MLS, Players Union Still Talking…For Now

After a couple of days worth of meetings in Washington D.C. with federal mediator George H. Cohen, Major League Soccer and the MLS Players Union agree on only one thing:

There isn’t a work stoppage.

Right now.

Here’s the net result of the meetings so far, a joint statement about the progress of the negociations:

“MLS and the players’ union have agreed to continue collective bargaining agreement discussions with the FMCS.”

The Washington Post’s Steven Goff reports that the sides aren’t expected to meet today, however.

Guess this is the day everyone’s planning to tour the Smithsonian.

So, this is good news, right? There’s still no strike, and the season is still slated to get under way soon.

Well, yeah.

Until you read this on the CBC Web site.

Toronto FC’s Nick Garcia, one of their player representatives, is throwing down the gauntlet.

“We are united as a union and if we need to strike, we will,” he told the CBC. “We’re anticipating not having the season starting (on time). As of now, for us, we’re very far apart — even with the mediator there in D.C. We’re hoping things can get done, but quite frankly I don’t think we’re confident things will.”

Oh, and that starting the season under the old CBA idea?

Not happening, according to Garcia.

“We’re not prepared do that,” the said. “That’s one thing we are not going to (do). We are prepared and willing to not start the season with the current CBA.”

Not to be an alarmist, but this may not be going well.

“We, as a union, have come more than half-way (in the negotiations),” Garcia said. “To this point, the league hasn’t taken us seriously, so for me I don’t think real issues have been addressed and I know other guys on other teams feel the same way.”

Now, I suppose it’s possible that Garcia is just shooting his mouth off and his sentiments are not the prevailing ones among the rank and file.

But if Garcia is speaking for the players, things might be about to get even nastier between the owners and players.

22 thoughts on “MLS, Players Union Still Talking…For Now”

  1. If Garcia feels comfortable enough making these direct statements, then I would guess it’s the general sentiment of the players. Which sucks. I just got into MLS at end of last season, and now they’re going to strike. And who knows if this league can withstand a strike– of any duration.

  2. I’d love to know this halfway that Garcia is talking about and the leagues counter proposal but we never will. For all those you think the current system CBA system stinks then please read the article below….seems to me that they end this and make a deal especially if the league has given them a little more freedom.

    Two Major League Soccer vets have new beginnings. But the MLS Players’ Union has lost the poster boys in its ongoing dispute with the league.

    As Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations resumed this week under the guidance of federal mediator George H. Cohen — who, before being appointed by U.S. president Barack Obama, was a pro-union labour lawyer — two key players were traded and got new contracts. Defender Adrian Serioux was dealt by Toronto FC to Houston, while goalkeeper Kevin Hartman was sent by Kansas City to FC Dallas.

    Both players are linked by a common thread: They were veterans being used as examples by the MLSPU of why the current system doesn’t work; that teams could sit on players and stunt their careers.

    Now, both players are back on the job — and neither will miss a league game, or a pay cheque.

    Here you go, Mr. Cohen. MLS doesn’t restrict movement, does it?

    Things that make you go … hmmm. MLS now can argue that the system works; that no player will have his career stunted by the right-of-refusal system, which is already complex enough that most fans and even players don’t understand. Under current rules, no team can indefinitely sit on a players’ rights.

    In a nutshell — all players are signed to the league. When a contract expires, the old team holds the rights. If the player re-ups with the league and another MLS club wants him, that club can make a claim for him.

    The old team’s right of first refusal last for 48 hours after that. Not forever.

    It can’t be extended because of the spite of a GM or the whims of a coach.

    So, under the current right-of-refusal system, this how the Serioux trade would have shaken down.

    Serioux would have re-signed with the central office and Houston declared its intent to take him at that salary.

    TFC then had 48 hours to exercise its right of first refusal. Director of soccer Mo Johnston had three options:

    * Take back Serioux at the MLS-approved salary figure;

    * Use the 48 hours to make a deal with the team that wanted him — Houston.

    * Or, wait the 48 hours, lose Serioux’s rights, and have Houston claim him without compensation.

    The problem is that most fans — and even members of the players’ union — believe that the current right-of-first-refusal rule allows a team to sit on a player’s rights indefinitely. Not a lot of people have read the legalese, or bothered to go through the league rulebook. Fair enough. Reading rulebooks is sort of like having to go through Vanity Fair — that was the longest 1,200 pages of my life. Thanks, English prof.

    MLS has a history of orchestrating deals to facilitate the wishes of players. In 2008, American star Brian McBride decided to come back to MLS the English Premiership.

    TFC was at the top of the ladder when it came to securing his allocation rights. But McBride made it clear he wanted to go to Chicago. No shortage of league pressure was placed on TFC to make a deal happen.

    The players might complain about lack of freedom; but central control also means the league will also help and persuade its GMs to make deals in order to make the league stronger.

