Cosmos chief says U.S. Soccer, MLS are trying to 'move the goal' on NASL

New York Cosmos chief operating officer Erik Stover has criticized U.S. Soccer for hindering the North American Soccer League's interest in developing a top-flight alternative to Major League Soccer.

The NASL is protesting requirements proposed by U.S. Soccer for a league to qualify for Division I status, saying they would ensure MLS is the only top-flight league in the United States, violating antitrust laws.

The latest proposals for a league's Division I status include increasing the minimum number of teams from 12 to 16, placing 75 percent of teams in cities of at least 2 million people, and requiring all stadiums to have a capacity for at least 15,000 people.

MLS meets those requirements without a problem, but the 11-team NASL only has two stadiums that would meet the standard.

Stover called the new requirements "crazy," saying the best leagues in the world would fail to meet the proposals.

"The Premier League would not be first division under U.S. Soccer's rules because Bournemouth's stadium is under 15,000," Stover told Cosmos fans on Sunday, according to Empire of Soccer.

"La Liga wouldn't be first division because Eibar and one other team is under 15K. Atletic Bilbao wouldn't be allowed in the American first division and it's crazy.

"[Requirements have] changed and it's changed every year for the past three years."

Stover said MLS is also complicit in the proposals, claiming people from the league make up the majority of those who make the decisions for U.S. Soccer.

"How can we ever be first division if you keep changing the rules and your committee is made up of nine people from the MLS, someone from the USL, three from the women's league and [NASL commissioner] Bill Peterson?" Stover said.

The increase to 16 teams comes just as the NASL would meet the previous 12-team requirement with plans to add teams in Miami and Puerto Rico for 2016.

"When the Cosmos joined the NASL, there has been a clear pattern of moving the goal on [NASL], and that is something the Department of Justice looks very negatively upon," Stover said.

The NASL has hired high-profile attorney Jeffrey Kessler -- fresh off his successful appeal of Tom Brady's NFL suspension -- to notify U.S. Soccer of potential litigation over the rules, and Stover said he was confident in his ability.

"Our lawyer is as good as they come and he doesn't take cases he thinks he has a chance of losing," Stover said. "Kessler beat the NFL with the Tom Brady Deflategate thing -- and not a little bit -- he whipped their ass!"

Stover said the NASL is now waiting to see how U.S. Soccer moves forward with its proposals.

"NASL made its first move," he said. "Now we are waiting for U.S. Soccer to make the next move. Obviously, we are trying to win the game, but how we win the game we don't necessarily know for sure."