MMCB: On the MLS labor mess

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The 2010 Major League Soccer season may still kick off as planned, without a delay in the start of the season, but the process to get to that point is going to be a messy one after labor talks went public on Friday, leading to an ugly back-and-forth that might just be the beginning of a lengthy battle.

It started with the players union going public on Friday and breaking a public silence that had stood since negotiations for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement began. MLS officials, after initially insisting they would not "negotiate through the media", responded to the union's accusations with their own defense on Saturday. The union responded on Sunday by calling into question the validity of the league's defense.

So where exactly do we stand? Who do we believe? If anything is clear from the weekend's back-and-forth, it is that there is no clear-cut villain in this. The players union painted MLS as the bad guy with its stories of mistreated players and unfair rules, and it was a narrative that was easy to buy into because it touched a chord with fans who weren't likely to side with a faceless collection of owners and league officials in the first place. That said, you can't help but wonder how accurate the portrayal is given the league's clear insistence that it has already offered up a good number of concessions.

The truth lies somewhere in the middle. Now the question is whether the two sides can find their ways closer to that middle in order to avoid a truly messy situation. The answer is yes, but only when the sides accept that changes need to be made.

MLS has already made the first major shift in strategy in this labor situation by publicly stating that it is prepared to go into the 2010 season operating under the old CBA (a clear change in policy after the league made it clear to the union in early negotiations that it had no intention of operating under the old CBA). As writer Kyle McCarthy laid out so perfectly on Monday, this maneuver puts pressure on the player's union to either accept a deal or strike.

Is the union as strong and determined to fight this fight as it will need to be? MLS clearly doesn't believe so, which would explain the willingness to operate under a CBA the league itself was demanding be scrapped less than two months ago.

Does this all mean the players don't have gripes? It is pretty clear they do, even as MLS officials do their best to explain away every argument the players have. No, the $60 million magic number offered up by MLS president Mark Abbott as the increase the league was ready to offer players never did sound completely genuine (and joins David Beckham's initial "MLS salary" of $250 million as inflated numbers used for effect.).

Players union chief Bob Foose shot down the $60 million figure, pointing out that it included, among other things, salary figures for teams that haven't even begun playing yet. He also pointed to percentage changes in the new deal that would see a decline in the growth of player salaries from 5.9 percent a year to 4.8 percent a year.

On the surface, that figure doesn't seem so damning. After all, there aren't many employees who wouldn't be happy with a 4.8 salary increase per year. While this is true, it ignores the fact that the face and business of MLS player acquisition is changing. Rapid MLS expansion is forcing MLS to use new methods to stock and strengthen the player pool. Chief among these changes are the designated player rule, increases in the number of international players and an increase in the money used to land young talent.

Why is this a major concern for the rank and file of the players union? It's simple. Not only would the new CBA shrink the growth of player salaries (if the union's numbers can be believed), but with more and more of that money going toward Designated Players, high-priced foreign talent as well as high-priced rookie talent, the players who will be squeezed in the equation are veteran MLS players.

Consider this off-season, which saw the largest-ever Generation adidas rookie class. MLS devoted a record amount of salary to landing this year's crop of top draft talent, which on its face is a promising sign, but when that comes in the same off-season where some of the best players to ever play in MLS are being squeezed out of jobs, you can understand why the union feels so strongly about wanting a stronger CBA in place to help protect them.

Does this mean MLS shouldn't spend money to attract top young talent to MLS? No, but it does offer evidence that perhaps some changes need to be made so that top veterans are paid what they deserve. That brings us to free agency, which MLS has made into The Untouchable Option. I have yet to hear a truly clear explanation for why intra-league free agency is a non-starter for MLS. I like to consider myself a pretty sharp guy, yet still couldn't understand the evils of MLS free agency despite multiple explanations from Abbott on Saturday.

Let's think about this for a second. How exactly would free agency within MLS hurt the league as long as the league has a salary cap? It really can't, not from the standpoint where skyrocketing salaries would be a concern. As long as there is a salary cap, a maximum limit on non-DP contracts, and as long as the league's player personnel department still signs off on deals, how could free agency hurt MLS?

It could have to do with MLS wanting to maintain control of player valuations, which could come under fire if teams were able to bid on free agent players. Suddenly a veteran highly-coveted by one team could potentially earn much more than his previous team, or the league, believes he is worth. This goes against the single-entity ethos the league is built on, and allowing it would ultimately give more control and freedom to teams and take away control from the league itself (No, I don't see the problem with this either).

Could it be that there are certain teams that are simply opposed to this because it would force them to compete against other teams for the right to keep their own players? Let's consider if a certain team or two had a history of paying lower salaries, and wanted no part of having to compete with other MLS teams for its own players, could those teams have enough pull with the league to keep free agency off the table? That's entirely possible if those teams had influential ownership.

Would having some competition within MLS for top players be such a bad thing? Considering how many quality players are leaving MLS for questionable alternatives abroad (or in Steve Ralston's case, an alternative in a lower division), how could free agency really hurt the league as a whole? As far as I can tell, at worst, it would force ALL teams to start getting serious about paying top talent, and just might help keep some of the talent that is leaving year after year.

If you listen to MLS officials, free agency isn't even that necessary because, according to them, the current system isn't nearly as restrictive as it is being portrayed. While it may be true that the current systems in place do eventually lead to players being able to move around and away from teams that don't want them, the arduous process currently in place winds up badly hindering players who wind up seeing their options dwindle while they let the current process play out. This is why quality veteran players like Kevin Hartman and Dave Van Den Bergh remain unemployed just a month before the season, and why a player as respected and as decorated as Steve Ralston ultimately gave up on MLS rather than wait around for others to decide his fate.

