USL/TOA Update: Lawyers Entering the Picture

As the saga between the USL and the TOA enters its third month, lawyers are now being summoned potentially to play a big role in the outcome.

We can report that the TOA has approached a connected attorney in the US Soccer community who could be handling either:

a- The application process to the USSF and CSA

b- Any litigation with USL on behalf of TOA members.

USL itself, we are told by sources, have been looking at legal options not only to prevent the TOA from forming a new league, but also potentially to replace TOA owners with new franchises in certain key markets. Keep in mind, USL’s new owner/CEO Alek Papadakis is a contract lawyer who has specifically dealt with franchise issues in his Atlanta based legal career.

From this we can presume USL has not made moves based on Public Relations considerations, but probably on legal considerations. This would appear to give the USL the legal high ground in its battle with the TOA.

However, it is somewhat striking the about-face, U-turn Papadakis was forced to make last week, one day waving goodbye to two Canadian franchises and the next day committing to set up a Canadian administrative office for the league. Whether it was sound legal strategy combined with bad PR instinct or something else, is up to the reader to determine.

Furthermore, we have been told that on matters of player contracts and franchise agreements, the USSF which does have the final say in the matter is favorably inclined towards the TOA. (This has been previously reported by Brian Quarstad of our partner site, Inside Minnesota Soccer) The meeting which TOA leaders held with MLS Commissioner Don Garber, as well as their presentations to Garber and USSF head Sunil Gulati, we are told were far better received than similar conversations between USL’s Tampa based administration and the USSF/MLS.

We have received no word on whether or not the Canadian Soccer Association would sanction the new league. But based on our reporting, should the TOA get past first base in the application process, the leadership of both the USSF and MLS are favorably disposed towards whatever course the owners group chooses to pursue. From the standpoint of the USSF, losing good owners and clubs/potential clubs in critical markets is not acceptable according to one source. MLS has a similar concern as the league seeks build a more national footprint: losing critical markets for the sport, before MLS is ready to expand there, particularly in the Southeast and Florida is not something Commissioner Garber wants to deal with we are told.

The Federation, we are told realizes the vital importance of certain mid-sized and large markets currently in USL and does not want to jeopardize those markets not having professional soccer for an extended period of time. Atlanta for example, has already gone one season without a team despite having its own stadium because of a dispute between the Silverbacks ownership and USL.

Our sources have asked to remain anonymous at this critical time. However, these are not off the record sources. We have more off the record information and deep background sources which have allowed us to paint a broader picture, but we still have been exposed to some information that we cannot reveal.

A quick word on criticisms. It became fashionable among some bloggers and message board writers to take issue with Inside Minnesota Soccer’s Brian Quarstad and myself for not revealing off the record information regarding the brewing TOA/USL dispute over the summer. As has been reported and speculated about on other websites, both of us had been aware of the brewing dispute for many months and did not report the information because our sources were off the record.

While we are not proper journalists, we do have certain standards of ethics we abide by and betraying off the record sources is not something  either of us will do.  Moreover, our off the record sources allow us to paint a broader and more complete picture on these issues when information does become public.