MLS, Union Playing The Waiting Game

MLS, players have uneasy peace

The MLS season opener is 24 days away, and as of right now, it’s going ahead as scheduled.

Of course, the “as of right now” part of that sentence is key.

The collective bargaining agreement expired last month and it’s hard to envision a scenario in which two sides are farther apart than the league and players union are in this case.

The issues are many, but it boils down to four words:

Money and free agency

Players want free agency and the league would rather listen to Joan Rivers read War and Peace.

The latest on-record comments from both sides are hardly cause for unbridled optimism.

When Thursday’s deadline for a deal came and went, the league released this statement:

“We have listened to the issues raised by the MLS Players Union and the League has made detailed proposals that have addressed these issues, including in the areas of economics, guaranteed contracts, options and the ability of a player to move to another MLS Club if he is released by his current Club.

“These proposals, which represent substantial changes from the current CBA, will significantly increase our spending and provide substantially more rights to the players.”

What that means is, “look, we’ll give you some more money and maybe hold fewer players hostage in between contracts, but that free agency thing? Forget it.”

The players union crafted a statement of their own:

“There simply hasn’t been enough progress made in the negotiations to date to warrant an extension of the old agreement.”

“We have advised our players to keep working for the time being, but as of Friday they will be doing so without a CBA. In the meantime, all options are being considered as the process continues. We are completely committed to forging real changes to the way MLS players are treated.”

That’s code for “yeah, thanks for the crumbs. How about a slice of bread this time? And no, we’re not quite ready to strike yet. But we’re thinking about it.”

As usual with sports labor disputes, there will be no winners if there is a disruption in the league schedule.

Players, most of whom make less than $90,000-per-year, would lose out on wages.

Owners may have more money than the players, but their investment in MLS is also far greater. No one wearing a suit would be happy if the league isn’t playing games later this month.

Of course, fans would be the biggest losers of all. Caught in the middle while two groups argue over money and principles.

It’s hard to pick a side, really.

Both have valid points.

There is common ground, however, should they choose to recognize it.

It is simply this:

A prolonged work stoppage could relegate Major League Soccer to history, much like the North American Soccer League. 

No labor dispute is worth that.

22 thoughts on “MLS, Union Playing The Waiting Game”

  1. I disagree that this would be bad. Let the strike begin, let MLS fold and then have the new NASL take over the players and petition to be the Division I league.

    We get NASL back into the front of professional soccer and they will use the international player contracts to make money like they should. It is about time.

    1. Stevo,I am 100% with you.
      A strike and the subsequent folding of MLS would be the best for US soccer.Althoug we have bigger problems than MLS.

      The USSF is the hart of US soccer problems.After all,MLS is consider our “first divisioin” because USSF said so! Without promotion and relegation,being called “first divisiion ” is just pure semantics. The Impact and the Islanders have allready proved that.

      The new NASL is the our best hope.If they do things right they can become a better league than MLS in no time. Specially if they implement free agency and promotion/relegation.

      If we want to be able to enjoy real soccer,we have to find a way to get rid of the Gulatis and the Garbers,and restructure the USSF.

  2. I hadn’t thought of that angle.

    I wonder how the USSF would respond to such a request in the face of a lengthy MLS work stoppage?

  3. Stevo might have a point…even with this being a WC year. I’m no expert, but I see his point that ‘hey, there’s a whole other league right there’ waiting in the wings, able to absorb the best available MLS talent and put a valuable symbolic shiv in the collective ass of a bad-faith MLS ownership cartel.

    Could even have big publicity value, when you figure

    (a) the American worker is having his ass handed to him right now (a condition not expected to change anytime soon), and
    (b) other MUUUUUCH better treated and compensated major sports’ unions are coming in for collective bargaining renegotiations soon, and this league, with it’s far more sympathetic player/strikers might naturally enter into those future media conversations…especially if a new league (the NASL being a sort of recognizable, nostalgia-laden brand name, as a further bonus) were in place to keep the momentum going for fans.

    Also, I take the point, but sort of don’t by the old saw here, that “fans would be the biggest losers of all”. Even the most rabid fans have far less invested in all this than the yeoman footballers who’d be going out on strike. It takes muchos huevos to be a striking worker in an environment like this:

    Just saying.

    1. re: the fans are the biggest losers

      There are two ways to look at it, IMHO.

      One, when I lost my SuperSonics to OKC, I was (still am) hurt badly.
      Two, fans move on quickly. I have not watch one continuous minute of NBA action since. That was after watching and listening to almost every game for 20 years.

  4. I, unlike everyone else, don’t think this being a World Cup year means anything for soccer in this country. Hasn’t that been the case for 3-4 World Cups now, has it helped soccer in this country at all ? No. Still 15,000 average attendance and bad TV ratings.