Veterans like those deserve better, which is ultimately what is driving the players union. It isn't about the money, because the increases being discussed are marginal, but rather about the options that players, particularly the veteran players on whose backs the league was built on, can have as the league changes and grows. One veteran player said it best when he told me, "If players like Kevin Hartman and Steve Ralston, two of the best players to ever play in the league, are treated this way, what is going to stop the league from treating any of us the same way."

A new CBA could help keep that from happening, which is why the players appear more determined than ever to fight. If the league is serious about offering up new proposals that address these concerns, then a deal can and will get done, but if we see a player's strike next month, it would be pretty clear evidence that the offers being made by MLS aren't nearly strong enough.

Regardless of who is ultimately most to blame, if a strike winds up happening, both the players and the league will wind up wearing the label of villain.

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134 Responses to MMCB: On the MLS labor mess

  1. John says:

    Ives – Can you comment on what all this means for the Crew and their CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinals starting March 9th. If they are forced to withdraw would MLS and/or the Crew be sanctioned by CONCACAF? Could some kind of deal be worked out to let Columbus play non-MLS games?

  2. So, am what I am hearing is the Krafts don’t want players to have the ability to shop themselves to other teams within their salary cap?

  3. Korey Sutton says:

    Nice write up. I hope this all gets sorted out soon.

  4. Charles says:

    Nice article.

    ESPN should have fought free agency.

    I can see a scenerio where the salary cap is allowed to go up a lot and teams that are not drawing and making money get aced in a free agency market by Seattle/LA etc, because they don’t come close to paying the salary cap.

    MLS obviously doesn’t want those teams to go away. Working back toward a 12 team league would not be good, even if they were a strong 12 teams.

  5. over there says:

    Yes. “The Godfather” strikes again.

  6. Steve says:

    Well that sounds familiar

  7. WK says:

    argh… i don’t know what to think or say about this. I’ve been a fan of this league almost since the get-go (and long before i ever lived in an MLS city) but a work stoppage is going to disappoint me to no end. I’ll always come back, but i can’t say that about most fans. I hope both sides understand they’re both going to be villains if the league doesn’t start on time.

  8. mexicanbluefish says:

    Thanks IVES, your explanation that there isn’t a simple bumper sticker summary of the situation shows us, the readers, a bit of respect.

  9. Mike says:

    The players union painted MLS as the bad guy with its stories of mistreated players and unfair rules, and it was a narrative that was easy to buy into because it touched a cord with fans who weren’t likely to side with a faceless collection of owners and league officials in the first place.

    You apparently don’t read your own comments section. Many, many posters are on the side of the owners in this go-round (or at least will be if the owners demonstrate reasonable proposals are on the table).

  10. Idaho Brian says:

    After the league fought so hard several years ago to preserve its single entity mode of business in the courts, I have a hard time seeing them cave on that issue. MLS is not going to concede on their landmark court decision…(unfortunately)

  11. 30f says:

    I would love to re-read this piece with all the specifics put back in. Example: Let’s consider if a certain team or two had a history of paying lower salaries, and wanted no part of having to compete with other MLS teams for its own players, could those teams have enough pull with the league to keep free agency off the table?

    I have a pretty good idea which teams Ives is referring to, but it would be nice to see names named.

  12. brokejumper says:

    Maybe my reading comprehension is a bit low this morning, but I really don’t see how this is “somewhere in the middle.”

    Just by going off of what you present here Ives, everything you say seems to back up the players’ contention that MLS management is coming in with a take-it-or-leave-it offer that does almost nothing to solve the current problems.

    Going all “fair and balanced” on us with the new employers? ;)

    (SBI-My mistake for not linking to the league response I wrote on Saturday, which includes the MLS president stating that the league has made various concessions and new proposals to address these situations. You really should read that, as well as the initial Friday piece on the players to put today’s piece into some context.)

  13. Oranje Mike says:

    If a club has no intention of signing a player, said player should have the right to shop around for an employer.

  14. Rory says:

    when do we find out that LA has gained the rights to Gil?

  15. fischy says:

    Nice piece, Ives. Thanks for giving it your perspective.

    Hopefully, a light is shining for those posters here who got nasty in claiming I didn’t know what I was talking about on Saturday when I pointed out that the league’s figures had to include the entire salary roster for the expansion teams — that the actual salary increase would be negligible, especially if the league anticipated bringing in more DPs. I was right and you were obstinate boobs. Nyaah, nyahh, nyaahh, nyahhh.

  16. Free Agent says:

    The league’s muddled and opaque justification for opposing free agency reflects fears about the continued viability of its single entity structure. The NFL has recently argued before the Supreme Court that it operates as a single entity, but the Court wondered aloud whether teams operating under a single entity compete for free agents. From what I have read, the league has opposed free agency because it needs to adopt a model different than other leagues due to economic constraints. Read between the lines, and antitrust lawyers have likely advised MLS that accepting free agency might unravel its entire single entity structure. No other explanation makes any sense because, as many have already pointed out, a hard cap can control costs.

    Check out:

    link to blogs.wsj.com

  17. Murphy says:

    Ives–any word on the impact of the labor situation on Donovan’s loan? Can he just stay in England until after the World Cup to avoid potentially returning to the US and not having any games to play in?

  18. jts says:

    To keep single entity intact, only with a league approved contract. Which is really a complicating factor.

  19. fischy says:

    Should be any second now….

  20. bla says:

    ives: do you know the timeline for talks? are they ongoing? when are they scheduled to meet this week?

  21. Ives, this may indeed be the angle Abbott could not explain to you.

  22. Danny says:

    I’m 100% behind the players. Soccer is growing the U.S. but something needs to be done to keep talent here and reward those that grow the sport here.

