Tom Brady’s lawyer could sue U.S. Soccer if talks don’t work out

September 07 01:04 2015

Fresh off his win for New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady against the National Football League (NFL), attorney Jeffrey Kessler is seeking to shake up another sports entity: the governing body of professional soccer in the United States. Kessler is currently in talks with the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) to amend practices that he claims are hurting the North American Soccer League (NASL), the nation’s second largest professional soccer league by attendance. If USSF fails to comply, they risk fighting it out in court — just like Brady did with the NFL, Kessler said in an interview.

“Like in the Brady situation, the (NFL) would have been wise to have avoided the whole situation by operating their discipline in a way that was going to comply with the legal requirements. And then we wouldn’t have to go to court,” Kessler said from his Winston & Strawn office in midtown Manhattan. “The 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 case that led to the end of the NFL’s 2011 player “lockout,” a controversial work stoppage imposed by the owners. Kessler spoke about his efforts to shake up professional soccer one day after a U.S. federal court overturned Brady’s four-day suspension for his alleged role in deflating balls to gain a competitive advantage — a scandal widely known as deflategate.

USSF declined to comment, spokesman Neil Buethe said. Kessler’s dispute with USSF centers on NASL’s desire to compete with Major League Soccer (MLS), the nation’s largest and oldest professional soccer league, 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, from a Division II league.

NASL currently has 11 teams with plans to expand to 13 teams by next year. The timing of the proposed new rules — one month after NASL applied for Division I status — prompted Kessler to accuse USSF of purposefully raising the bar in an effort to protect MLS from competition. Kessler did this in a letter peppered with words and phrases such as “monopoly,” “anti-competitive,” “unlawful protections”  and “clear violations of U.S. anti-trust laws.” aKessler said USSF has financial incentive to keep MLS on top, including deals that earned USSF millions, according to its audited financial statements.

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