The North American Soccer League—the professional soccer league that includes the Indy Eleven—has sued the United States Soccer Federation, saying it has illegally protected the monopoly position of its business partner: Major League Soccer.
The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Brooklyn federal court. It asks a judge to conclude that the U.S. Soccer Federation violates antitrust laws and to grant it unspecified relief.
Earlier this month, the NASL lost its sanctioning as a Division 2 league for the 2018 season. The decision by the U.S. Soccer Federation relegated the struggling league to third-tier status behind the top division, Major League Soccer, and the United Soccer League, which is sharing Division 2 status with the NASL during the 2017 season.
The current NASL started play in 2011 with second-tier status and has been there ever since. The Indy Eleven have played in the league since the team’s formation in 2014.
In January, the U.S. Soccer Federation Board of Governors announced it would keep the NASL at the Division II level for the 2017 season but with provisional status. It also promoted the USL from the third to the second division, also with provisional status.
It appears the USL, which has 30 teams and is adding franchises, has moved ahead of the NASL as far as growth potential.
The lawsuit said the U.S. Soccer Federation creates regulations to protect Major League Soccer from competition, enriching itself and protecting the league from competitors in the United States and Canada.
The lawsuit said the NASL has sought to compete with Major League Soccer as a top-tier professional soccer league with its teams frequently defeating Major League Soccer teams in periodic matchups.
The U.S. Soccer Federation declined comment.