  23. rjcpacker says:

    Good points Ives. My worry is that this extremely rapid expansion coupled with the freezing out/ driving out of the talented backbone of the league is replicating the same conditions that killed off the NASL 30 years ago. If the league has nothing but old, name players from europe picking up a last, valedictory check, and a bunch of inexperienced youth players (who have no scope to develop further other than games because MLS teams do not operate a reserve league system as everyone in Europe does), you will end up with a very crappy product. This, plus other lame-brained “innovations” to make soccer appealing to the uninitiated killed off the NASL. The challenge is even more difficult for MLS this time because unlike 30 years ago there is a very sophisticated and knowledgeable base (a lot more knowledgeable from a few of the owners I know for a fact) of fans dying to see a US league survive and thrive. But, with high quality football available to anyone with a cable package, or even just a computer and internet, the fan base will not pay money, nor even watch on TV, crap. Nor will they follow a league that may possibly have none of the US national team members playing for it. Americans do not tolerate products that they perceive are inferior when they have choice and unless there are players that they can identify with that will stay with the league, MLS will collapse under its own weight, just as did the NASL.

  24. Ali says:

    The MLS is single entity. Free agency will detract from that this model which has got MLS where it is today.
    Now people want to start running before they can walk.
    Concessions can be made to find ways around the veterans issue without full blown free agency.

    I, for one, am behind the owners here.

  25. fischy says:

    I agree with your take, generally. There are some things that the league may have offered to improve the situation for players like Hartman and VDB, without touching free agency and disrupting the league’s precious single-entity antitrust exemption. Also, the league claims to have made some offer on guarantees for veterans. Unfortunately, neither the league nor the players offered details here, so it’s hard to know if the league made any serious proposals. Here, the truth may be in the middle somewhere, but it’s a wide ranging middle. I expect it’s a lot closer to the players’ version of the truth.

  26. alexarmac says:

    Why do these union lawyers always try to negotiate through the press when they can’t get their way with the owners? Because of the leaks to the press I will always side with the owners.

  27. D.B. says:

    I think the scary thing about free agency is that players could leave the league without the league and clubs getting ANY compensation. So, our top talent who, I think it’s fair to say, ALL of whom want to eventually move onto higher leagues would eagerly await the end of their deals to attempt a move abroad, rather than risk the league attaching too high a price to a player that the interested clubs balk at. So, there’s no way Landon Donovan would have re-signed with the Galaxy last year, because that would take the control that free agency would give to him out of his hands and put it soley in the League’s.

    I am for some sort of restricted free agency right now (with hopes of full blown free agency sometime in the next 10 years), but I don’t know how to work it.

  28. TimN says:

    The players probably have some legitimate gripes. However, the main thing that seems to have preserved MLS and kept it growing is not allowing outrageous salaries to enter too heavily into the picture. Free agency just reeks of potential “salary wars,” and players wanting to be “shown the love.” What would be the worst case scenario is to have situations like what is occuring at Portsmouth, Southend, and Cardiff City start to happen in MLS…that would spell “el foldo,” a la NASL.

  29. ian says:

    The font looks terrible on your site today Ives..is it always like this? All the non-blog text looks fine. Difficult to read quickly.

  30. fischy says:

    “Now people want to start running before they can walk.”

    There’s that meaningless platitude again. That worked great last time around. However, the league is 14 years old now. They should have learned how to walk by now. Time to pick up the pace a bit maybe?

    Or, maybe it’s time to take it out of the realm of weak analogies. The question to be asked is not whether the single-entity rules and the current CBA has worked. The question is for whom has it worked? Is the league synonymous with the owners — or could the league benefit even if the owners had to give up some controls? Remember, the owners aren’t the only ones invested in MLS and its success — so are the players, and so are the fans.

    Would MLS be worse off with some freedom of movement for veterans? Would it be worse off if player contracts became guaranteed at some point before July– maybe with the start of competitive games (MLS or CCL)? Would the league be worse off if minimum salaries were raised, for developmental and senior players?

  31. D.B. says:

    To continue with my point about Landon, he of course wouldn’t have signed a new deal right away, because it’s incredibly unlikely that the Galaxy wouldn’t welcome him back in March anyway with a new deal. If they didn’t, any other club in MLS would. And if they didn’t, then it smells like MLB in the 80s and collusion.

    So, again, I’m all for the players improving their conditions and compensation, and the owners protecting their investments. Let’s just hope the attitude of mutual exclusivity isn’t permeating negotions.

  32. j1mbr0wn says:

    Other than spouting off platitudes, you’ve said nothing. Walk before you run. I could easily counter with “time to take the training wheels off” and “time to wear big-boy pants.”

    What concession can be made? How about this: A) As soon as a player is waived, the former team looses all rights to him.

    B) Any team seeking to reduce the player’s salary must waive them first (see point a) and renegotiate.

    C) All contracts/salaries are guaranteed after April 30. A player waived after this time will still receive a salary from his old team UNLESS a new team picks him up.

  33. JavaLavaJoe says:

    I for one would rather see a strike and solution to the inter-league free agency problem then see the players fold. I think single entity made perfect sense in the beginning, and may well serve as a core idea going forward, but it will need to evolve as the league matures. The fact is that single entity or no MLS will increasingly compete with other leagues around the world and a players ability to “shop” their value will impact their desire to play in MLS or no and subsequently impact the desires of existing players in the league.

  34. fischy says:

    This is why the owners’ argument is bass-ackwards. They’re saying there’s a free market because players can move abroad once they’re out-of-contract. If the league made it possible for players to move around MLS, fewer would want to move abroad. They might be able to play for a hometown team, or one that is more willing to pay their full freight.

    If Donovan re-upped with the Galaxy, it wasn’t because he would rather play for another MLS side. He was happy in LA. Some of the players would rather be with another team — maybe one where they will play full-time. Think of a guy like Chris Seitz — if Philly hadn’t come into the league and decided to trade for him, he might have sat on the RSL bench for years. Why shouldn’t he be allowed to seek a new team, at some point?

