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Team Owners Association Update 10/15/09

2009 October 16
by Brian Quarstad

USL_at-a-crossroadsThings have been quiet since the Team Owners Association (TOA), along with members of NuRock Holdings, the new owners of the United Soccer Leagues (USL), met in New York last week. The meetings that took place the week of October 5th and were guided by United States Soccer Federation (USSF) president Sunil Gulati, were said by Brian Wellman, president of the Carolina RailHawks, to sooth tensions amongst the two sides.

It is understood that the parties meeting with Gulati were Carolina RailHawks owner and leader of the TOA, Selby Wellman, Montreal Impact owner Joey Saputo, and Vancouver Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi. The other members of TOA participated in some of the discussion via conference call.

The USL was represented by their president Tim Holt, as well as new League owners and Chairman Rob Hoskins and Alec Papadakis CEO.

All parties seem to be in lockdown mode since those meetings. However, Inside Minnesota Soccer has learned that the parties involved with the TOA have been working at a frantic pace, trying to negotiate and figure their next step knowing several deadlines loom if they are to play in either the USL next year or petition USSF and FIFA for a new league.

It has also been learned that the USSF was not in favor of the letter that Tim Holt and the USL sent out to players. The letter from the league told players from TOA teams that they were released from their contracts and that the USSF was releasing them as well. The letter is what prompted Gulati to call for the joint meetings in New York. USSF seemed to back the TOA in regard to that letter and will not release the players registration from USSF as Holt had indicated in the letter.

The Cary News is reporting that Brian Wellman confirmed that the TOA will be meeting again this weekend. IMS believes those meetings will take place near Montreal as both the Impact and the Whitecaps, both members of the TOA, will be playing in the USL-1 final this weekend.

Joey Saputo talked to the Canadian Press on Thursday, saying that he will put his differences with USL aside for now as the Vancouver Whitecaps will travel to Montreal to play the Impact in the 2nd leg of the first all-Canadian USL-1 final. However, Saputo went on to call the letter sent to players from USL a “low-blow tactic” by the league.

“When you are negotiating, there are certain tactics you use and that was a low-blow tactic,” said Saputo. “There was an agreement signed that if we could not come to an agreement that the USL would help in the movement of the teams to a new league or whatever.”

“For them to come out with that type of letter was inappropriate, and I think they realize it was. It caused trouble in Carolina, Minnesota and Miami and it has no merit whatsoever. The players are still under contract, I understand, from a (United States Soccer Federation) point of view.”

“We’ve decided we’ll let the playoffs go through. We’re focused on that now and, after the final, we’ll sit down again and hopefully come to come some sort of agreement.”

Saputo also said that no deadline has been set but that he believes the TOA will reach some sort of a decision by mid-November, which would be right before the USL Annual General Meetings are to begin. Schedules for the upcoming year are hammered out at those AGM’s. Saputo said mid-November was when teams confirmed last year that they would renew with the USL.

However, Selby Wellman told IMS that he expects some decisions will be made by this coming week.

13 Responses
  1. Irv permalink
    October 17, 2009

    A few point from your “story” Mr. Quarstad

    1 Brian Wellman doesn’t know anything as is a lackey for his father
    2 the USL has stated franchises have been terminated for Miami, Minnesota & Carolina
    3. NOT true the meeting was called to try and break the deadlock, not because the letter was sent
    4. no secret here the Impact – Whitecap final had members of the TOA present no other USL club representatives. And Brian its “Cary” News
    5- Saputo will do what’s best for Saputo. As for the players that received letters, Caleb Patterson is now with the RB’s thanks to his release and ask him if he is happy
    6-Joey a Point of view is not a point of law; if by sending those letters violated something enforceable by law, the TOA would have gotten their lawyers on it, guess what the lawyers probably said they would not win.
    7-Does Saputo think the other owners want him back?
    8-Wellman stands the most to lose as with the Cary market cultivated some smart person is going to apply for the USL D-1 franchise (since he no longer has it) maybe this year! and the City of Cary will have a new tenant for their soccer field

  2. October 17, 2009

    #1)Thanks for you opinion on this Irv, although I would guess that not everyone is of the same mindset.

    #2) I’m not sure what your point is here? This has been reported here repeatedly. I’m guessing that if all sides kissed and made up they would pay their franchise fees and everything would resume. We had a similar situation last year without the media coverage.

