Tom Brady’s lawyer could sue US Soccer if talks don’t work out – USA TODAY
Fresh off his win for New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady against the National Football League (NFL), attorney Jeffrey Kessler is seeking to shakeÂ up another sports entity:Â theÂ governing body of professionalÂ soccer in the UnitedÂ States.
Kessler is currently in talks withÂ the United States Soccer Federation (USSF)Â to amend practices that he claims are hurting the North American Soccer League (NASL), the nation’s second largest professional soccer league by attendance.Â IfÂ USSFÂ fails to comply, they risk fighting it out inÂ court âÂ just like Brady did with the NFL,Â Kessler told USA TODAY in an interview.
“Like in the BradyÂ situation,Â theÂ (NFL)Â would have been wise to have avoided the whole situation by operating their disciplineÂ in a way that was going to comply with the legal requirements.Â And then we wouldn’t have to go to court,” Kessler said from his Winston & StrawnÂ office in midtown Manhattan. “TheÂ USSF is in that same juncture right now.”
Kessler is the chair of the anti-trust practice at Winston & Stawn, and has been a go-to name for some of the most contentious legal battles in sports, including an anti-trust caseÂ that led to the end of the NFL’s 2011 player “lockout,” a controversial work stoppage imposed by the owners. Kessler spoke to USA TODAY about his efforts to shake upÂ professional soccerÂ one day after a U.S. federal court overturned Brady’s four-day suspension for his alleged role inÂ deflating balls to gain aÂ competitiveÂ advantage â a scandal widely known as deflategate.
USSF declined to comment, spokesman Neil Buethe said.
Kessler’s dispute with USSF centers on NASL’s desireÂ toÂ compete withÂ Major League Soccer (MLS), the nation’s largest and oldest professional soccer league,Â for advertisers and other money-making deals. According to NASL, that means getting promoted by USSF to a Division I league, on par with MLS,Â from a Division II league.
As the popularity of soccer grows in the U.S., so does its money-making potential.Â This was underscored in March whenÂ MLS scored an eight-year television deal, worth an estimatedÂ valueÂ of $90 million, withÂ Fox, ESPN and Univision.
As a Division I league, MLS attracts the bulk of the best deals. It canÂ can alsoÂ attractÂ celebrity namesÂ likeÂ David Beckham, a former soccer superstar player who, together withÂ Simon Fuller, the creator of the American Idol realityÂ show, plans to launch an MLS team in Miami.
NASL, whoseÂ teams include the New York Cosmos and the Minnesota United,Â applied for Division I status in May, but quicklyÂ hit a hurdle â thanks to proposedÂ new requirements that USSFÂ issued in June.Â Under the proposedÂ new rules,Â a league would need 16 teams to graduate to Division I, up from the current requirement of 12 teams, among other changes.
NASL currently has 11 teams with plansÂ to expand to 13 teams by next year.
The timing of the proposed new rules â one month after NASL applied for DivisionÂ I status âÂ prompted KesslerÂ to accuseÂ USSFÂ of purposefully raising the bar in an effort to protect MLS from competition. Kessler did this inÂ a letterÂ peppered with words and phrases such as “monopoly,” “anti-competitive,” “unlawful protections” Â and “clear violations of U.S. anti-trust laws.”
Kessler said USSF has financial incentive to keep MLS on top, including dealsÂ that earned USSF millions, according to its audited financial statements.
“There’s a lot of reasons why USSF benefits from having just one league,” Kessler said.Â “Every time we get close to scoring, they move the field back. It’s not right. It’s not legal.”