    There are lots of reasons why players might not want to sign with their team — maybe they’re not offering enough money, or maybe not offering enough playing time.Why shouldn’t the league make it possible for that to happen in MLS, instead of outside it?

  35. fischy says:

    Single entity made an incredible amount of sense when Anschutz operated most of the teams. It would have been silly to suggest the teams were really in competition with each other. That’s not the case any more. As you say, it might be time to consider whether another model is now more appropriate.

  36. fischy says:

    “(or at least will be if the owners demonstrate reasonable proposals are on the table).”????

    I’m still waiting for the owners to detail a single reasonable proposal, on any issue. But, you go ahead, and be “on the side of the owners” even if they haven’t detailed a single reasonable proposal. They want to take the league backwards, not forwards. Anschutz doesn’t own and operate half the teams any more. It’s time the league adopted a different model.

  37. Franky says:

    I hate all unions…I mean look what they did to the American auto industry.

    But maybe I just feel this way b/c I am in B school.

  38. brandon says:

    The players union has said all along this cba agreement will not be about money but player rights. So the leauge officials trot out their $60m (beckham esque inflated) wild card. What a joke. Obviously the league is not listening, this is not about money, this is about player rights. If a strike needs to happen so players like Van Den Bergh, Hartman, and Ralston are not locked up in MLS purgatory, then let them strike.

  39. aristotle says:

    I’m really beginning to think there is no such thing as a good union. Everywhere you look unions are bringing destruction to everyone and everything because they are corrupt and stubbornly impose their demands regardless of the costs.

    I’m not saying the owners and the league are without fault, but the players union has already come close to ruining the league before, and they just don’t seem to care. The last time their demands would clearly have destroyed the league. The money MLS had to shell out in legal costs fighting the unions last demands years ago could have gone to increasing player salaries.I especially dislike the fact that so many of the players representing the Player’s Union always seem to be players who are on the verge of retirement and clearly don’t care if they ruin the league or not. Paul Caliguri and Pat Onstad? Please.

  40. A Guest says:

    Pfft. Study harder.

  41. Stephen says:

    I hate to say this (being a Red Bulls season ticket holder), but the only way the Players will get any kind of real free agency (within MLS) is to strike. Time to play hard ball with the Owners. No agreement by Thursday, the Players should leave training camp until a new CBA is completed.

  42. gerald says:

    good question but it would appear that the players would have to strike for that game to be at risk as the league is willing to go by the old rules

  43. Felix says:

    When I read paragraph 15, I thought the same thing – Bob Kraft.

  44. Daniel says:

    Obviously more complicated of a situation than any of us know. It seems to me that MLS has dug it’s heals in for single entity. I see the league progressing and can imagine a time when it would make sense to change the model being not that far into the future. That said, most teams are not profitable yet. It’s going to be hard for the players to make any ground in negotiations until most of the teams are making money.

    I would like to see something put in place to reward teams for being profitable. Something like a higher salary cap for profitable teams or the like.

  45. evan eleven says:

    all you anti-union people are really clueless. look what happened to Ronnie O’Brien, one of my favorite MLS players. he got frozen out by the Earthquakes last year, and instead of take a bullshit low offer from MLS he retired early at the age of 30. they’ve done the same thing to Hartman, Ralston, VandenBergh etc. single entity artificially lowers market value of player salaries, that’s why the owners like it…

  46. Actually, there is no salary war because clubs would still have to function within the salary cap.

    That’s why Ives is scratching his head and most of us are scratching our heads. It’s a salary capped league.

    It is really about clubs like the Revolution not wanting to pay more than they have to keep their talent. It’s the same way they operate in the NFL too.

    Have you noticed that when Revolution players are out of contract, they end up leaving pissed?

    This issue has the Kraft family all over it.

  47. dudeinho says:

    The american suto industry did it to them selves building substandard products and ignoring the japanese car invasion thinking americans wouldnt drive small cars. the industry and the unions are both to blame.

  48. I believe your browser controls your fonts, not ives.

  49. I got confused. I thought the MLS was a US soccer league. US – you know the world’s chief advocate of free markets.

    It’s not really a bona fide league until it’s part of the free soccer market, and all the serious soccer fans I run into who shun the MLS will continue to do so.

    There at least needs to be a plan, a public road map and probably part of the CBA, which takes the MLS from where it is to a FIFA-normal free market league

  50. jpc says:

    Whatever their positions are, I hope both sides understand that the worst possible thing for them is a work stoppage

  51. dudeinho says:

    if they take those lowball offers how does this affect a players retirement do they get less? might be another issue here.

  52. golfstrom says:

    Ives, you are missing the point about free agency. We could argue all day as to its effects or whether it’s right or wrong. But the main point is that the players don’t have it now, so if they want it, it has to be bargained for. And since it would be such a huge concession for the owners, I really can’t see it happening now b/c the players have nothing comparable to give up. The only thing they can do is threaten to strike…against a league that has yet to be profitable. To be honest this whole episode reminds me of when the WNBA players threatened to strike.

  53. elasticitymydearwatson says:

    Ok, ______________________. Without the league (big chiefs) having no players to exploit, there is no league. You “wanna” make money, you have got to risk (rabbits are getting bigger nowadays). But “I” get it Garbs and co. , we live for today and tomorrow is never promised–cha-ching.

  54. Franky says:

    Obama is president, dude. Its all about socialism now. Which is why unions are back in fashion.

