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No Atlanta team USL/NASL league in 2010

The U.S. Soccer Federation announced on Thursday that the warring factions of the United Soccer Leagues and the breakaway North American Soccer League will field a joint Division II league in 2010, under the federation’s auspices.

But there will not be a team on the field from Atlanta.

The 12-team, two-division league will be comprised of six USL teams and six more from the NASL, which had included the Atlanta Silverbacks. The full breakdown is here.

USSF president Sunil Gulati said on a Thursday conference call that both Atlanta and New York are not ready to field teams in the coming season:

“It was pretty clear to us that Atlanta was never going to play this year, and New York it became obvious early on.”

Here are some previous posts on the dispute, which was triggered late last summer when the USL was sold to Atlanta-based Nu Rock Soccer Holdings. That organization fielded a USL-sponsored Professional Development League team in Atlanta last summer while the Silverbacks went on hiatus.

Silverbacks president Boris Jerkunica had balked at USL leadership for several years before withdrawing, but he has not publicly commented on his plans for returning to the second division level. The Silverbacks will continue to field a team in the USL-run amateur W-League.

I have a request in to Jerkunica once again asking him to address these issues and others.

More information will be posted here as the story develops.

January 7, 2010   2 Comments

U.S. Soccer won’t sanction NASL or USL

If you were hoping the end of the year would bring with it a resolution to the feuding between the United Soccer Leagues and the breakaway North American Soccer League, think again.

The U.S. Soccer Federation on Wednesday said it was refusing to sanction either second division league for the 2010 season, and ordered both to work something out in the next week.

Some instant reaction to the news is here, here and here, with the opinions mixed.

And in the strongest rebuke the USSF is accused of preferring the status quo, feeling that Major League Soccer would be threatened by the NASL, which includes the Atlanta Silverbacks.

The USL, purchased this summer by Atlanta-based NuRock Soccer Holdings, issued a release that doesn’t say much at all.

The NASL is “disappointed” by the decision but promises to co-operate.

Of course, if it and the USL had been as conciliatory as they’re both trying to sound now, there wouldn’t be the bitter impasse that may last a good while longer.

December 30, 2009   2 Comments

While the fate of the USL/NASL lingers . . .

Here’s an update on the United Soccer Leagues/North American Soccer League dispute that is reportedly being refereed shortly by the U.S. Soccer Federation. It runs down the teams involved in the breakaway NASL alliance that is seeking sanctioning authority. However, the Atlanta Silverbacks, who helped strike the match that led to this point, do not appear to be fielding a team next season:

“The Silverbacks ownership were the first to show their unhappiness with USL by dropping out of the league in the fall of 2008 after other teams had also threatened. The TOA are claiming that Atlanta is a team scheduled to play in 2010 but word on the street is they will not be ready to play until 2011.”

I’ve also heard this on the grapevine, as well as that the Silverbacks amateur women’s team in the USL-run W-League is a go for next season. However, Silverbacks chairman Boris Jerkunica has not commented publicly on any of this, despite repeated requests from Atlanta Soccer News.

Hoping to have some confirmation soon.

December 17, 2009   No Comments

Silverbacks not among teams sued by USL

I’ve refrained from posting here on the continuing battle between the United Soccer Leagues and the newly-formed North American Soccer League until the frantic, twisted scenario sorted itself out a little bit.

Instead, the scrap over the future of minor league soccer in North America reached full boil on Wednesday, with the news that the USL has filed suit against three teams in the breakaway league that includes the Atlanta Silverbacks.

The Silverbacks are not one of those teams, but the Rochester Rhinos, Crystal Palace FC (Baltimore) and Tampa Bay Rowdies are the subjects of allegations that they are in breach of contracts binding them to the USL for the 2010 season.

The USL didn’t make a lot of the lawsuit news on its own site, issuing a statement accusing The Owners Association, the consortium of owners who formed the new league, of “tortuous interference.”

If it reads like it was written by a roomful of lawyers, get used to it. Reportedly both leagues met with the U.S. Soccer Federation at the behest of the latter on Monday, but the “productive meeting” Sunil Gulati described apparently wasn’t so productive after all. There may even have been additional legal threats made against other breakaway owners.

The Silverbacks have been generally silent about their involvement in the move to the NASL (not to be confused with the pro league that went by the same name from 1968 to 1984). That was the case well before the lawsuit filing on Wednesday. Silverbacks president Boris Jerkunica notified Atlanta Soccer News that he was traveling out of the country and could not comment until next week at the earliest.

That response is similar to previous requests for comment by ASN. Jerkunica did say in early November that “we are putting plans together as we speak” about preparing to compete in 2010.

The current franchise holder for a USL First Division team in Atlanta belongs to the same NuRock organization that sponsored a team in the USL’s Professional Development Soccer League last summer.

The Silverbacks also have not clarified the status of their women’s team, which has been competing in the USL’s amateur W-League and last summer reached that league’s playoffs.

The Silverbacks joined the NASL breakaway league after several years of being disenchanted with the way the Tampa-based USL conducted its operations. Jerkunica’s longest statement to date on the fiasco was issued in early November:

“For ten years, the Atlanta Silverbacks played under the umbrella of a third-party owned league.  To put it simply, it just didn’t work. The long-term view of the team owners did not align with the short term view of the third-party league owners. Because of this, the Atlanta Silverbacks decided to drop out from USL-1 in 2009. We are pleased to be part of a new league that will be owned and operated by the team owners as required by FIFA.”

For the moment, there doesn’t appear to be any expedient manner of resolving a growing legal fight that could threaten the start of the North American soccer season next spring. The fate of both leagues could very well be on the line.

December 9, 2009   7 Comments