Garber confident that MLS will avoid work stoppage

Is it posturing, or is it genuine optimism?

Hard to say, but Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber likes his league’s chances of starting the 2010 season without either a lockout or strike.

He spoke at the SoccerEx convention in Manchester, England, on Tuesday, telling the Associated Press, “We will not lock them out, and we are confident they will not go on strike. We will not make any decisions just to avoid a work stoppage. We’ve got to make decisions that will ensure the long-term financial success of the MLS, and I’m sure we will not make any decisions to prove a point.

“I don’t think any of our players want to go on strike, and we are taking their issues very seriously. The expectations are that the season will start on time, and the expectation is that we’ll reach an agreement with our players.”

The season is slated to open on March 25 in Seattle with the Sounders hosting the Philadelphia Union, but while the league has stated it will not lock out the players, there is no similar pledge in place from the players not to strike while negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement.

Garber is still hoping to get a new deal done, telling the AP, “It’s conceivable, but my expectation is not to be negotiating an agreement an hour before kickoff. I would describe these as big-league problems. Years ago we had nothing to fight about, so we didn’t have labor issues.

“Now that the league is growing and there is a bit more at stake, the players want to see improvement in their salaries and their working conditions. And we need to understand, we need to listen and take their issues into consideration.”

I’m not prone to rampant optimism, but I don’t think Garber would go on record with comments like these unless he was fairly certain that the season opener will be going ahead as planned.

Still, until the ink is dry on a new collective bargaining agreement, it’s hard to rule anything out.

33 thoughts on “Garber confident that MLS will avoid work stoppage”

  1. I think Garber is once again trying to let everyone know that as far as the MLS is concerned they won’t be responsible if the players decide to strike. I’m sure he’s optimistic about it not happening but in the end I don’t think he has a clue as to what will really happen. I think he’s probably a little scared even. If the players do decide to strike it could do some serious damage to the league.

    Did you see what Don said?

    “Now that the league is growing and there is a bit more at stake, the players want to see improvement in their salaries and their working conditions. And we need to understand, we need to listen and take their issues into consideration.”

    He speaks up front of “salaries”, but doesn’t really spell out the “working conditions” portion. Most real fans know this is more about players rights and free movement than it is about salaries. With more rights for the players the salaries will improve. I just think it’s funny that Garber throws out the salary as the main issue still not resolved.

    I for one am on the players side but only to an extent. I think the players do need more rights and more freedom to move. I also think that needs to be done carefully so things don’t get out of whack too fast and hurt the league as a whole. The players union and the MLS need to figure this out fast so it stops being too much of a focal point for everyone in the press, the fans and the players. If an agreement can’t be reached in the next week then the players need to say what their plans are going to be and where things will stand until the end of the season. I sure don’t want this dark cloud over the sport durring the season. If you can’t work something out now then it will need to be shelved until next year.

    Bad year for this to come about. Bad economy, World Cup, and the league is really starting to build some steam. I say come back next year to the table and make things work then.


    1. The players lost me when they said it WASNT about the money. I would have been on their side if they said it WAS about the money. They want to alter something that could undermine the foundation of the league. I want a bigger salary cap, but what i dont want is changing to the foundations of the league. A league that was founded on lessons learned from 100 years of sporting leagues from all over the world.

        1. NFL is in a battle right now in front of the Supreme Court, arguing they are a single entity.
          Moderately successful, as the most biggest revenue producing and best run in the league in the world. Same as MLS, no, but quite a bit different scenerios too.

          Consider this, the NFL makes way more money than the EPL, inspite of the fact that they only have the US as an audience and aren’t located in the second biggest market in the US.

          1. The NFL is not a single entity like MLS, with centralized registration and ownership of player contracts.

            The United States is six times bigger than England population wise.

            Again, please tell us about these proven, sucessful sports leagues with MLS single entity structure.

          2. David is asking the entirely wrong question. Single Entity is a new concept, so there won’t be any successful Single Entity leagues yet; it is too soon.

            The proper question is: name one non-single-entity pro soccer league in the USA that has lasted longer then MLS and has been more successful than MLS WITHOUT going bankrupt.


