Mediating the NASL/USSF dispute (abridged)

In case you haven’t managed to listen to all of my conversation with journalist/mediator Neil Morris, here’s a quick summary of how we proceeded with our mock mediation of the NASL v USSF lawsuit:

NASL proposal (again, this is fictional — just me playing the role)

  1. Give us three years guaranteed years of Division 2 designation as long as we maintain a minimum of eight teams.
      • Alternate option: Remove the division standards entirely.
  2. Freeze the Professional League Standards at the 2014 edition until 2026 with the exception of removing the time-zone standard
  3. Steve Malik removed as Pro Council representative, Rocco Commisso on Pro Council AND give him full access to SUM/USSF relationship

USSF counterproposal (again, fictional)

  1. Remove the distinction between Division 2 and Division 3. We’ll have Division 1 standards and professional standards, but any further distinction is up to the leagues.
  2. Freeze the PLS and remove the time-zone standard (actually, when we remove Division 2 from the PLS, then that’s a moot point), but we’ll only freeze until 2020.
  3. Changing the Board as the result of a lawsuit is a nonstarter. That’s not how boards work.
  4. Lose the NASL brand name, which we consider toxic given its history, and open merger talks with NISA.

Neil, speaking as a mediator and not a soccer journalist/analyst, sees a few problems with trying to force action upon those who are not party to the suit. USL could object to the removal of D2. Peter Wilt is under no obligation to talk with NASL. (In the real world, he probably would, but the point is that we can’t speak for him in this mediation.)

Another idea: Neil thinks granting the NASL a two-year grace period at Division 2 makes sense, and not just because it’s a compromise between the reported USSF proposal (one year) and NASL (three years).

If these ideas were exchanged in the real world, they might prod everyone toward a resolution of the current issues. Unfortunately, as we discuss, this isn’t likely to be the last USSF lawsuit no matter what they do. Impose an “open system”? OK then, MLS owners would surely haul you to court. Deny NASL the chance to become Division 1 in a few years if they manage to stick around? Yeah, we might see you in court again. Allow NASL to become a competing Division 1? Again, would MLS owners stand for that?

The only way these issues are going to get a long-term solution is if every stakeholder sits down and hammers out a solution that everyone can live with. And even then, you might stop someone new from coming in and suing down the road. We simply live in a litigious society that isn’t going to hand over total control of one sport to the federation, even if it were perfectly run to the satisfaction of 99% of Americans.

Listen to the podcast for all that — if you’re in a hurry, skip to the hour mark, where Neil and I assess the hourlong conversation we just had.

In thinking further about it, I’m leaning toward the following as a long-term plan that satisfies supporters (and those of us concerned about youth development) as well as owners and lawyers …

  1. Replace the Professional League Standards with Professional Club Standards. By all means, still keep some policies for leagues on refereeing, drug testing, an arbitration process for disputes, etc. But no more of this “75% of teams in a league must be owned by a gazillionaire” or “75% of teams must be in cities that had 1 million people before climate change forced everyone inland” stuff. The Club standards would focus on fields, stadium size, etc. Perhaps instead of a waiver application process, we could have a list of five items that must be met and five items of which a club must meet at least three. (Youth academy standards would absolutely be part of this.)
  2. Open the pyramid with some caveats. That’s the next post, and it will include some of the things people tweeted to me in the last 10 days. (No, I didn’t forget. Things have just been haywire.)

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