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Cleveland City Stars Release Players from Contracts

2009 December 2
by Brian Quarstad

USL_at-a-crossroadsInside Minnesota Soccer has learned tonight that the Cleveland City Stars have released their players from their contracts.

IMS has obtained an email addressed to all players under contract with the Cleveland City Stars and written by team president Jonathan Ortlip and executive director Aaron Tredway. The two front office executives wrote a heartfelt letter to the players of the organization saying that After months of negotiation and meetings, and in the midst of the conclusion of our sale, the USL decided to terminate our franchise just prior to Thanksgiving.”

clevelandcitystarsThe two City Star executives went on to say that the news of termination of contracts came as a significant surprise given the nature of the process. They went on to say that after much consideration and counsel the leadership of Cleveland City Stars decided to accept the leagues termination of our franchise and all implications thereof.

The email also mentions the ongoing turmoil of the battle for league ownership and how it contributed to Cleveland’s problems and stating, “No team is outside of the current turmoil and uncertainty.”

Please click “read more” to read the email in its entirety.

Subject: A Message from Aaron Tredway and Jon Ortlip
Date: Wed, 2 Dec 2009 11:35:22 -0500

To:  Cleveland City Stars players, coaches, staff

Re:  Club status

It has been just over 2 months since the conclusion of our 2009 season.  For the leadership of Cleveland City these have not been your average “off-season” months. We have drafted this brief note to you no less than 5 times in the past 2 weeks. We pray it finds you well and confident though these days may seem unsettling.

Please forgive us for any lack of communication we have provided. It has not been our intent to alienate or avoid you in this process. Until this point it simply has not been possible to speak of our situation formally. Even now we will be brief yet avail ourselves for further discussion should you so desire.

After months of negotiation and meetings, and in the midst of the conclusion of our sale, the USL decided to terminate our franchise just prior to Thanksgiving.  This news came as a significant surprise to us given the nature of the process we were involved with up until that point.  After much consideration and counsel the leadership of Cleveland City Stars decided to accept the leagues termination of our franchise and all implications thereof.


Our acceptance of the USL’s termination of CCS means that all players are free of contractual obligation to our club.  Truth be told, this situation is not currently the exception to the rule.  Given the current turmoil amongst those who desire to operate the 1st division league in the US, every former USL-1 club finds itself in a similar situation to Cleveland City Stars.  No team is outside of the current turmoil and uncertainty.

At this point we will do anything in our power to assist you moving forward.  It is with great sadness of heart we communicate this news, yet we cling to a belief that “In all things God works for the good of those who love him . . . ”

If you have specific questions we will make ourselves available to discuss, pray and advise as best we can in the days to come.  We love and care for each of you deeply.  If any facet of this process has grieved us most it has been our deep and sincere concern for the wellbeing of you, our players, coaches and staff.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Jon Ortlip and Aaron Tredway

38 Responses
  1. Max Zeger permalink
    December 2, 2009

    What’s with all the god references in this email?

  2. December 2, 2009


    Stephen the USL fanboy, doesn’t like this fact you just reported.

    Any more background, was CSS behind in fees and in rough shape like the Thunder?

    Keep up the excellent work, I find myself more glued to this blog with every visit :).

  3. December 2, 2009

    @Max, the team was founded as a Christian charity.

    Per International Soccer Network, the team was $450,000 in debt. However there was a prospective buyer who was going to pay off the debt to buy the team.

    Guess the deal took to long for the league’s liking and they terminated our franchise.

  4. Super Rookie permalink
    December 2, 2009

    Max- The CCS are, to the best of my knowledge, owned by a faith based non-profit.

    Future Twin Cities NASL team- GILSTRAP!

  5. December 2, 2009

    Thanks Ed for the answer. As Dean Johnson used to say, they are a faith based organization.

  6. Tom permalink
    December 2, 2009

    BQ – your sites just been hoppin’ the last few days. Very enjoyable, informative, and entertaining. Thanks!

