The Sweeper: USL-1 in Crisis

Big Story

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Details are sketchy, but Brian Quarstad’s Inside Minnesota Soccer reported on Saturday that USL President Tim Holt sent an email to three USL-1 clubs in the Team Owner’s Association (TOA)—Minnesota, Carolina and Miami—terminating their player contracts, which was followed by news from David Fellerath at Triangle Offense that the three club logos had been removed from the USL-1 main site.  It appears the decisions were made because the clubs, along with current USL semifinalists Montreal and Vancouver, did not renew their contracts with the league (there is speculation that Montreal and Vancouver’s contracts weren’t voided in part because of their progress as semifinalists).

The TOA member clubs’ refusal to renew with USL stems from a dispute dating back to last August, when USL was purchased in a last minute bid by non-USL club owner NuRock Soccer Holdings.  Before that the TOA had been working to work out a way to buy the USL, thereby breaking its single-entity structure, giving the clubs more control of the league and making it more ‘FIFA friendly.’ Non-club-owner NuRock’s purchase of the league effectively wrecked those plans and the TOA threatened to pull out of USL altogether.  After a month of stale negotiations and no club renewals by TOA members, Tim Holt’s mass email effectively called ‘the TOA’s bluff.’

While reports vary on what exactly will happen next (the Kartik Report lays out the consequences of a ‘break away’ league scenario), this sort of brinkmanship on the eve of playoff semifinals doesn’t reflect well on the league.  Yet there’s another, happier angle to this story: it was unearthed and confirmed by dedicated local football bloggers like Quarstad, calling USL-1 and TOA reps for much-needed answers.  This sort of scrutiny wouldn’t have existed five or ten years ago, mostly because the inner intrigues of USL, even with its wider implications for American club soccer, would have fallen on deaf ears in the traditional press.

So, while USL-1 fails, local American soccer bloggers pick up the pieces, FTW.

Worldwide Stories

  • Dennis Wise is Modern Football incarnate: he went over his own club manager’s wishes to satisfy some player agents representing South American players, which led to Kevin Keegan’s resignation and now, his £2 million settlement.
  • It took Sigi Schmidt’s Seattle Sounders to finally break the Columbus Crew‘s 22 home game unbeaten streak in a weird game that saw Guillermo Schelotto miss a penalty.  Yes, the league is that tight and unpredictable, as Ives breaks down over at Soccernet.
  • Sulaiman Al-Fahim is selling a portion of his Portsmouth portion to a wealthy Saudi consortium headed by Ali al-Faraj, reports the Guardian, which will herald untold success at Fratton Park for years and years to come.  Or not.
  • Are old strikers as intensely brilliant as they say they are, or are they a bunch of whingeing old cranks (I’m looking at you, Gerd Müller)?  Ian Plenderleith breaks it down for us at When Saturday Comes.
  • And if you haven’t read a match report on the Chelsea Liverpool game, please go directly to Run of Play author and Pro Vercelli’s most storied manager Brian Philips piece on how Michael Ballack and Didier Drogba learned to stop worrying and love the ball.

Richard Whittall minds the shop like Vince at Nabootique here when he’s not crimping like Howard at A More Splendid Life.

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