    If it wasn’t for this system then we would not have a league and investors eager to buy into it. So the players say it is not about money. Well after reading this to me it appears they want this system replaced because the current system only allows them to negotiate with the league and unless they have teams outside the MLS then they have zero leverage. So this is entirely about money! They want the leverage of teams competing against each other driving up their market value thus getting a bigger contract. I’m definitely for the players getting paid more and having bigger contracts but at this moment to strike is obscene when they have spent 14 years building this up and the league almost folded 7-8 years ago and so now they want to risk it all when some of these owners they are trying to get more from are the ones that kept them a lot them employed when they could have struck and walked away from their losses.

  3. I agree that a strike would be a bad thing. But it seems to me that the owners and the league have more to lose. If MLS goes bust the best players can go to the best leagues ala Donovan, Dempsey, etc… The good players can go to lesser leagues around the world and the rest go home. Where will the owners go? The system referenced by DClee works in the NFL, MLB, etc… because there’s no other league offering silly money. But soccer is different. As a player my choices shouldn’t be limited to TFC and Houston.

    I realise that MLS is a fledgeling league and some controls are required to help the league survive its birth, but MLS is about to commit suicide in the process.

  4. I agree with man99utd,

    The league stands to lose so much.
    If a player making $50k a year doesn’t have a league to play in, what does he make ?
    IF an owner of the league with a franchise valued at $100 million ( LA, Seattle probably more, huh ? ) doesn’t have a league, what does he lose ? All of it. It turns VERY quickly.

    Someone I read earlier compared this to 1979 in the NASL. I was a Chicago Sting fan back then, move to Seattle shortly after, but you can see the same type of situation here. Teams like Chicago aren’t that far away from not having enough fans, and teams like Seattle will have enough fans but they will dissappear VERY quickly if places like Chicago don’t.

    2,000 of us sitting in an empty Kingdome in’82, while they announced the attendance at 5-10k wasn’t pretty…..this was after years of 25k, playoff games at 50-60k, etc.

  5. I just fail to see how the players would benefit in any way from a work stoppage.
    I am not sure MLS as a whole has gained a strong enough foothold in the US to survive a strike. And if (god forbid) MLS folds, 95% of the current players are going to go DOWN the soccer ladder, not up.
    While I agree that MLS needs to make playing in their league more attractive to players in general, the players also need to realize that in almost every case there is a comparable player at a comparable salary that could conceivably replace him if MLS wanted to go that route.

  6. Nice to see the players have a level-headed guy like Nick Garcia representing them. Wow…. i wouldnt negotiate with that guy… Dont know why he wants free agency… no team would want that cancer on their team…. except for a team that has a history of ‘brilliant’ personnel moves like TFC.

  7. Maybe these players are just really damn tired of playing in a league that is permanently entitled to first div status, imposes mediocrity on it’s own clubs, treats it’s players poorly, and does it all on the debt of gratitude their die hard supporters falsely grant them for being the only thing standing between no first div soccer at all.

    Maybe they’re noticing that we lead the globe in world cup ticket sales, but can’t generate one cable tv viewer for every 25 that WWE gets.

    Maybe they are sick of a league that is all about making club soccer work in their model, instead of making club soccer work in the United States.

    Survey says?

    1. No building could be big if the foundation is fake.

      I dont know why is it so tough for some “soccer fans” to realize that what’s holding our growth as a soccer nation is the set of rules we have been imposed.

      This “league” is a joke since the begining.Starting with its own name. If it is a single entity;is it really a league????????????

      Soccer is a global game,a game of passion and symbols,where the clubs colors mean things,where promotion and relegation includes everybody,not a hand picked few.

      By creating an entity they way they did,they showed us their lack of knowledge and respect for this game.The same lack of knowledge that NIKE showed when they tried to redesign Barcelona kits and included some white stripes on in.Ignoring that white was a symbol of the Castilla kingdom and therefore everything that barca fans dislike,including of course their archirivals Real Madrid.

      By creating fake clubs and therefore fake symbols,this entity is as far from having a real soccer flavor as it could be.Real soccer clubs are not the result of mass production,are nor burgers.

      I dont think a strike would set us back,as some are saying on this forums. How further away from real soccer could we be than with this synthetic entity?????????

      1. Roger, your “logic” is pure fantasy. Maybe (probably!) you weren’t alive when the NASL folded. Trust me, if MLS weren’t around now we would have nothing. MLS isn’t “holding us back”; it is holding us up – as in building a foundation.

        You can cry all you want about how you “want a pony” – but wishing for it won’t magically make it appear out of nowhere. Show us your billions of dollars in cold hard cash, and show us your business plan, to make your “ideal” soccer league “just like the rest of the world has” work in the real world, here-and-now, here in the USA. Otherwise, no rational person should listen to you.

