.
Here is a link to the court filing.
Rochester had recommitted to play in USL-1 for 2010 in September but by November were unhappy at the lack of reform within the league. A promise of “changes” were made by Alec Papadakis and NuRock, USL’s new owners after buying the league in an eleventh hour deal which saw Jeff Cooper and the USL Team Owners Association (TOA) frozen out. Soon, after Rochester’s decision to recommit, USL purged Carolina, Miami and Minnesota from the league and cancelled their player contracts. Those clubs are leading members of the TOA.
As many readers are aware, last month FIFA threatened to replace Chile in the World Cup Draw, when club Rangers had sued the FA there over a violation of the 6 + 5 rule which saw the team relegated. In the United States’ case, FIFA may be less forceful of its disdain for lawsuits, but nobody can be certain without talking to Sepp Blatter and/or Jack Warner directly.
By taking this action USL is protecting its business partnership, and the investment of its owners NuRock but also further eroding its already tenuous public relations position. The perception throughout much of the country is that USL’s professional divisions have failed, as evidenced by the large number of teams that have either folded or dropped to lower tiers of football since 1999. Club owners who are trying to move forward as investors as well as soccer people concerned about the growth of the sport seem to be in agreement that the USL model at the current time is outdated and not ideal.
But USL, like any for profit business is trying to protect its brand and its viability. This having been said, the many years of good work the league has provided to American soccer is now being tainted in some eyes with this lawsuit/legal strategy designed to prevent the NASL, a more ambitious owner run league from getting off the ground.
The USSF, however, may have no choice but to relent to USL’s lawsuits for threat of losing the bid that will be submitted next week to host the 2018/2022 World Cups. One thing is for certain: Alec Papadakis and NuRock have officially put Sunil Gulati, Dan Flynn and the Federation in a very unenviable position.