    I think the NASL dream is just that. I just don’t see it happening.

    All of the sudden all the new owners, who just lost $30-40 million, are going to jump back in and back a new franchise ? Or are they going to find new owners, after those kind of losses ?

    The old school owners, who owned the whole league, and got money back by selling parts of it, are going to take that risk again ? Oh yeah, and not just take that risk, but do it on the players terms ( worse for owners ), because the players won’t do it any other way..even letting the league fold before giving in ?

    IF you are talking smaller time ( and I thought we were already doing that with MLS ), maybe, but a huge step back for sure.

  5. Stevo is on to something. I think Stevo realizes that the number of immigrants/hispanics now as opposed to the late 70s or early 80s is much much much much much greater. There’s also a ton of Africans & Asians here too. Sure, some of those Asians dont like soccer but others do. And for christ’s sake, or for baby jesus’s sake, please please please please dont play in cities that cant bring out 20k plus to each game…that pretty much means not setting up camp in the soccer-is-a-foriegn-socialist-sport midwest (excluding St. Louis & downtown Dallas…their losses can be covered). The league would essentially exist along the coast (plus chicago) in very cosmopolitan cities with kickass world talent. Of course, somehow we have to get into the copa libertadores in order to give an international context for how kickass we would be. If NASl/MLS teams had the talent to beat Santos or Sao Paolo, then the masses and masses and masses of eurosnobs, who make up the hardcore soccer fans in US, would come out to watch (though some of those eurosnobs are just plain pro-caucasian racist who would might scoff at victories over s. american teams). Without the “international context” for our clubs, the added money delved out for kickass talent would only be good for a couple of years, then the novelty factor would wear off.

  6. The fans are the missing key element to all this mess.
    If we organize and make NOISE,we can turn the balance to the right side.

    If we keep being as silence and peacefull as we have being,the bad guys win.AS SIMPLE AS THAT.

  7. Who thought to start a domestic soccer league with executives with little background in soccer, a league structure fundamentally different from the unparalled successful league structure used in the rest of the world, and headed by a guy who ran NFL Europe, a league which FAILED despite massive subsidization by the NFL?

    1. David,
      The correct question is why did owners invest $100s of millions of dollars in a country with soccer fans that wouldn’t appreciate it.

      INSPITE of the PATHETIC fan support, MLS is still making it work.
      I get to see very good soccer for the amount of revenue they bring in.

      Do I wish it were better? Yeah, but read the comments on this site,
      soccer isn’t supported by the soccer fans of this country.
      The “I hope Landon plays in Europe” crowd isn’t exactly helping my wishes.

      1. They were duped Charles. Remember, these owners only sort of did this on their own. USSF had to promise to start a league in order to get the world cup. The success of the world cup is what then was used to sell soccer to potential investors. Some of those high profile investors got the bug, though not the profits, and now they are seeking more profitable soccer avenues by buying or investing in clubs overseas.
        I actually hope Landon Donovan plays for CLub America. Playing in Europe does nothing for our league. Playing for a Mexican team gets Mexican-Americans familiar with American players. Remember, 6million people in the US alone watch the Club America vs Guadelaja Chivas game annually on US television (telemundo, univision, etc). Maybe this will translate to them leaving the TV on for the MLS game, maybe not.

  8. You guys are smoking the wacky tobacco.

    Maybe it would help if you were old enough to remember the collapse of the original NASL. No one is going to pour hundreds of millions of more dollars down the rat-hole of pro soccer in the US if MLS folds. It’s not gonna happen.

    When MLS is a huge success and is making tons of money, then it might be time to rethink things. As it stands we have a players union that is demanding a bigger cut from owners who are losing money. What’s a bigger cut of negative income? The players should be happy they are getting “crumbs” – they are getting bigger wage increases then most Americans these days.

    You signed the contract, guys, knowing what the deal was.

    Bill Archer nails it here:

    Most of you guys are too young to have a clue what it was like with no pro soccer in the USA. We can’t copy the system they use in Europe, because the money and the fan support and the history simply are not there. MLS may evolve into something like Europe later when the money and the fan support are there, but you simply can’t snap your fingers and make money and fan support and a century of history magically appear out of nowhere.

    The new NASL is not your savior, guys. Sorry to tell you this, but you are delusional. They have even less money to pay players than MLS does. If you think killing MLS will allow us to create a true promotion/relegation system like they have in Europe, you are beyond delusional. Teams below MLS appear and disappear with alarming regularity. Getting relegated would be a death sentence, whereas promoted teams simply would not have the resources to survive in MLS. You can quote USL “success” in CCL all you want, but that doesn’t change the business reality: MLS is financially stable, and USL/NASL is not.

