Home NASL & USL More NASL & USL NASL Commissioner’s response to MLS: USSF is the one who makes domestic-import rules

NASL Commissioner’s response to MLS: USSF is the one who makes domestic-import rules


Last week, MLS Commissioner Don Garber, during a visit to Vancouver, suggested that the NASL’s decision to follow the USL and make all Canadian players domestic —  no matter if they played for American teams or Canadian teams — was illegal under U.S. labour law.

On Friday, NASL Commissioner Rishi Sehgal issued the following response regarding his league’s new policy.

“The limitation on foreign players is a rule issued by U.S. Soccer, and one that we’re subject to as a league. We view our new policy to consider Canadian players as domestic as a change that increases opportunities for all players.” 

Basically, Sehgal’s response is that the entire concept of teams having only  a limited number of international slots is entirely based on a policy set by the federation — not lawmakers. For example, no NHL team is required to carry a set number of Canadian or Americans. If the Minnesota Wild wanted to have 20 Russians on its roster, it could. The Edmonton Oilers are free to have Connor McDavid surrounded by Slovaks, if the team’s brass so wished. Likewise, the Los Angeles Dodgers could field a team of Dominicans. The idea that a team is limited in the number of foreigners it can carry — therefore creating a “domestic” designation for some players and an “international” designation for others — is totally a construct of soccer politics.

Remember that former NASL commissioner Bill Peterson went on the record stating that he wished for a change in the rules to allow teams to sign whatever players they wanted, regardless of nationality. Peterson was replaced by Sehgal, who is a lawyer with experience in international contracts.

After Sehgal took over from Peterson at the helm of NASL, the league changed its policy, and will now treat Canadians as domestics no matter where they play.  USL, which has teams affiliated with MLS, has the same league-wide Canadians-as-domestics policy. In the past, many Canadian players have struggled to find work on American NASL and MLS teams because they would take up one of the limited international roster slots. Meanwhile, Canadians knew they could lose their jobs on Canadian teams to American players who were getting domestic status north of the border.

After the 2016 season, MLS loosened the restrictions that allow for Canadians to be domestic players if they satisfy the following requirements:

• Sign with an MLS Academy or sign with an academy approved by MLS and the Canadian Soccer Association before the age of 16

• Sign first pro contract with an MLS team or a USL affiliate of an MLS side.

Garber said that, in the coming years, as more and more Canadians enter approved academies and sign with MLS sides, more Canadians in the league will have domestic status. But, as it stands, the majority of Canadian players still don’t have the same domestic status in MLS that they would get in NASL or USL.


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  1. BCM

    February 17, 2017 at 9:39 pm

    Unless MLS has changed its argument, I think you’re misunderstanding Garber’s position. It is not that US law prohibits the treating of foreign players on par with US. That occurs in the NHS, as you point out, but also in MLB, NBA and NFL. The MLS position was that it could not treat Canadians better than other foreign players. That doesn’t happen in any North American league. Everyone is treated equally. But in MLS, Americans are treated better than everyone else. To place Canadians on par but no one else is certainly not like the NHL example you keep using.

    • Steven Sandor

      February 18, 2017 at 2:31 pm

      Basically, what it boils down to is that soccer is the only pro sport in North America which has “domestic” and “international” distinctions, which comes down to the federation. And that comes back to the idea that MLS is only league that treats Americans better than everybody else — and that NASL and USL treat Americans and Canadians better than everybody else.

  2. John

    February 17, 2017 at 3:13 pm

    It’s considered discrimination under US Labor law to employ citizens from one country favorably but not another. So what the NASL and USL are doing is illegal under U.S. labour law. They can get away with it because no one really cares about the NASL or USL to challenge it. But they do care about the high profile big business MLS and if they changed the rules they would face an immediate court challenge.

    • Eddies Forever

      February 17, 2017 at 5:24 pm

      Its not considered discrimination at all under US law but MLS and Garber will continue to pretend it is. They just want to tie players into the MLS and its AAA USL minor league system it controls, simple as that.

      • marty

        February 17, 2017 at 5:32 pm

        100%. Garber is just power hungry and statements like this show how big of a coward he really is.

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