  7. Tom permalink
    December 2, 2009

    As a FYI – “Soli Deo Gloria” loosely translated is “Glory to God alone”. It would appear that owning a soccer franchise does require quite a few prayers nowadays….plus quite a bit of faith and hope looking into the future.

  8. Mikey permalink
    December 2, 2009

    Would not the USL terminating the franchise free up the new potential owners to start over and not take on the debts? perhaps the franchise fee for a USLd2 team is less than paying off the debt incured.

  9. Stephen permalink
    December 2, 2009


    I couldn’t care less who comes out the so called winner of this USL/TOA debacle. The Timbers, the team I support, will for the 2010 season be in whichever league has a season. I just think all this hype that TOA has the momentum is a bunch of rubbish. The TOA doesn’t have sanctioning, but it does have a bunch of fictional teams, poorly supported teams, and poorly funded teams. The teams still in the USL seem to be indifferent to the current situation other than they would just prefer for it to be resolved. No reason to jump ship when USL is still floating and the other ship hasn’t been built, isn’t registered, frankly has crazy crew members, and doesn’t have a heading.

    Now if you had called me a Nike fanboy, I’d take that one. I’ve already said, Nike since birth.

  10. Jas permalink
    December 3, 2009

    ” …when USL is still floating …”

    Really? You sincerely believe that? From my point of view, the TOA ship will be much the same as the USL’s except the TOA are willing to make changes to actually survive in the near future as opposed to the USL which was going down in 2 years anyways.

  11. Paul permalink
    December 3, 2009

    The TOA/NASL may or may not be an upgrade to USL, but at least someone (okay several someones) cares enough to try. This country was built on entrepreneurs taking risks and creating new opportunities for the rest of us. Amen to that!!

  12. Tom permalink
    December 3, 2009

    Stephan – aren’t these “bunch of fictional teams, poorly supported teams, and poorly funded teams” the same teams you would be more than happy to have as part of the USL? Sounds a bit self-serving to me. Worst case your Timbers play an extensive season of exhibitions and then head off to MSL and you get to stop in Chehalis to get gas on your way up to Seattle to watch them play the Sounders. Your worst case is currently better than our best case.

  13. PDX Timbers permalink
    December 3, 2009

    Not that I’m a big fan of how NuRock has handled their new baby, but can someone reiterate just how the proposed TOA/NASL is going to be an improvement over the USL-1? As many are saying here, same teams, same economic problems.

  14. Propes permalink
    December 3, 2009

    @ Stephen
    “Now if you had called me a Nike fanboy, I’d take that one. I’ve already said, Nike since birth.”

    Oh, I didn’t know you were involved in their manufacture.

  15. Ken permalink
    December 3, 2009

    The show “USL Breakaways” was on FSC yesterday. I now find the title quite appropo, though I suspect someone with 1/2 a marketing brain might decide to change the title before the start of next season.


  16. December 3, 2009

    Excellent point Ken. Touche!

  17. Scott Kerssen permalink
    December 3, 2009

    @ propes

    “Oh, I didn’t know you were involved in their manufacture.”

    I doubt that Stephen has anything to do with actually making the shoe. If he did, he could never have afforded the computer he posts with. Or much more than a bowl of rice per day, for that matter.

  18. Soccer Boy permalink
    December 3, 2009

    PDX Timbers, I think you make an excellent point on the “economic” factors. Travel is not cheap. To take a team to Puerto Rico, and back means you need big draws when you are at home. Last time I checked, you cannot put a team on a bus and drive there.

    I do think the NASL 2.0 will have an advantage with the teams having more of an ownership interest in the league. This seems to be something that Umbro/Nike/NuRock does not understand.

  19. smatthew permalink
    December 3, 2009

    “I doubt that Stephen has anything to do with actually making the shoe. If he did, he could never have afforded the computer he posts with. Or much more than a bowl of rice per day, for that matter.”


  20. Joe permalink
    December 3, 2009

    I agree with Jas the USL was going down the drain anyways the NASL thing just sped it.The “new era” that the USL proclaim last month was all about expansion once again. they expanded in 2007 and none of those teams are in the USL first division anymore or wouldve had been.