    #3) Of course the meeting was set up to break the deadlock but it was prompted by the letter. You could say it brought things to a head but then again you could say that the TOA not paying their franchise fees brought things to a head.

    #4) Thanks for the Cary correction. Thats a mistake on my part that I have made previously as well. Perhaps I’ll get it right one of these times.
    I never stated they are meeting with the USL. From my understanding, the TOA will be meeting in Portland at some point following the Championship match, possibly early this week. Sadly and to the best of my knowledge, there are no meetings planned with the USL at this time.

    #5) Joey Saputo is an interesting guy and not really sure of all of his motivations. I will certainly give you that. Patterson is a unique situation. The Railhawks have some of the best paid players in the league. Most are not looking to get out of contracts. The team was also in a unique situation in that they had so many players under contract that they had to look for places for a few players to go and were even willing to pay their salaries to make room on the rosters for new acquisitions. Clearly this is not a situation that most USL teams are in.

    #6) Please look back on my previous posts. I have a source who contacted some top executives with USSF and it was their opinion that they would not back the USL with the letter. I can’t tell you much more than that without the case being tried in a court of law. But again, check back to older stories as I had a contract lawyer familiar with the league who also said the same thing.

    #7) What others? Austin, Rochester and Charleston? We know those sides are for the league and even Rob Clark has had some issues with the league. But no one knows for sure how these these side will eventually break or not break.

    #8) Is that a threat? I’ve heard from my sources that people affiliated with USL are saying that USL will just fill the markets with new franchises. OK, but I don’t think it’s quite that easy especially in this economy. I believe those USL threats are part of the problem that the TOA has with the USL. Why would the USL threaten to bring in another franchise when a team is struggling instead of helping them through the problem and trying to make the league better and stronger? If a franchise folds, what consequence is there for the league. Right now there is none. They just go out and get another $750,000 for a franchise if they can find a taker. There is something definitely wrong with that business model. It may work for a Burger King franchise, but these are not Burger King franchises. These are soccer teams trying to make it in a tough economy where soccer is not The King unlike the burger is in the US. Also, who would go out and buy a USL franchise for a city where they know there’s already an established team that may not be playing in USL but will be playing in some sort of league. If one team isn’t making it, tell me how USL would go out and find someone else to pony up the 3/4 of a million for a franchise to compete against another team in the same town. That would be suicide. I’m not buying this one at all.

    Just so I am clear, I still feel the best solution is for both sides to compromise and find a solution that would keep them all in the USL. However, from what I’m hearing, NuRock really doesn’t seem to have much interest in that at the present time. I hope that can change and I hope the TOA teams expectations are not too high from what they want from their league owners.

  3. jay permalink
    October 18, 2009

    Mr. Irv, I appreciate you insights. They gave me some food for thought, no doubt. Here are some of my thoughts and/or observations.

    1. Your tone comes off hostile. The use of the quotation marks when referring to the piece that Mr. Quarstad wrote came off as to a nuetral observer as condescending.
    The guy is doing his best to cover an event and share info with the small minority of people who actually care about US and Canadian (and let me throw in Puerto Rico) soccer and the USL1. He seems to be passing on the best available information that he has. I think a lot of us appreciate that the guy is trying to provide us a service–for free, no less– by putting the information out there for us to review and process. I think that a lot of people are not looking for perfection–just some information.

    2. The shot at Brian Wellman –I don’t personally know the man–so again, I am nuetral–that seems very excessive and mean spirited. No need to insult the man.

    3. The point about the meeting–I think that you are dead on. The letter was used as a call to arms but the meeting was going to have to take place, letter or no letter. The letter just made some of the parties see “red”.

    4-8: Joey Saputo-Again, I have never met te man but I gotta give you that one. From what is available in the public domain–that guy seems like he is exclusively thinking about himself. No crime in that but the fact that he is leading the TOA charge along with Vancouver (MLS “defectors” if you will), still makes the eyes roll back into my head. If he and Gillette hadn’t low-balled MLS he would have had his move to MLS sealed by now.

