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San Diego’s 1904 FC to join USL after court ruling

SAN DIEGO – The North American Soccer League announced Tuesday it has canceled its 2018 season, which was scheduled to be the debut season of 1904 Football Club, a new San Diego-area team backed by several well-known current and former European and African soccer stars.

The NASL has been locked in a legal battle with the U.S. Soccer Federation ever since the country’s top soccer officials relegated the league from second-tier status, which it shared with the United Soccer League, to third-tier status. The NASL filed an antitrust lawsuit against the USSF late last year to challenge the decision, which made the NASL the country’s third- tier league behind Major League Soccer and the USL.

“The focus of the antitrust suit to date has been obtaining a preliminary injunction to save the 2018 season,” NASL Interim Commissioner Rishi Sehgal said in a statement. “Unfortunately, with USSF’s decision and the loss of the preliminary injunction, playing the 2018 season is no longer a possibility.”

NASL officials said the antitrust suit will now shift to “securing the long-term advancement of soccer in this country, not only for the NASL, but for all soccer fans, clubs, and communities impacted by the USSF’s restrictions on competition.”

Even before the entire season was canceled, the league previously said that amid the legal proceedings, its season would be forced to start in the summer rather than the spring. 1904 FC was scheduled to begin its inaugural campaign Aug. 11 playing at Torero Stadium at the University of San Diego.

Now, with the future of the NASL in serious doubt, the future of 1904 FC is very unclear. Goal.com reporter Ives Galarcep reported the team will attempt to join the second-tier USL in 2019.

A team representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the team’s future. 1904 FC’s social media pages have been dormant since Feb. 8, aside from an Instagram post Monday showing team co-founder Demba Ba scoring a recent goal in the Turkish Super League.

Ba, a forward from Senegal with 99 goals to his name in Europe’s top leagues, is one of several well-known soccer stars to have a hand in the team. The most famous is Chelsea Football Club midfielder Eden Hazard, who also stars for the Belgian National Team and is widely considered one of the world’s top players.

Other founders include French National Team midfielder Yohan Cabaye, who plays for Crystal Palace in the English Premier League, and Moussa Sow, a French-born Senegalese forward known for his acrobatic goal-scoring abilities in France and Turkey’s top leagues.

The club’s owners, according to the team website, are Bob Watkins, a San Diego State University graduate and chairman of the U.S. Rugby Foundation; Alexandre Gontran, a French coach credited with developing Ba’s skills and convincing the founders to consider San Diego as the destination for their team; and Vagno Chandara, a Parisian former professional futsal player.

The team’s 1904 name was derived from the city’s S and D initials — S is the 19th letter in the alphabet and D the fourth. It’s a number that’s sometimes been used as slang or associated with the city.