  21. December 3, 2009


    I am a MLS, USL2, and University of Maryland season ticket holder, and have come to care very deeply about the sport. I am posting to thank you, profusely, for the herculean efforts you have put in getting these stories regarding the USL/TOA. Absent your tremendous efforts, I cannot imagine where else those that care about lower division soccer in country would be able to keep abreast of (swiftly-changing) developments. Please keep up the great work.

  22. December 3, 2009

    Maybe someone more inside can elaborate, but here are the potential benifits ignorant old me can see from these teams owning their own structure.

    *More money will flow directly to the teams through TV rights (for that matter teams might be better able to pursue more local deals)
    *Teams will now take charge of their own marketing
    *Teams will now be out from under yearly franchise fees

    It seemed USL was more concerned with collecting profits from franchise fees and what the teams got in return is unclear.

    It seems the owners that have left have decided they can do whatever it was the USL was doing for them (schedules, refs, and I don’t know what else?) for less and have the ability to do it their way.

    But again, my excitement for the new league is muted until I hear that the Thunder are “un-broke” or that there will be a team in some fashion in the Twin Cities this summer.

  23. December 3, 2009

    I think USL will do well if it concentrates on U23 and Super-Y. These player development leagues seem very well run to me, with large numbers of competitive teams that operate on a much lower budget then USL1/2 teams.

    USL seems to be doing a very good job at this level. But pro soccer is a very different animal, with obviously much higher over heads, and a far greater need for high-level marketing and financial management. It seems to me that USL does not have the capabilities required to run a full time, nationwide, professional league.

    I don’t agree with the idea that the NASL will have the same problems as USL1. It is made up of successful business people that can provide the focussed leadership required to run a successful pro sports league. There is no third party taking a cut in profits from the (as pointed out above) lower than optimal ticket sales, and I think these executives are more in tune with what makes exciting competition, which in turn we drive ticket sales. It won’t be run as a kind of trophy league on top of the real goods, which is what it seemed to be as USL1. Also, having witnessed the very desperate surroundings the Charlotte Eagles (USL2) play in, I honestly think teams like that would be better off running a good U23 team. The same people will come to watch. The overheads are much lower. There is in all honesty more exciting competition in U23 level, with more potential teams to play instead of playing three or four games against the other eight teems in the league.

    So, IMHO, NASL is a good thing, and I think it will do well and grow steadily. It will soon be MLS2 in all but name, and possibly even a feeder league for those awaiting MLS franchises. USL will be much better off concentrating on its core product, which it does very well, namely player development soccer. It is a tough time right now, but I think soccer is going to be much stronger at all levels because of the change.

  24. Stephen permalink
    December 3, 2009

    “aren’t these “bunch of fictional teams, poorly supported teams, and poorly funded teams” the same teams you would be more than happy to have as part of the USL?”

    Not particularly. Miami is nothing special and nobody goes to the games. St. Louis doesn’t even exist, in one of the supposed best soccer markets in America and they just keep complaining about MLS passing them up. Minnesota has an owner that won’t pay his bills. The only reason I want Minnesota to have a team is so it is close to me in the Twin Cities. So no, I do not care if these teams are in USL or not, but when the TOA holds these teams up and says their league is strong and lists these teams as key components of that strength, I have to call BS on it.

    I wouldn’t say that the TOA is making “changes to actually survive in the near future”. This looks to me like they are destroying 2nd division soccer in America more quickly than before.

    Propes, Scott, smatthew:
    I stand by my comment. Your “ZING!” could be applied to any of the clothing you are wearing right now as well. Like I said, I’ve supported Nike since birth and I’m not just now going to start buying products from the likes of adidas or Puma (nor in 2011 when Timbers gear is going to be made by adidas).

  25. December 3, 2009

    Thanks Collegeparkaddick !

  26. December 4, 2009

    I’m curious as to why you don’t think that will surprise anyone? Also, I see this more as a sign of the times with tough finances and the difficulty soccer teams are having world wide right now. As the article says, they are working with the USL to drop down. Maybe that’s what you are saying also?