    I have been asking myself the whol time: Why would a USL1 club that was TOA affiliated want to make a move following Saputo and Kerfoot–when those guys would be leaving them behind just as soon as possible to participate in MLS??? Isn’t that kind of like leaving your wife for your girlfriend when you know that she is really digging a better looking guy who is in a higher income bracket than you are??? I’m not saying that there are not valid issues to explore–of course there are things that need to be resolved but come on–am I the only person who doesn’t find the concept lucid? So how will that proposed 6 team league look after the MLS moves and Vancouver is facing DC United and Montreal is facing Red Bull???
    Is Joey Saputo going to be around for Mr. Wellman or anyone else who is hitching their wagon to that train–Hello–the train is leaving the station!!! I sincerely hope that works for the USL1-not ever going to MLS would be defectors.

    6. Which segways me to Red Bull and Caleb Patterson: Mr. Irv, like Mr. Quarstad has stated– Caleb Patterson is a unique situation that according to info that I had received from my Red Bull contacts back in the spring–that move was going to take place. It was planned back in the spring. It has nothing to do with the USL bluffing about about being able to cancel out the contracts of the players for the rouge (my word, not the league’s) franchises. Nothing. That whole deal was a gentleman’s agreement type of thing. It’s not like Caleb Patterson just said–“the USL says that I am a free man and I can walk”.

    I’m not claiming to know all of the details of the Patterson deal nor I’m not claiming to be am MLS or USL league insider but people who are insiders share some info with me and Red Bulls had released him so that he could get game time and be considered to rejoin the NY side after the USL1 season was over (not much unlike what they had done before with Cepero and Harrisburg City of the USL2 a very short while ago). The Patterson example that you referenced is a completely unique event that was not the result of the USL “releasing” players from their contracts.

    The next couple of months should continue to be interesting to see how thing play out. It is obvious that there are still some chapters to be written in this high stakes soap opera.

    How does Terrell Owens of the Buffalo Bills like to say it?? “Better get your popcorn ready”..

  4. October 18, 2009

    Jay, Thanks for your respectful comments. But most of all, thanks for calling me Mr. Quarstad. Wow! I don’t get that very often. 🙂
    By the way, Saputo and Kerfoot (via Lenerduzzi) have said they want to keep a team in the USL when they move to MLS. Now I am hearing that they may want that team to be a USL-1 team and not just a PDL team. That would explain a lot if this was true.

  5. Jay permalink
    October 19, 2009

    Brian, sincerest thanks to you for laboring so hard to get the info out to us who are interested.

    I realize that both Saputo and Kerfoot have stated that they would like to continue in some way shape or form with the USL and that the indications seems to be that they would like to keep a USL1 franchise but I will believe that when I see it. The Trois-Rivieres Attak, the Impact’s affiliate/reserve side currently compete in the Canadian Soccer League. Unless Mr. Saputo is planning on moving them up to the USL1 (the most likely scenario) or placing a USL club in Quebec City (where the Saputo organization has marketed in and had it clubs play in front of large crowds before), I don’t believe that Mr. Saputo will have any club competing at anything higher than a PDL level.

    I belive that it is even less likely for Kerfoot to continue a USL1 club. The PDL, the W-League, the Super Y’s, etc–I can see those continuing but the likelyhood of a USL1 club exisiting unless Portlan’s bid fails or Kitsap moves up to USL1–highly unlikely. The travel costs would be murderous.

    I also suspect that MLS, even having scrapped it’s reserve league, will not be too keen on clubs actively continuing their USL affiliations and if they do then I would expect for them to insist that any owners of clubs in both MLS & the USL1 use all of the influence that they have to get the USL to stop with the Marcos’ and company trying the sell the two leagues as being competitors or comparable (although Nu-Rock has probably already put an end to that nonsense)…

  6. October 19, 2009

    Again, good comments Jay.

    As well, the “Brian” feels much more comfortable, particularly without the condescension of the first comment posted from Irv.

    As to your comments about the Canadian teams, I could see a USL-2 type league opening up on the west coast and that I could see Vancouver being part of. Between California, and the Pacific Northwest, I could see a league out there and USL-2 seems to be a better fit as a feeder for MLS. A step up from PDL but not the expenses incurred with USL-1.

    But your most welcome and it has been interesting covering this. On the one hand I weekly get trashed from a particular “legitimate” sports reporter in Rochester, NY for trying to report this story and not letting the pros do it. Well, Jeff, if the pros were reporting the story I wouldn’t have one would I. It’s interesting as well because the owners of these teams have not been jaded by traditional media because they are not used to getting any sort of interest or media coverage which is sort of what you had said previously. So someone can bitch about an amateur (who by the way, probably knows the game a lot better than he does) writing these stories, yet I look around and I don’t see anyone else in the media covering the Story except for those down in the Raleigh/Durham area. Not even our main soccer voices in Goff and Galarcep have covered the story.