        This isn’t Europe. This isn’t Latin America. Soccer is a minor league sport here. Soccer has huge, well entrenched, much more popular competitors in other sports. Soccer is going to lose huge amounts of money running pro leagues in this country – you have to have a business plan that deals with that reality. If you institute your purist dream about “how soccer is supposed to be run” here in the USA, your league will be dead within a few of years – if it ever gets off the ground at all. It’s been tried. It’s not going to work. You have to adjust your business plan to suit local conditions.

        But what do you care – you only care about your “real soccer purist fan” baloney. You’ve never run a real business in your life.

  8. Seriously guys, get this figured out soon. A strike is the last thing the MLS needs right now. Landon is doing great in Everton, Seattle is selling out their games, Philadelphia starts, World Cup is this year. This could be one of the biggest season for MLS if they play their cards right. Give the players their freedom. Don’t you want to treat the players the best that you can? Why would you want all of your talent to jump ship to another league? I don’t get it. Either way, this has got to be figured out soon. Many are already anticipating this season, and shutting it down would be detrimental for the future of MLS.

  9. This open hostility from Nick Garcia and the MLSPU has the stink of the NFLPU all over it.

    Remember the NFLPU has a strong motive to kill off single entity. They put MLSPU up to it last time with the lawsuit against single entity, which they lost.

    The Arena Football League closed down due to labor costs, and is coming back, this time as a single entity league. Now MLSPU is trying to defang single entity by trying to bring back free agency within the single entity, which kills off the single entity concept by forcing teams to bid against each other.

    The single entity AFL coming back, and now threat of an MLSPU strike. Coincidence? I think not.

    1. The NFL is not a single entity structure, and especially not the way MLS is a single entity.

      Everyone says that “the rest of the world” soccer league system won’t work in the US. Anyone care to provide an actual argument, supported by evidence and facts, to support that contention?

      1. Fnord wasn’t saying the NFL is a Single Entity. He was stating that the NFLPU wants to kill the concept in MLS. His evidence is the lawsuit that the players brought against the league when MLS was still in it’s infancy was the brainchild of the NFLPU. The league won but it cost them $10m to defend.

        My argument that “the rest of the world” soccer league system won’t work here is simple. Find me one owner in all of North America who is going to pay a franchise fee and suffer the losses at startup of tens of millions with the knowledge their club may get relegated.

        1. Make the franchise fee reasonable,logical is a good first step.

          How doers owners manage to own clubs all around the world?

          Your logic is twisted,the franchise fees that MLS has are intentionally set very high, so that there are only a small gropup of owners.

          A “rest of the world” soccer league would not have such high fees ,therefore there are many many soccer clubs owners all round the world.

        2. In every other league in the world, teams are bought and sold all the time. So obviously there are plenty of savvy businessmen around the globe who are willing to pay for teams that could be relegated. And pay for teams that can be promoted as well! Bet you haven’t thought of that, eh?

          Some of these businessmen are even…Americans! Perhaps you’ve heard of Malcolm Glazer, Randy Lerner, or George Hicks?

        3. Gazza,

          The clubs in the EPL are not owned by the league. The league is owned by the clubs with each club a single shareholder in the league. Big difference. Non-league teams all have the dream of making it to the EPL some day. Few ever do of course, but the dream is there for every little town with a football club. There are more professional footall clubs in the United Kingdom than all the professional sport leagues in America combined. An estimated 7000.

          This is in a country of some 61,000,000 people. And America is content with 32 NFL teams.

  10. ESPN is reporting that the players WILL strike if a deal is not reached by March 25. Looks like the league will either have to bend or MLS won’t have a season in 2010.

    I’m secretly hoping for a strike that goes through the summer, and then MLS resumes in September and adopts a more traditional calendar. But I’m sure the whole league will go bankrupt. NASL, anyone?!?!?!?!

  11. Soccer can, and I believe, will be a top sport in the US someday. Maybe not soon, but someday. The US never thought baseball would be knocked off as America’s top game, but wierd, their attendance has been down as of late and football and basketball have rivaled if not beat baseball as the top sport. If you expect the MLS to compete with the EPL right now then you’re crazy. One has been around for DECADES in a country where it is one of their main sports. The other has been around for 14 years. You can’t compare the two. But teams like Seattle, Phillie, and Portland are all great for the growth of MLS. Donovan doing well in Everton has made some Toffee supporters wanting to watch him on the Galaxy now. New stadiums are opening and this is World Cup year. Really bad timing for all of this. I understand both sides, but it seems that they don’t feel how urgent this really is. Don’t you guys understand that if there is a strike they may be no league to come back to! I will always be a soccer fan, but the casual, average fan will be turned off by a strike.

    1. I totally agree with you. Honestly though, I really think that if there is a strike, it will be a short one. Waaay to much at stake for things to get too crazy.

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