            MLS will have lasted as long NASL this season, with far greater stability than NASL ever had (number of teams in NASL varied wildly each year; there was never a year without teams being folded, moved, or sold – usually all three). Yes NASL broke new ground and laid the foundations for MLS’ success today; I’m a firm believer that we don’t give nearly enough credit to what NASL did right (I lived through it; I know); however the business model that NASL had was completely unsustainable. It could not survive an economic downturn, whereas MLS has survived economic recessions and continues to grow.

            Wake up, youngsters: you weren’t around when NASL folded and when we had no domestic pro soccer. You don’t know what that was like. You can talk all you want about how the rest of the world does it – that’s great, I wish we could do it that way too – but they have a head start, more than a century of history to build on, and soccer is their number one sport and national passion and rich people will spend huge amounts of money keeping old clubs afloat financially, because these clubs are community symbols, not mere businesses. Soccer in the USA has none of these advantages and supporters, and won’t have anything like them in our lifetimes.

            We need a system that works NOW, not in some mythical far off future. MLS has figured out a system that works NOW – survival is the number one law. If MLS survives, it can grow and improve. Without survival, all your talk about soccer purism are nothing but moonshine and day dreams.

        2. David just pretended to ask a question and didn’t want to listen to anything but his answer.
          An NFL model is what MLS should be striving for. As I said before MLS is setup different but needs to be too. Obviously no fan support for soccer in this country, so they do what they have to do.

          The European model for soccer is a joke and would never work in this country. The idea of having no chance of winning ever and still supporting your team just doesn’t fly in the ultra-competitive US.

          1. Nope. You said MLS’s setup was based on 100 years of experience of successful sports leagues. Yet you cannot name a single successful sports league with an MLS single entity setup.

            I don’t know what you mean by a “European model.” If you are referring the the league setup used everywhere else around the world, and which has led to soccer being the most popular sport on the planet, then you should just say so.

            The rest of your statements are speculation which is unsupported by any facts (such and such would “never” work here etc.).

            And I’m old enough to remember NASL, thank you very much. Being trapped by fear of past failure is a recipe for mediocrity.

            Note to America: soccer is an international sport that operates in a world-wide marketplace. Trying to operate a closed-off, cloistered league with different rules than everybody else is not a recipe for success.

  2. “I’m not prone to rampant optimism, but I don’t think Garber would go on record with comments like these unless he was fairly certain that the season opener will be going ahead as planned.”

    I think he would say this regardless. He has a product to sell and a potential labor stoppage could halt this product. He is trying to reassure his customers that it’s okay to buy his product.

    1. How exactly are they treating it like a Mickey Mouse league ?

      Are they just doing stuff you don’t like personally ?
      Like no promotion-relegation or the Sounders using Rave Green as their color ?

      Give us an example of what you are talking about. How would Reece solve the MLS problems ?

  3. I agree with Rex.
    First of all, it IS about the money.
    Second of all, it SHOULD be about the money.

    What are you striking for, if not for your own pocketbook ?
    They came up with system, love it or hate it, where investors would actually invest in soccer in the US….beyond belief that they did with the low level of support it gets…but they did, now the players are striking to change that ?
    IF there policy was, this league is on the verge of making some dough and we want a cut, everyone that cares about MLS at all would be on their side.

  4. who cares! there is a reason why most of these guys earn 30k or less a year. no other club wants them on this whole planet! that is why they are in mls and its “not about the money” because they know if salary cap goes up clubs can go out and buy talent and chuck them to the weeds.

  5. Lessons learned over the past 100 years…BULLSHIT.

    MLS can’t compete even in Concacaf tournaments and their really isn’t that big of a gap between second division and MLS.

    The only thing going for MLS is expansion which brings excitement only for a little while.

    1. MLS can’t compete in CONCACAF you are correct.
      The reason being MLS ? Wrong, the reason being soccer fans in the US. IF soccer fans supported their local team, ie Seattle, MLS wouldn’t compete, MLS would crush.

      1. Well, we may have crashed out of the tournament a little too early, but we have won it before. And Columbus is still in it now.

        Considering that MLS sides are playing with 24 man rosters and they’re basically just playing for pride (i.e. meager prize money). We’re not doing so bad.

        Also, another reason for our lack of success is could be how our teams qualify. I don’t want to start a playoff argument, but under the current system, we’re not necessarily sending the best teams (IMHO) to the tourney. No disrespect to RSL, but sending a team who finishes 7th in the league with a losing record isn’t the best recipe for success in an international competition.

        1. I am going to disagree with you. RSL won more games last year than any other team. The difference between a regular season 7th and 1st was nothing, as proved by the fact that the 7 seed beat the 1 seed three out of four times they played.
          I think maybe you ARE disrespecting RSL…respectfully disrespecting them though 😉

  6. I’m with the don on this one. New CBA or no new CBA, I expect everyone to be playing come first kick.

    But if they continue to play without an agreement in place, I’m really worried about what happens after the World Cup. I would think that owners expect a bump in attendance figures on account of latent World Cup fever. Which also means it’s the perfect time for the players to stick it to the man.

    If anything, I just hope they can agree to disagree for just one more season.

  7. @WSW

    If you don’t think the quality of play hasn’t gone up significantly since 1996 then you either haven’t been watching or you are being dishonest.

    1. WSW dont get fancy.
      We are struggling to beat central american and caribeans clubs.
      MLS struggles against USL clubs.

      At the growth rate MLS is following ,it would take a century to beat Mexican clubs.

  8. Anyone who thinks that the measure of MLS “success” is how well we do in the CONCACAF Champions League is not thinking clearly.

    The quality of play in MLS is significantly improved from 1996. Anyone who says otherwise either hasn’t been watching, or is dishonest. What hasn’t changed is lack of depth, selection of teams and the schedule. MLS teams simply do not have the depth of talent to play in multiple tournaments at the same time, and when these tournaments get started MLS players haven’t played a serious match in three or four months and have barely started their spring training camp sessions. And single entity, parity, and the playoff system make it difficult to send MLS’s “best” teams.

    With a much bigger salary cap, a deeper bench with a proper reserve team of talented players, and either a season that starts sooner, or a longer pre-season training schedule to prepare for CCL, MLS could do very well in CCL. But that would cost MLS owners a lot more money, to compete in a competition that many of them obviously don’t see the point of – the money CCL brings them is simply not enough to be worth their bother. And it’s not like MLS fans actually bother to show up for CCL matches in any significant numbers (with rare exceptions) in any case.

    You want MLS to open those purse strings and take CCL seriously? Start showing up in greater numbers for regular season MLS games. When MLS is making actual profits, it will have the luxury of taking CCL more seriously

  9. And as for the players, it’s a bit crazy to expect that owners who are losing enormous amounts of money on MLS are suddenly going to change their business model simply because the players union doesn’t like the fact that their players have fewer options under contract than players in other sports and other soccer leagues do.

    Well, those other sports and other soccer leagues actually make a lot of money. MLS loses money. Is the players union offering to take up its “fair share” of the monetary loss that the owners are enduring? I mean you can’t have it both ways: how can you expect to have a “greater share” of non-existent profits? How can you sign a contract with a business and then ask them to change their business model that you agreed to?

    If the players union wants to destroy MLS, Garber should be worried. Otherwise this is all a lot of bluff and hot air and the union will see reason soon enough. One thing is clear to me: despite our differences of opinion, the ownership and the fans have a long term interest in the survival of MLS. I’m not so sure the same can be said for the players union.

    The players union of the NASL was also quite strident and unreasonable, even when the economic underpinnings of that league were collapsing. Players can play elsewhere; union lawyers can get other jobs. Ultimately they can destroy this thing and (shibboleths aside) simply not give a damn about the fans or the sport.

    1. MLS teams are profitable, it’s just all the profits are on the books of SUM (owned by MLS owners) and not on the team’s books.

      Rich successful businessmen are not lining up to drop $30 million on MLS franchise rights because MLS teams are a money losing venture.

  10. No, I agree with WSW.

    I mean, in 1996 we couldn’t beat Premiership teams, and we can’t now. So obviously there is no growth at all.

    I mean, in 1996 Manchester City couldn’t win the Premier League, and they can’t win it now, so obviously Man City has the same quality they did then.

    IN 1996 Chelsea couldn’t win the Champions League, and they couldn’t in 2009 either, so Chelsea’s quality hasn’t improved whatsoever either.

    WSW is on to something here. Because MLS squads with limited roster space and a hard salary cap are having trouble winning a minor (to MLS interms of win bonuses and to the international community in terms of prestige) competition against Mexican sides with no such roster limitations or salary restrictions, it means that Major League Soccer has not improved whatsoever in the onfield category in the last 14 years.

    1. So if my son couldn’t beat me in sports when he was 3 and still can’t when he is 9, he has not gotten any better ? Wrong.

      After watching Everton without Landon in the middle of the EPL and way better than some of those bottom teams…MLS might be closer than you think. IF only we could get fans to turn out, because as USA2010 says profits are what is going to drive this.

    2. Please point to an objective, measurable metric of performance that is evidence of the alleged increase in the quality of play in MLS.

      1. I could care less about “measurable metric”, and so could the majority of MLS fans.

        I only need to watch the games, as I have done since game one in 1996. I haven’t missed a nationally televised game yet, I’ve had Direct Kick for five or six years, and I was a season ticket holder for the first two years of the Fire. The overall play in this league is much better, the talent is much better, and the rosters are much deeper. For me, it’s not just the talent in the starting eleven, but the talent off the bench. The fact that we have had expansion drafts in the last three years, and the quality of the league has not suffered by being stretched thin.

        You can nitpick any ole “metrics” you want. I don’t watch soccer for the “metrics” behind it all, I watch for the quality of the game on the pitch. MLS in 1999 was pretty good, MLS in 2009 was freakin’ awesome to view.

        1. So it’s just your opinion, unsupported by any facts. Got it.

          MLS teams used to win Concacaf Champions League. Now most MLS teams can’t get out of play-in matches and the group stage. That is evidence that the quality of play of MLS teams is not improving.

          Results are what matter. That’s what a “metric” is- an objective, tangible measurement of merit. The results on the pitch don’t support your position that the quality of play in MLS is improving.

          1. What facts do you use?

            Where are you metrics?

            Just because United won the CONCACAF Champions CUP (there was no Champions League in 1998) and the Galaxy did so in 2000 doesn’t mean squat.

            The Champions Cup format at the time was totally different. It wasn’t a season long event, but one held over a relatively short span. In fact, I believe all the games were held in one primary location.

            You wish to compare apples to oranges, sir, and it simply doesn’t work.

            You also fail to show any “metrics” about how much value MLS clubs are putting on this event. We do know that many of the MLS clubs involved in the current CL were fielding “B” teams. My beloved DC United did not put full strength squads on the pitch during many of the group games because they were more focused on qualifying for the MLS Cup playoffs than they were the Champions League quarterfinal. That is a fact reported by Steven Goff of the Soccer Insider blog, and readily admitted by players.

            So your whole factual “metrics” are based on the facts that a 1998 full strength DC United won a much smaller and shorter CONCACAF Champions Cup while a 2009 DC United “B” team failed to get out of the group stages because it was not a priority, so therefore the quality of MLS has not improved in the last decade?

            Quite the argument there, sir.

  11. Here’s some other facts for you who think the pinnacle of MLS quality was when our clubs won the CONCACAF Champions Cup.

    In 1998, DC United played three games over five days to win the CONCACAF Champions Cup. THREE GAMES in FIVE DAYS. They beat Joe Public, Leon, and Toluca. Impressive beating the Mexican teams, until you realise this five day tourny was played in August, when MLS was in midseason and Mexico was either in preseason or had just started.

    One more fact: every game in the tournament was played over those five days, and ALL IN WASHINGTON D.C.

    I’m sure these facts on the Galaxy’s 2000 title will also impress. They won THREE GAMES in FIVE DAYS also. They beat Real Espana (Honduras), DC United on PK’s, and Olimpia (Honduras) to win it all. Yes, 2 clubs from the mighty Honduran league that was between Autumn and Spring seasons, and one MLS side. Oh, and yes, all games in the tourny were held in LOS ANGELES.

    Maybe if the 2009 event had been held over five days in one city during other leagues preseason or off season, the host MLS team would win it again.

    But you can’t really compare these two event, held over five days apiece, in one MLS city, against teams out of season, to the current Champions League format that takes place over the course of eight months and involves travel to other nations.

    Good enough metrics?

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