You can read Part I here.
You can read Part II here.
You can read Part III here.
I’ve been preoccupied with the #SaveTheCrew happenings, but lest we forget, the business end of the NASL/USSF drama is about to pick up. The motion to dismiss (or answer to the amended NASL complaint) from USSF was due on April 20. I’m still trying to track down a copy of that, but in the meantime, I figured I’d finish up my analysis of the amended complaint which added MLS as a co-defendant in the antitrust lawsuit. Here, we are going to look at the claims of relief, and causes of action attributed to USSF and MLS.
As there was a new defendant (MLS) added to the complaint, there are changes to it to reflect that fact. The accusations of nefarious behavior flow from the issues raised in the previous parts, which I’ve linked to above.
The conspiracy count remains by and large the same. The first claim for relief under section 1 of the Sherman Act however has changed, to allege that the PLS themselves provide the tool by which USSF and MLS as separate economic actors (which is a necessary element), have used to restrain the NASL from challenging MLS.
What is interesting to me on this claim for relief, is how far NASL goes to flesh out the “inherent” claims in the case. You can see the difference in the claims for relief below.
You can guess why NASL has spent more time on this in the amended complaint. Both at the District Court level and on appeal, the court found that the evidence to show the concerted action, or agreement to restrain, was lacking. You can read the entire opinion here, but I’ll pull out the relevant part to explain why NASL has work to do on this front.
This pretty well breaks down the issues NASL had when attempting to obtain the preliminary injunction (which required a much higher burden to clear, mind you). Will NASL be able to prove this at a trial level? Will they be able to survive the motion to dismiss? Stay tuned, but you can see from the following section of the appeal order why NASL added this section:
Things that make you go: Hmmmm…
The next sections mirror each other basically, with Count I of the original complaint and Count II of the amended complaint addressing the conspiracy to restrain trade by agreement.
These sections mirror each other basically, with the exception that USSF is replaced by “Defendants” to incorporate the fact that MLS is now a co-defendant in the case. I don’t have much else to add here that I didn’t cover in my previous story, so we’ll have to see how things shake out here.
Similar to the above section, Count II of the original complaint and Count III of the amended complaint deal with the issue of an alleged violation of section 2 of the Sherman Act, which deals with monopolies. Specifically, the alleged attempt to cement MLS as the only D1 league, and USL as the only D2 league.
Again, these sections mostly mirror each other, but we have one big change upcoming: a specific allegation as to MLS.
The following allegation essentially portrays MLS as a crooked organization that essentially conspires with Daddy USSF to exert control and prevent other leagues from challenging them. It’s a pretty brutal set of allegations, as you can see:
Yikes. The final (amended) count argues that to the extent that MLS has not already monopolized the top-tier professional soccer market, they are close to doing so, and must be stopped. If that sounds somewhat apocalyptic (relatively speaking), well that’s kind of how it reads.
Wasn’t exaggerating, was I? I will be interested to see how MLS responds to the allegation. I’ll be doing a bit more research on this issue, as it obviously wasn’t raised in the original complaint as to MLS directly.
The prayers for relief essentially are the same, except that the amended complaint incorporates the new allegations and causes of action in it. This mainly has to do with adding MLS as a co-defendant in the case, as well as the separate causes of action which it is the sole defendant. The requests for a permanent injunction preventing USSF from imposing the PLS is still there, and it probably the most consequential request from my point of view. Though the request to break up (for lack of a better word) the MLS “monopolization” of the top tiers of professional soccer comes in at a close second.
Whew. Happy I was able to finish this project. We still have the answer/motion to dismiss from USSF to look forward to, as well as the response from NASL of USSF’s motion to dismiss the NY state case, which is coming up later this month. Got a headache yet?