    MLS single entity and professional business management have created a pro soccer entity in the US that can survive and grow over the long term. It has a long term vision for success that is working. And you want to throw all that away for a chance to live a purist fantasy about promotion/relegation? That’s extremely childish.

    Let’s see if the new NASL can survive longer than the old one did, before we indulge in fantasy about killing off MLS and replacing it with the NASL.

    1. Thanks USA2010,
      That was the best article I have seen in a long time.

      It really seems to boil down to soccer fans in this country don’t support their home leagues…and then they blame the home leagues.
      They come up with all the excuses we have seen over and over and over again. The MLS top brass don’t run it properly, we need developement camps, pro/rel. etc.
      Or the best one, they don’t pay the players/treat the players right.

      Give me a break. US soccer is mediocre because of one thing:
      I get the feeling the people that don’t go to the games ( causing the problem ) are the same ones complaining.

      LA draws 100,000 for Galaxy versus big time Europe team.
      National teams draws huge crowds all the time.
      LA vs. LA in LA for a playoff game ? Can’t sell 25,000 tickets.

      BTW, I was a huge Sounders fan in NASL and in MLS. MLS is WAY BETTER run than NASL.

  9. people need to understand that there is fan support in the United States. its just that fans in the United States choose not to support a league that goes against what soccer is about. I get up at 5 am on the weekends to watch European soccer than that is followed by Serie A and back to FMF. MLS is a joke and treat American talent like shit. These young kids are being paid and are forced to move abroad to seek a payday.

    I hope MLS fails this way NASL can absorb the successful clubs and do soccer right in this country. All the clubs that are bleeding red should not be subsidized by successful MLS franchises. Wake up people don’t be force fed division 1 soccer because USSF says its division 1.

  10. Earth to Europosers: If MLS dies, then soccer in America is on life support, at best. You think there is tons of support for soccer across the country? Well then where are the television numbers that back up your claim? Show us the statistics that prove pro soccer is on par with other pro and college sports.

    People aren’t watching soccer because they really aren’t that interested in the game. Not because soccer isn’t set up the way it is in other countries that have independant clubs that play in leagues with promotion/relegation and where soccer is THE ONLY SPORT THAT MATTERS! Unlike the U.S. where there are tons of other sports that they are more interested in.

    Do you stupid fools understand the huge differences? Or are you going to continue in your drug induced make believe fantasy where all will be right if we only followed the rest of the soccer world?

  11. chris youre an idiot and you need to settle down calling people Europosers. I support soccer not just in europe but in latin america (mostly Mexico). you are getting outraged about us calling an end to MLS and it may very well be but the americans who are watching soccer will continue to do so even if a domestic league does not exist. Unlike other sports in USA, soccer is a global sport and trying to fool existing soccer fans that this is a legitimate division 1 league is just plain ludicrous. mls gets their ass handed to them when they play other clubs in Concacaf. the beauty of competition is that we, as consumers have choices, and i pick to spend my saturday and sundays on a better product

    1. you fools…you’re too young to remember what it was like from 1985-1996, when the US didn’t have a top flight league. You might be “willing” to continue following the sport but you won’t be watching any US league, apart from what scraps you might find on the internet.

      This is OUR LEAGUE. How can you possibly be so blase about it’s folding.

  12. You guys are drunk. Hoping MLS fails so NASL would be Div 1 in the US…… ya right.

    And people who get up at 5am to watch Serie A ……WOW!!
    Italian club football has been dreck for a decade.

  13. MLS is a lie since the very begining.Manipulation starts with the very name of the league itself. If it is a “single entity”,then it is not really a league.Isn’t it?

    A league is the union of independently run clubs organizing a yearly tournament.

    MLS is one private club,pretending to be diferent clubs.It is a lie!

    By imposing a system completly out of tune with international soccer,without any consideration of the fans and existing clubs.They showed arrogance,and ignorance of our game.

    The system implemented matters.There are values that our game stands for. Leaving 30 States completly OUT of a chance of being represented by a club,is not right.
    Our game should not be a tool to make profits for a narrow group of interests.Soccer is good for the comunities,for youg players to be involved in a positive practice that would keep them out of trouble,for making a healthier society in general.

    Soccer should also be profitable for investors; but bussiness should not be the primary goal of our game.

    Promotion and relegations stands for such RIGHT principles that it should be implemented EVEN if there was a chance it would fail. By not implementing a system that could give every city a chance to enjoy live soccer,we fail without even trying!!

  14. I don’t know why I actually read the comments on this site. WISHING for MLS to fail? What a joke. Do you realize the damage that would do to the sport in this country? The anti-soccer press would have a field day. Let’s recap: MLS is finally stable, we have owners who put in HUGE amounts of cash for new soccer stadia across the country, but we want them to fail so that a bunch of unproven and cash-starved NASL wanna be’s can run soccer in this country.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *