Since its reincarnation at the beginning of the decade, the NASL has striven to achieve recognition alongside MLS in the top flight of American soccer. The NASL has asserted that the United States Soccer Federation has worked to preserve MLS’s status as the only first-division soccer league by changing the requirements for sanctioning. The complaint may be legitimate, but the league’s determination to fight against the alleged antitrust violations by the USSF may have cost the league an investor that would have helped to satisfy the requirements for D1 sanctioning.
That investor was Joe Sumner, son of Gordon Sumner. Gordon is more famously known as Sting, the lead singer and bassist for The Police. Joe is an entrepreneur and musician in his own right.
Sumner displayed interest in owning an NASL club in southern California, but the courtship faded as he performed due diligence. One of the factors that dissuaded Sumner was the pending antitrust lawsuit by the NASL against the USSF. With representation including high profile attorneys like Jeffrey Kessler, who represented Tom Brady against the NFL, the legal fees are bound to pile up. Reportedly, each NASL ownership group is expected to share equally in those costs.
The irony is that a team in southern California would have helped the NASL to fulfill the D1 requirements that form the basis for complaints against the USSF. This is especially true if the team would have been located in Los Angeles, with its population of well more than 2 million residents situated in the Pacific time zone – of course the San Francisco Deltas now help satisfy the time zone requirement.
This is not to say that the pursuit of legal recourse is the wrong path for the NASL. A legal victory would likely have a more significant impact on the league’s long-term goals than the addition of any single team, regardless of market. Who knows, though, what the courts will decide, if it ever comes to that?
Sumner and his investment group also took travel into account when making the decision to forgo an opportunity to own an NASL team. The aforementioned San Francisco Deltas would be the closest away trip. The next closest away trip would be an 1,800 mile flight to Indianapolis. In the end, the rigors and costs associated with that kind of travel were judged to be prohibitive.
As far as can be ascertained, Sumner has not been linked to any other clubs in any American soccer league. News about NASL in southern California will assuredly continue to circulate. The league will have to find an ownership group that is willing to invest heavily into its ideals and travel budget.