NEW YORK (August 3, 2017) —
Two lower-tier teams in the U.S. have launched a claim with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Geneva, Switzerland to try and impose promotion and relegation in the U.S. Soccer pyramid.
The CAS is the designated tribunal that has jurisdiction to hear complaints against FIFA, the governing body of world football.
The two issued a joint communiqué on Thursday. Miami FC of the NASL (second-tier) and Kingston Stockade FC of the NPSL (unofficial fourth-tier) revealed they’ve filed a petition with the CAS to force FIFA, Concacaf and the US Soccer Federation (USSF) to adopt a system of promotion and relegation in the U.S. soccer pyramid.
The petitioners claim that “unlike the way the game is played throughout the world where results on the pitch define which division a team plays in, American teams are illegitimately blocked from the same opportunity because of the USSF’s failure to follow FIFA’s rules.”
Major League Soccer is sanctioned by the USSF and accepted by Concacaf as the sole top-tier league in club soccer in North America. The only way to enter the league is via the payment of an expansion fee (currently set for over $140 million) and being selected by an “expansion committee” as a viable location for a new franchise.
Below is the statement in full with FIFA, the USSF and CONCACAF named as defendants in the claim.
“When it comes to soccer success, America lags behind the rest of the world. One reason is because our system is not an open system and is actually blocked from becoming an open system,” said Kingston Stockade FC owner Dennis Crowley. “By embracing pro/rel and using this tried-and-true system, we would have a greater ability to unlock additional soccer markets, reward investment in those markets, and create new talent pools within the United States.”
“The closed system for soccer used here in the United Sates is in violation of FIFA rules,” said The Miami FC CEO Sean Flynn. “By adopting the rules followed by virtually every other soccer playing nation around the globe, soccer in America will be open, resulting in better teams through all divisions, compelling story lines to increase fan excitement and greater financial success for everyone involved in this beautiful game.”
Recently the owner of Miami FC, Riccardo Silva, used his media company to offer Major League Soccer $4 billion for a 10-year TV deal but with one condition: promotion and relegation had to be implemented.
It is a time of tremendous growth for the USL (second-tier) and NASL (also second-tier). The latter league appears to be recovering from an unstable period.
One of the caveats to this news is the fact that MLS and USL are intertwined and therefore there was no way a USL club could come out and publicly back this case. However, there are certainly other owners in USL that secretly support this case. At the very least they are in favour of some form of promotion and relegation, even if it’s only outside MLS, to be introduced.
Currently, the United States of America and Australia are the only two major countries that operate soccer under a closed system. Canada, which also has three MLS teams (Impact de Montréal, Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps) currently does not have a first division league of its own and thus also does not have pro-rel.