NASL, NPSL teams file claim over promotion/relegation

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Two lower-tier teams in the U.S. have launched a claim with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to try and impose promotion and relegation in the U.S. Soccer pyramid.

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In a joint statement on Thursday, Miami FC of the NASL (second-tier) and Kingston Stockade FC of the NPSL (unofficial fourth-tier) revealed they’ve appealed to CAS to force the FIFA, CONCACAF and the US Soccer Federation (USSF) to usher in promotion and relegation in the U.S. soccer pyramid.

They say the “claim contends 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 the undisputed top-tier of club soccer in North America with the only way to enter the league via paying an expansion fee (currently set for over $140 million) and being selected by an “expansion committee” as a viable location for a new team.

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.

With USL (second-tier) growing and NASL (also second-tier) recovering from a rough spell, in general lower tier teams across the USA and Canada are experiencing rapid growth with high-profile owners such as Didier Drogba (Phoenix Rising) and Eden Hazard (San Diego, NASL) flooding to the lower leagues.

With MLS and USL now intertwined there was no way a USL club would come out and publicly back this but there’s no doubt there’s a strong hunger for some form of promotion and relegation, even if it’s only outside MLS, to be introduced.

The timing of this announcement is also telling, less than 24 hours after the MLS All-Stars lost on penalty kicks to Real Madrid at a packed Soldier Field stadium in Chicago where Don Garber mentioned David Beckham’s MLS franchise in Miami is close to being finalized.