  55. plug713 says:

    Regardless of who is right or wrong in the current labor negotiations, the biggest problem the owners in MLS face, in my opinion, is one of perception. Several high-profile players, perhaps most notably Shalrie Joseph, and Taylor Twellman, have been held back in their efforts to advance their carrers by making moves overseas because of the arcane requirements placed on player movement by the single-entity system currently in place. I am very interested to see how the league will deal with the transfer offers that are almost certain to be made for Landon Donovan’s services during the summer. As more and more players develop their skills in MLS and are then hindered by the league when they attempt to make a move overseas, young, talented American propects will begin to shun the league and move directly overseas from their university or youth teams. This process has, in my opinion, already begun with several of the most talented members of our U-17 national team who have contracts with prominent foreign clubs and are currently training with them overseas. If this process does, in fact, become established, MLS will certainly find itself relegated to a permanent second-class staus as they become increasingly unable to attract top talent. The owners have invested huge sums to develop the current league and all American soccer fans owe them a debt of gratitude, I believe. However, they must begin to show more flexibilty and far-sightedness in their player personnel relationships. An excellent place to start might be to allow a player to keep the ten percent bonus of any transfer fees paid to his club (or, in this case, MLS)for him. Players around the world are routinely permitted to keep this bonus, in the US, MLS keeps those funds. Free agency has come to every sport in America, usually over the strong objects of the owners of the clubs of the sport in question. MLS must try to be the exception. The owners and players can come together and make some mutually beneficial accomodation, or they can damage the league and its’ image in a protracted and acrimonius confrontation.

  56. PhillyMLS says:

    I’m still waiting for the MLSPA to respond to the concessions point of MLS’ letter on Saturday. The MLSPA responded to the money thing but never even acknowledged that part. This comes on the heels of them repeatedly stating that MLS has stonewalled them and made no concessions. MLS doesn’t need to detail to the public what their plans are, they aren’t negotiating with us. The MLSPA needs to address the issue though because they created the idea that MLS was just trying to screw them.

  57. Charles says:

    I don’t disagree with your points, but do you really think the owners ( outside of Seattle and maybe LA ) are rolling in the dough?

    Their investments have paid off in terms of franchise valuation, don’t get me wrong, but if the league folds all that paper gain is gone.

    Not easy questions/answers to the negotiations, you probably shouldn’t use the word “clueless” if you disagree with those of us that see the owners side too.

  58. So, you go to work for a company.

    You are doing your job and showing up. They decide to fire you because of financial mismanagement on their part or they bring a new boss over you.

    You can not use your skills to find other employment in the same industry because they say you can’t. Technically they own you.

    You may not like Unions, but there is a reason we have them. This is one of those situations.

    I agree, there are instances where they are destructive. I lived through a strike when I was at AA back in the mid-90s. The Flight Attendants did not know why they were striking and the disagreements were being led by lawyers in Washington.

    In this case, I think MLS owners are being unreasonable. I think the Supreme Court angle is probably the correct reason for their non-negotiable stance. Technically, players would be negotiating with teams individual teams.

  59. sholata says:

    The important number is not 5.9% or 4.8% percent player pay increases going forward. The league is squeezing into stadia that seat no more than 25k fans and gets ratings on TV that rival the LPGA.

    Where’s the pot of gold to pay higher player salaries, and meantime spend some real dollars on a genuine marketing effort.

    and all this in an overall economic environment guarenteed to make players and fans feel like their stuck in the parking lot forever.

    players may deserve more where’s the money to come from?

  60. bryan says:

    the fact that they wont allow free agency bugs the crap out of me!

  61. Cairo says:

    I find myself leaning towards the players on this one. If the decision to avoid free-agency within MLS is due to owners who don’t want to spend enough money to be competitive, I’m not sure why the league needs those owners. Worst case scenario, I’d rather the league contract a little bit in the short term than piss off the players who make the league worth watching. Would a slightly smaller league (say we ditch four teams that don’t want to pay competitive salaries within the salary cap) be such a bad thing in the short term? I can’t help but think that expansion is going a bit too quickly when we have so many franchises within the league that are either unwilling or unable to compete, even with the modest salary cap that we now have.
    I can’t believe we’re contemplating a work stoppage, after spending so much time last year reveling in the good vibes at Qwest Field. Ugh.

  62. Manny F says:

    Its not free agency really if there is a hard cap. A team can’t offer a player a higher salary at the expense of their cap.
    What killed the NASL was players being “bought” and given “ridicules” contracts with no “salary cap.”

    They are two different scenarios. I for one would be sad to see a Hartman or VDB not play in this league when they are more than capable. Either way I don’t see the problem when the league is the one that makes up the figures it wishes to pay a player anyway.

  63. Josh D says:

    If neither concede and there’s a walkout – Wonder if it damages the league so much that you see an influx of players into the NASL, the owner owned league that seems to function like a typical European league.

    I know if I were on the board of NASL, I’d be keeping two eyes on this one…

    Maybe they come as loaned players?

    Or we could have a “The Replacements” setting where the league drafts want-away High School and College players, old coaches, and ex-cons to form a super league of entertainment more akin to American Football : /

  64. Josh D says:

    On a side note: Good article explaining the basics of both sides. May be a good FSC article if you can lay it out with Players on one side and League on the other and state the issues going down, explaining both sides’ views on each part.

  65. Dear Owners,
    Please don’t overcompensate for the mistakes made by the old NASL.

    Dear Players,
    Stop Whining to the media!

    Dear Wizards,
    I hate you for low-balling Hartman.

  66. g says:

    the players, the owners, the journalists: there BS everybody and everything

    Better stick to a stable sport like Baseball, Basketball, Football, etc.

  67. Happy Camper says:

    Well said, Paul

  68. Happy Camper says:

    I’m also a Red Bulls season ticket holder and Im OK if the players need to strike. I don’t mind having to wait a couple of weeks to fix this situation. March 20 maybe a bit too cold to open the new arena anyway.

  69. Monty says:

    Ives, question for you regarding Ralston. He came out after his “release” from the Revs and made all the right comments (he was offered a good figure, but just chose not to take it, etc). Was he just being the classy guy he is and not blaming the Revs, or … well, what exactly happened here?

