Another shot was fired Thursday in the increasingly volatile Pro/Rel war as Miami FC and Kingston Stockdale FC filed a claim against the U.S. Soccer Federation, FIFA, and CONCACAF with the Court of Arbitration for Sport seeking to introduce a system of promotion and relegation to the sport in the United States.
This filing comes on the heels of Miami FC owner Riccardo Silva’s widely reported offer to pay $4 billion dollars for MLS media rights if the league would get on the pro/rel bandwagon.
That offer was widely considered to be a publicity stunt, a successful one it would appear, but what about this latest maneuver?
Miami FC plays in the second division NASL, while Kingston Stockdale, is an ambitious team from upstate New York that recently completed its second season in the NPSL, an amateur league.
Kingston claims fourth division status, although the USSF does not recognize formal levels of the soccer pyramid below the professional third division.
The clubs are pinning their hopes on FIFA bylaws that they say mandate pro/rel. “The closed system for soccer used here in the United States is in violation of FIFA rules,” Miami FC CEO Sean Flynn said in a statement. “By adopting the rules followed by virtually every other soccer playing nation around the globe, soccer in America will be open, resulting in better teams through all divisions, compelling story lines to increase fan excitement and greater financial success for everyone involved in this beautiful game.”
In the “The Regulations Governing the Application of the Statutes,” Article 9.1 reads: “A club’s entitlement to take part in a domestic league championship shall depend principally on sporting merit. A club shall qualify for a domestic league championship by remaining in a certain division or by being promoted or relegated to another at the end of a season.”
Article 9.2 offers leagues like MLS some wiggle room, with this. “In addition to qualification on sporting merit, a club’s participation in a domestic league championship may be subject to other criteria within the scope of the licensing procedure, whereby the emphasis is on sporting, infrastructural, administrative, legal and financial considerations. Licensing decisions must be able to be examined by the member association’s body of appeal.”
Other criteria, meaning stadiums, and financial considerations would have to be met if a team was to play in the top flight. For example, Miami has buckets of cash available through Silva and his media empire but the same cannot be said for most other clubs in the USSF second divisions, NASL and USL.
It is difficult to see how this war will turn out, although it is escalating rapidly.