NPSL sends letter of complaint to U.S. Soccer

League argues teams are being actively encouraged to leave the NPSL by USL representatives.
NPSL owners

Image credit: NPSL

The National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) has sent a letter of complaint to U.S. Soccer about what they perceive as “continued tampering” with NPSL teams. The letter of complaint was sent during the week of September 25th-29th, 2017. The letter is addressed to Lydia Wahlke, legal counsel for the USSF and is copied to USSF Secretary General Dan Flynn, NPSL commissioner Joe Barone and United States Amateur Soccer Association president John Motta. Barone declined to comment, but Motta confirmed that he had received the letter and forwarded it to USASA board members. Soc Takes did not reach out to Flynn.

Soc Takes has been given a copy of this letter by a source with a request to not publish it publicly.

The central complaint in the letter claims that certain NPSL teams have been actively encouraged, by USL representatives, to exit the league, with the declaration that “the only path to a professional team is through the USL.”

While the letter itself does not cite how the NPSL came to this conclusion, a well-placed source informed Soc Takes that this purported communication from USL representatives is demonstrably true. Soc Takes has not seen this putative communication confirming that the USL used that verbiage.

The USL’s Premier Development League (PDL) is the NPSL’s main competitor in the unofficial fourth division of U.S. Soccer. Earlier this year, NPSL chairman, Joe Barone spoke to Soc Takes about finding ways to eliminate scavenging of NPSL teams by external forces such as PDL. The letter sent to US Soccer purportedly reiterates this fact – that NPSL teams have previously received invites by USL to join their league.

NPSL owners

Soc Takes reached out to sixteen NPSL owners regarding the issue. Two NPSL owners, who wish to remain anonymous, have confirmed to Soc Takes that they have previously been approached by the USL, asking those NPSL owners to switch allegiances.

Five other NPSL owners informed Soc Takes that they were not approached by USL, suggesting that not all clubs were approached.

Nine owners declined to comment or did not respond at the time of publishing.

The bigger picture

Given the backdrop of the recent lawsuit suggesting anti-competitive behavior by the USSF (paragraphs 15-20) and co-conspirators Major League Soccer (MLS), Soccer United Marketing (SUM) and USL (paragraphs 21-23), this information may be seen as further examples of the USL as trying to put the NPSL out of business. While the NPSL is not a defendant in the case, history shows us that the NPSL and NASL have harbored a necessary alignment against the MLS-USL-PDL side of the soccer pyramid.

“If there is no NASL, and NPSL is destabilized, who is most likely to benefit from that?” a source told Soc Takes.

The copy of the letter provided to Soc Takes states: “The clear effect of the USL’s policies and restrictions, whether intentional or otherwise, is to grow the PDL for its own financial benefit and systematically undermine the viability of the NPSL.”

On the other hand, people who don’t buy the conspiracy angle, will likely point out that these emails are just another example of the leagues antagonizing each other. And, in fact, this behavior is an example of the competition, not anti-competitive behavior, of the two sides of the pyramid. Certainly, it has to be stated that in recent years, teams have diffused freely in between the NPSL and PDL.

The future

The letter asks for a meeting with USSF CEO Dan Flynn. The goals for the meeting would be to:

(1) “Cause the USL to cease its efforts in recruiting NPSL teams.”

(2) “Address the USL’s narrow and monopolistic policies regarding professional team ownership.”

Depending on the outcome, a well-placed source informed Soc Takes that there is “a strong possibility” of litigation arising from this lawsuit.

Neither the NPSL nor USL commented on this story at the time of publication.

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Nipun divides his time between his two great loves – neuroscience and soccer. You can find him discussing both of those, as well as regular updates (pupdates) on his wonderful doggo, Octavia on Twitter. Get in touch with feedback/story suggestions at @NipunChopra7 or nipun.chopra@SocTakes.com

One Comment
  • Tim Kelly
    2 October 2017 at 11:01 am
    Leave a Reply

    I hope people are beginning to realize that the ONLY way all this nonsense stops is with pro-rel. Absent that, we will be stuck in an endless cycle of debate about monopolistic behavior on the one hand, and cut-throat league competition for survival on the other.

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