    As my friend Bruce Mc Guire has said from Du nord Futbol, in the US, soccer is the sport of the internet. As I have stated before, the main stream media, sports editors and writers won’t give us the content, so we’ve gone out and created it ourselves. Our own papers here in the Twin Cities have not written one single word on this story even though I know both the Thunder beat writers from both papers. In fact I know several of the Tribune writers who read my site.

    The lines are blurring like it or not. Do I have an editor double checking my sources and editing? Nope, I’m trying to do it all myself but I am also trying to do it with some integrity and I AM NOT reporting every little rumor and tidbit I hear. My source has to be reliable in my opinion and in most cases I try to get a second person or media outlet to confirm what I’m hearing.

    So a better question this time around may be what makes this such a non-story with the main stream media. I ran into a USL-1 player yesterday (not from the Thunder) and they are getting little to no information from their teams. I feel really bad for these guys because they have no idea what is going to happen next season.

  7. Jeff Wolter permalink
    October 19, 2009

    “Well, if the pros were reporting the story I wouldn’t have one would I”.
    I think that is a very good point… 🙂

    Keep it up Brian many of us support what you are doing, and you already know that.

  8. Jay permalink
    October 19, 2009

    I have mad respect for my local guy, Steve Goff. I respect Ives Garlaceps. I also read Jeff Devronica’s blog. In this particular case, the bulk of the useful information that I have received in print form has been here from the nontraditional news sources. Cary area press aside (an the articles were insightful, kudos to the reporters)–outside of Cary and Deveronica in Rochester, the mainstream soccer press has completely slept on the story. Most of the information dessimnated about this story has been via non-traditional news sources.

    This is the age that we now live in. I much prefer it to only having Soccer America available and the occasional bone thrown Sports Illustrated…

    Please keep up the good work.

  9. Jay permalink
    October 19, 2009

    I want to be clear: I also respect Jeff’s work. I am a big Devo fan, especially when it comes to USL1 information.

    Every USL1 town doesn’t have a reporter with the access or the moxy of Deveronica–which is why I read his blog and the Dem & Chronicle articles.

    If there were more Jeff Deveronicas and reporters like in Cary then this story wouldn’t need to have non-traditional news sources to be the driving force in getting the information out.

    Devo managed to talk to local USL1 owner and use his league contacts. Until we get more guys that are capable and willing to do so, then I forsee a need to continue coming to blogs like this one for additional info.

  10. October 19, 2009

    Hey, I’m a big Devo fan as well, but evidently he’s not at all an IMS fan. :). He used to pub my USL week in Review when I was doing that earlier this year but he thinks the whole TOA thing is a rouse. Who knows, he could be right- but that doesn’t mean you don’t cover it.

  11. October 19, 2009


    Doesn’t USL currently forbid MLS sides from owning a USL side (please note the PDL Fire are not owned by the MLS club)?

    Could Vancouver and Montreal be doing this so that their amatuer sides would be in a PDL type league and have their Reserve sides compete in a professional league (USL1/2)?

    I’m fairly certain that there is more than 1 MLS side that currently would like that, and that this wouldn’t be a first in pro-soccer – see Spain and Germany.

  12. October 20, 2009

    You are correct Dave about MLS and about the Fire. I think they play under the Chicago Magic or Kickers.

    So that means that a team in a league other than USL would possibly work for those Canadian teams (or any teams) currently in or going to MLS. Perhaps this was one of the reasons MLS’s Garber was involved with the meetings. Who knows as it’s all a lot of conjecture at this point. I do know however that the TOA is sort of re-looking at the whole soccer picture in North America and asking a lot of questions. Thats not all bad. Great article on your site concerning the issue. Well done!

    My friend Kartik Krishnaiyer has told me about the teams in Spain and Germany and how their reserve teams play in (I believe) 3rd division and cannot be promoted. Seems like a great idea.

  13. October 20, 2009

    Brian, in Spain it is the 2nd division (including a Copa del Rey winner) and Germany the 3rd division or lower (parent club finds the “right” fit).

    I referred to this as the integrated Reserve system. Where both “farm” teams and independent teams operate in the same league.

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