  70. Scottie says:

    That’s a good reason to side with the owners, cause they never do anything through the press.

  71. Scottie says:

    You do realize there is a hard salary cap, right?

  72. Scottie says:

    Yeah, I mean the US auto companies were making all those great cars in the 80s and 90s that nobody wanted to buy. I’m sure that had nothing to do with their failures.

  73. Scottie says:

    Yep, this is the players best chance to get the changes they need. The owners have more to lose. Much more.

  74. Seriously? says:

    Does this apply though? MLS was set up as a single entity league, with all contracts owned by the league, while the NFL is not set up like that, and it seems to me that they tried to jump on the single entity bandwagon after the fact.

  75. Erik says:

    Can he just stay on until an agreement is reached? or does he have to return at the specified date regardless of a strike or risk violation of his new contract?

  76. Scottie says:

    Why should the players have to subsidize owners that “aren’t rolling in the dough”? Survival of the fittest…if MLS can’t stand on it’s own then it shouldn’t be in business. Same with the individual teams.

  77. Scottie says:

    Yeah, there were no unions under Bush or Reagan, they just magically appeared after Obama was elected.

  78. Seriously? says:

    Not following your logic Manny. How is it not real free agency? Teams with more money available can give more to a free agent. If a player is out of contract who used to play for team A, and team A has only has $60 under the cap, while team B has $100, with free agency the player could just sign for team B, and make more money. Without free agency, the player is still owned by team A, and can’t negotiate for himself. I don’t see why teams need to have unlimited funds in order for it to be free agency.

  79. Seriously? says:

    I think you’re missing how free agency works. If a player’s contract is up, he can go abroad no problem, and the team/league won’t get compensated. The free agency thing only works within the league. They can’t stop a player not under contract from leaving the league, they can only control where they’ll let the player go if he re-signs.

  80. Precisely.

    What this boils down to is the owners not trusting each other. Sure the salary cap would remain in place, but as long as free agency doesn’t exist teams with an interest in doing so can keep the price of veteran players artificially low. This makes it more affordable for them to keep quality– generally homegrown– talent on their books while splashing out higher figures for foreign talent. The more tightfisted owners are afraid that free agency will allow other teams to outbid them on players already within the league and leave them with less margin for signing expensive outside players. They don’t trust the other owners to continue playing by the cost containment scheme they’ve set up if the framework for it goes away. My guess is this effects Kraft, HSG, and Kroenke most, given that that takes care of four teams, two in each conference, that’s a significant chunk of the league.

  81. Mike says:

    The NFL has a hard salary cap, and I don’t see anyone arguing the NFL doesn’t have “real” free agency

  82. YEAH! says:

    You forgot to mention that he’s also a Nazi, he hates white people, and he is not a U.S. citizen.

  83. Mike says:

    I think everyone is making a huge assumption that players will necessarily exercise free agency rights to maximize salary, rather than to play on trendy/talented/major city teams. I think you could easily see LA Galaxy/Seattle/Chicago/Houston dynasties at the expense of San Jose, KC, RSL and others.

    MLS is not at a point where a Detroit Lions or Tampa Bay Bucs franchise can survive.

  84. fischy says:

    Not to mention the multi-million dollar salaries that auto CEOs got for running their companies into the ground. If our top execs wages were in line with the Japanese, the pensions and health care plans for the employees wouldn’t hit the bottom line in the way they appear to do. Even better yet, we could do what other countries do and just have national health plans, so the unions wouldn’t be fighting with mgmt over their health plans. Don’t blame unions for trying to get what workers get in other countries as a matter of course.

  85. Mike says:

    VDB and Hartman – fine. I don’t know why people are buying Ralston in this list. He was offered what he described as a “reasonable offer” given that he will miss a large chunk of the season in rehab, and is not exactly a young guy, but decided he’d rather go home to St Louis. Not the same thing.

  86. fischy says:

    I’m pretty sure that MLS does not have a retirement system — no pension plan that might be tied to salary or otherwise.

  87. Seriously? says:

    I find that I’m especially disapointed with the league and their double talk. If it’s true that that they would include the salaries of the new teams to be added as their proposed $60 mil increase makes me put less stock in whatever they say. Does that mean if they play with the same CBA for next season, with no increase, then all the players for Philly would be playing for free? I wanted to give the league the benefit of the doubt yesterday, that they couldn’t possibly try that kind of word play, but if it’s true, then I don’t know that I can fully trust other things they say. Although that doesn’t mean that I’ll believe everything that the players claim is the unvarnished truth, but I’m not sure they’ve let me down as much so far.

  88. evan eleven says:

    i can see the owners’ side. the owners want to make a profit. the players want to earn the market value for their skills. the two shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. when i say ‘clueless’ i’m talking about people who are unquestioningly anti-union, because it’s ‘unAmerican’ or something. those people should try moving to a country with no unions and see how much they get paid for their work…

  89. fischy says:

    A lot of the teams may have operating losses, but the team owners are also part owners in MLS. They get a cut every time a new team comes in and pays the league $40 million. Like a pyramid scheme, early investors have probably made healthy profits on their iintial investments.

  90. alexandria says:

    But the club did try to resign them, both of them but at lower salaries, and in Hartmans case shorter term but neither of them accepted those deals. Now the teams are trying to find a place for them but no one wants them, I still don’t see how this is the leagues fault for teams not wanting to overpay for older players.

  91. fischy says:

    Sports are different. Unrestricted free markets are not a good thing in professional sports. They destroy competitive balance and they negatively affect fan loyalty for teams and players who swap uniforms too easily. Which is why almost everyone understands some balance needs to be struck. That said, when we see what’s happening to Hartman and VDB, we can smell that something stinks in the current regime within MLS. It lacks needed balance — some limited rights to negotiate within MLS.