  27. Tom permalink
    December 4, 2009

    I like the Hogges uni’s – very sharp. Understand the finance part, travel costs must be a big issue.

    A couple of questions for those in the know….
    1) any idea on when a decision will be coming from USSF on the new league?
    2) what is the current franchise fee for a USL-1 team?

  28. December 4, 2009

    As we have stated many times here previously, $750,000.00

    We should know more next week. Watch IMS this weekend for an update on the situation.

  29. Tom permalink
    December 4, 2009

    BQ – thanks. Sorry that I couldn’t recall….

  30. December 4, 2009

    I do not believe that anyone who follows the USL will be surprised by the Hogges exit from USL2 because of the huge challenges that particular franchise faces even in USL2’s structure (in contrast to, for example, the relative surprise of the Hammerhead’s departure from USL2 and pro soccer altogether). For us, the Hogges became a can’t miss visiting attraction for both CP Baltimore and Real Maryland because of the obstacles they confronted — they routinely traveled with a bare bones team, were often embarrassed by ridiculous scorelines (6-0 loss to Charlotte; 7-2 loss to Richmond; 5-0 loss to Western Mass), but still put out decent effort every time we saw them.

    Unfortunately, our last memory of the franchise may have been a game that underscores the bush league elements of USL2, as it featured the coach of the Hogges being escorted off the field by Montgomery County Police and, for unrelated reasons, the arrest of Bermuda’s Stephen Astwood (who had scored 2 goals in the first 45 minutes) at halftime.

    My excitement regarding the potential of the TOA for increasing the profile of lower division professional soccer is tempered by developments in Cleveland, Wilmington, Bermuda, and Charleston (was it really just two seasons ago that I was sitting in RFK as DC United hosted the Battery in the US Open Cup Final?) which seem to indicate that the USL2 (even with Charleston added) is facing its own significant viability problems.

  31. December 4, 2009

    Excellent post!

  32. December 5, 2009

    Well, Tim Holt told the Cleveland Plain Dealer today that the league is not giving up on Cleveland and that they’re working with groups to put a new team here. Take it for what it’s worth, but the league needs teams and I don’t get them cutting the City Stars.

    Also, the PD article mentions the report on this site.

  33. December 5, 2009

    Hey Ed, how are you. Ya, I saw the incoming link this morning.

    Lately my head is swimming and there’s a whole lot of things I’m just not understanding at all. The push to move Cleveland up, then they are sort of hung out to dry, and now this. It’s very confusing and my heart really goes out to the City Stars and all their fans. You had a great little USL-2 team there for a couple of years. Most likely that is where the team should have stayed, at least until sometime in the future when they had built their fan base were more ready to make the jump.

  34. Tom permalink
    December 5, 2009

    When a USL-2 team steps up to USL-1, I’m assuming they have to pay a fee (guessing the difference in franchise fees between the different leagues) to do that?

  35. December 5, 2009

    Tom, word at the time was much of the step up fee was waived for Cleveland. I’ve written about the numerous times and it’s been discussed on the site but I know a lot of people are just starting to pay attention to this story. USL was concerned about the potential of losing a lot of teams to a breakaway league (TOA) last year right before the AGM’s and Atlanta had dropped. So they enlisted Cleveland to step up and fill a spot.

  36. Tom permalink
    December 5, 2009

    BQ-thanks. You’ll have to bear with some of us who’ve just started following all this. All of the ins-and-outs and detours this story has taken have been quite fascinating. Much appreciation for all your efforts. I owe you a pint (more like a pitcher) sometime in the future.

  37. December 5, 2009

    Tom, I highly suggest that those who have not followed from the beginning click on the USL at a Crossroads logo on the side. You will see 3 articles at the bottom of the list. A part 1, 2 and 3 that Kartik Krishnaiyer and I wrote for exactly this purpose and because were being fed information for nearly a year, all off the record. When the sale to Cooper fell though and the sale to NuRock Holdings was announced, were were free to tell what we knew at that point.

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