New York Cosmos owner hits out at U.S. Soccer amid NASL troubles
New York Cosmos owner Rocco Commisso says he and the NASL are "full ahead litigating" the pending lawsuits against the U.S. Soccer Federation and its board members, despite recent legal setbacks and the fact that the league has canceled the 2018 season.
Commisso took part in a conference call with reporters on Thursday, and spoke on -- and hit out at -- a wide variety of topics. He criticized the USSF's overall stewardship of the game.
"Winning six games in 85 years in World Cup competition is nothing to brag about. We are a failed soccer nation, we were then and we still are," said Commisso.
Commisso took issue with the USSF's decision to deny the NASL a Division II designation last September without warning, and to later grant the same designation to the USL earlier this year. This decision proved to be the catalyst for an antitrust lawsuit filed later that month.
He also was critical of the commercial right deal between the USSF and Soccer United Marketing, which is the marketing arm of MLS.
"The USSF, for this to be fixed, has to become an independent, regulatory agency, period. End of story," he said. "The SUM deal should not exist, and the favoritism towards MLS should stop."
Commisso added that he didn't believe that there weren't skeletons in the USSF's house as it related to the FIFA corruption cases of the last few years, and that Gulati shouldn't be "the person leading the charge" as it relates to obtaining the hosting rights for the 2026 World Cup.
Commisso also accused North Carolina FC owner Steve Malik of engaging in a "double play" by moving his team from the NASL to the USL, applying for an MLS expansion team, as well as acquiring a team in the NWSL and moving to North Carolina.
Malik was appointed to the USSF board of directors in March, and Commisso called it a "payoff" from the USSF to use NCFC's stadium for both a U.S. women's national game against South Korea last October and men's national team game against Paraguay later this month.
There has been no evidence of illegality on the part of the USSF or Malik, but Commisso still took exception to the relationship.
"That's the way [the USSF] do business," Commisso said. "'You take care of me, I'll take care of you, as long as it's within our own family because we are in charge of soccer. We are the ones that everybody has to go through if you want to play a part of soccer.'
"I find that to be demeaning, I find that to be absolutely disgraceful, I find that to be the No. 1 reason why our country has failed miserably."
With regard to the lawsuits -- an antitrust lawsuit against the USSF and a separate suit against most of the USSF board of directors -- Commisso reiterated that he is prepared to go ahead. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit denied the NASL's bid to receive an injunction that would have reinstated its Division II sanction from the USSF, which had been denied in September, and was the catalyst for the NASL's antitrust suit against the federation.
"For sure we are going to continue [litigating]," he said.
As for whether there were talks about a settlement with the USSF, Commisso said, "It takes two to tango. They know where they stand."
Commisso indicated that the two sides had engaged in confidential settlement discussions previously but they were not successful. He has yet to hear from Cordeiro.
"We were very unhappy," he said, declining to elaborate further, though he later added: "This could have been fixed."
With no NASL this season, Commisso said the Cosmos will play in the NPSL, unofficially in the fourth tier, in the short term, while continuing to run their youth academy. He said this will add to the losses of $18 million that he said he incurred last year.
"Beyond that, I have not defined the plans in my own head, [about] what's going to happen to the Cosmos next year," he said.
He added that he was subsidizing some of his player to go play in the USL, and he claimed how a typical USL payroll is $400,000, while last year he spent that amount on just one player. He also claimed that some USL players are "paid by the hour."
Commisso indicated that he engaged in discussions with USL CEO Alex Papadakis about joining the league, but those talks fell apart, with Commisso of the belief that a provision that bars USL teams from competing in MLS markets prevented the Cosmos from joining the league.
"In retrospect it was a game, because the Cosmos were never going to be permitted to play," he said of the talks with the USL.
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.