  92. alexandria says:

    The NFL has a soft cap, you can pay a penalty for going over it.

  93. Eazy says:

    lol wut? Franky wears Tinfoil hats…

  94. Aaron says:

    I think that full blown Free agency in the league is a bad thing, now and maybe for a long time. I do like someones suggestion earlier of that waiving a person means they don’t have the rights, etc. However I think that a viable solution to give a bit of free agency would work. I think that if a player has X # of years maybe like 10 in the league (or 8 yrs taking a senior roster spot)band when he is out of contract after that then he would be able to be a free agent. Something like this sounds fair to the players, they will have options maybe when they are hitting their best years. I guess this would be kinda an unrestrcted/restricted free agency system in a way but not a flat out full free agency system.

  95. alexandria says:

    The thing is that you can move, its called being traded. Most players though want to stay with their said team, and thats when the problem arises. If chris rolfe wanted to play at toronto, you don’t think a trade would have been made, or look at clint mathis, wanted to stay in MLS but he wanted to play in LA a trade was made. The league is right most guys either want more money or they want to go, case in point van den bergh wanted to go to dallas, a trade was made. Thats how you move with out free agency.

  96. TimN says:

    Even with a salary cap, you could have situations like what Mike below mentions, mainly the marquee clubs having more funds to push the limits of a salary cap than other smaller clubs in the market. No, it’s not quite the same as what goes on in the EPL and Coca Cola Championship League, but for a fledgling league like MLS, even a scaled down version of that could be fatal.

  97. Manny F says:

    But its not the Wizard’s fault. Those are the League rules.

  98. DCD says:

    Maybe unions trying to save coal-miners from 18 hour shifts and black lung at age 18 were good. These days, unions mirror corporate executives with mandates to jack up stock prices at the expense of sustainability. They try to wring as much as they can out of the employer(s) without a thought as to whether the goose laying the golden eggs might survive the fight. God forbid they lose the fat pension even if the company is on the verge of bankruptcy — cut management salaries instead!!!!! In the world of sports, much of the steroid debacle in baseball was the fault fo the union (read: superagents) defending the status quo.

    That said, there really do appear to be some concessions the league ought to make in the interest of maintaining good relations with their current and future talent pool, among them being to allow players who are cut to sign easily with new teams. It’s understood that too much player mobility completely screws up a team’s continuity, and you don’t want the NBA morass of weird trades for “expiring contracts”, etc., but with a hard cap, you could see a more natural distribution of talent. I think, with the World Cup this summer, MLS is at an important inflection point, and they should be trying to come up with ways to invest in their player pool, not drive them to Denmark.

  99. alexandria says:

    Those two players and if you add dempsey all play for the same team. The league can not be held responsible for one team. All the other teams let their players go but the revolution does not for whatever reason. Plus twellman himself even said it the league was ok with selling him, it was steve nichol that said no.

  100. swansuite@gmail.com says:

    Let me make this easy for you Ives…… Businesses, corporations, and rich team owners lie. They lie even when they don’t have to lie. They lie all the time, even when it won’t gain them a single thing. So, yea, I believe the players union and, frankly, I’d rather have no league at all than to have one more season of this single-season nonsense.

  101. DClee says:

    Can you honestly believe the money they have made has paid them back for all their losses over the years including stadium building, operation costs, etc…

  102. DClee says:

    I like a lot of Fischy’s points but feel that everyone also needs to look at the situation from the perspective of we are lucky to have a professional league in the first place. I root for DCU and I can’t help but think of guys like Chris Pontius that if it wasn’t for MLS then where would he be right now. It might not even be in soccer or in the USL as before MLS you had to either make it overseas or you were pretty much a forgotten player. So if you weren’t developed enough then you were done and you could not continue to grow where one day you may get the chance to play in Europe which I think Pontius will or get a shot to prove yourself in a national team environment.

    Now I definitely want the players to make more and get a fair cut of any success the league is able to build to. However up to this point the league is mostly in red ink or losing money and while some teams are starting to come around and turn a little profit it still has a way to go. Free Agency to me allows for the deep pocketed owners to have the best chance at success, i.e. Real Madrid while the smaller teams are left behind. I like the parity that the single entity brings where one year your favorite team can stink but the following year it can make the playoffs where anything can happen i.e. RSL in 2009. To me you have the best of both worlds right now. You can bring in a top player like Beckham, Ljundberg, Angel, etc… to see him play but not have this outrageous spending that is bankrupting teams all around the world right now. And your team can go from worst to first in a matter of a season and because of having a pro league we get to set up international friendlies to see the best in the world play at our stadiums.

    My point is simply this…I think MLS has not reached the point of throwing out everything or most of everything the league has worked for over the past 14 seasons to get to this point and as long as they are increasing the cap even if it is a penny then everyone should be happy and lets get on with the season. The worst thing that we can have happen is to have some ugly situation that sets the league back if not kills it.

    While I respect and am grateful to players like Pat Onstad for all they have done for the sport in this country I also realize that he gets to make a six figure salary for doing something he loves that without MLS I doubt he even gets close to this income in his soccer career if there ever is one. And the owners are the ones that have put up with the financial losses and continue to bleed money to give all these players that extra opportunity to play in the USA and for the few that are profiting they deserve the reward RIGHT NOW for the risk of believing in this league when it could have folded not even 6-7 years ago if not for some of the owners(Anshutz) believing in it and not giving up.

  103. alexandria says:

    I keep reading people talk about van den bergh and hartman, Hartman could be at the wizards camp right now but he didn’t want to sign the deal the wizards made because of the length of the contract as for van den bergh dallas has said they would keep him but only for a lower salary, and if not they would trade him. For all you free market enthusiast if this guy is worth his salary then their would be a demand for him but their is not. He either needs to stay with dallas and take the pay cut. Or work out a deal with another former team. It’s like Allen Iverson, no one wanted him at his salary especially at his age, free agency or not, his choices where simple, retire or take the pay cut. I don’t here anyone crying for him.

  104. DCD says:

    Exactly. It’s a hybrid of sorts. To some extent, the “product” is competition. Yet, teams also are competing with each other for revenue, to some extent. How this odd hybrid model comports with antitrust law is what the SC is dealing with in American Needle.

  105. Mike says:

    NBA then. Although the NFL’s cap is pretty hard. MLB has a truly soft cap on the other hand. Still, my point is free agency and salary caps are not mutually exclusive.

  106. Derek Young says:

    Ives for commissioner!

  107. Shadowdub says:

    If the financial constraints are so great, why are there so many cities that are bidding to get teams? Why would anyone want to get involved in a league that is not making money?

  108. Cabrito says:

    MLS and its players cannot afford a work stoppage. They aren’t that stupid. This is a World Cup year, which offers the league a great opportunity to cross-promote. Also, with Philly joining the league and two new stadiums debuting, it would be suicide to have a lock-out.

    They will work under the previous agreement until next year.

  109. alexandria says:

    No they aren’t but they do destroy parity within the league, as for an NFL example everyone tries to run away from detroit, or an NBA example, a steve francis who doesn’t want to play for a particular team. The whole thing about this is everyone is equating free agency with a guy being waived or his option not being picked up, the two sides in my opinion aren’t arguing about guys that are sellable, but more like guys like abe thompson, or older players. SO, i think we are arguing a moot point most guys that are good either want to go overseas, or like beckerman want to be traded to another team for a new start or a better chance. I think the older players see the younger players having it better than they ever did and they want to know what do they get for getting the league to this point, the problem for me is and I think the majority of us can agree, the majority of these guys just aren’t going to cut it as the level of play increases, we’ve all been saying they need to improve the product on the field. You can’t improve it without getting rid of some of the dead weight.

  110. shawn says:

    It is a hard cap, not a soft cap therefore you can’t push the limit of the cap. This is not hard to understand. What mike is talking about is that certain cities or teams might be more desirble to play for because of who they are or where they are.

  111. Jeff from Tallahassee, FL says:

    This is exactly the reason why free agency is a non-starter for management. MLS as a league structure is so different than other professional sport leagues in the U.S. and other soccer leagues in the world. Player contracts are with the central office and not the clubs. Free agency would completely change this dynamic and put the power with the clubs. My guess is that we will see free agency once the majority of the teams (if not all) are profitable.

  112. Free Agent says:

    I am not an antitrust lawyer, and I understand the distinctions between the MLS and the NFL, but free agency is one factor the SC has weighed in determining “single entity” status. My guess is that the owners will not take even the slightest risk if it might jeopardize the single entity structure. They credit it with saving the league during the lean years of contraction. The fact that the Kraft and Hunt families own NFL franchises, and the fact that the NFL is contending with this antitrust issue right now, only reinforces my view that antitrust concerns are driving resistance to free agency. Regarding Shadowpub’s point about the surplus of eager investors and owners, I do not know why so many investors appear willing to invest in the league. My guess is that Soccer United Marketing provides some financial footing for the league, but the league itself probably still loses money.

  113. James Wedding says:

    That’s funny, as an FC Dallas fan, Hunt Sports Group came to mind. I’d guess between Kraft and Hunt you have the makings of a top notch cheapskates club.

  114. Jeff from Tallahassee, FL says:

    MLS is part of the free market for soccer players–when you view the MLS as one club that has satellites in different cities (which is the current business structure). When players are out of contract, they are free to market themselves to any soccer club in the world including other teams in the U.S. (just not in MLS).

    The teams in the MLS are not individual clubs as we tend to think of them, but instead are just different branches of the central office.

  115. inkedAG says:

    I say screw the league, support the Players!!!

  116. Jess says:

    If I were the head of the Players Union, this would be the best possible year to have a strike in terms of bargaining power.

    Don Garber wants to avoid a strike because Garber is asking for 50% raise to $3 Million per year salary for himself, its a World Cup year, the Beckham debacle is still fresh in everyones mind , the new NASL wants to compete against MLS, & Vancouver & Portland are supposed to join the league in 2011.
    The owners of Seattle, Toronto & LA want to avoid a strike at all costs because of season ticket holders. The Red Bull owners want to avoid a strike at all costs because of their new $200 Million Arena. The Philly owners want to avoid a strike because its their 1st year & they have a new stadium .

    A player making $50,000 a year who already probably has a 2nd job (because everyone is 1 injury away from MLS retirement) has much less to lose than an owner paying $200 Million for a new stadium. If I were the president of the players union its not a question of “Should I strike?” Its a question of “When should I strike?”

  117. sylc says:

    But a player making $34,000 (the minimum) and for reserves sometimes less, they have much MUCH more to lose than an owner.

    It is a question of “should I strike?” because the lower wage-earning players are not properly represented by the union. Conrad, Keller, Onstad, and Wolyniec are the ones we’re hearing from. We’ve heard nothing from a Pontius or a DelaGarza, which leads me to believe they aren’t properly informed or they don’t support it and have been told to keep their mouths shut.

  118. Why does management want to restrict “free agency” within the league? First, never underestimate management’s urge to have complete control, even if no money is involved. Second, “free agency” would put the several inept front offices under that much more pressure. Who really wants to play for a team like the Red Bulls, with a new coach every year and constant roster turnover? Or perhaps for DCU — who balked at pay increases for younger veterans and then wasted thousands on an unfit Argentinian. And I doubt that New York is the only outfit where experienced players would like to jump ship, even if it meant no particular increase in pay. It’s not as if most MLS teams have focused on developing younger players and establishing a stable lineup.

  119. Mike says:

    Have the details of the Hartman and VDB negotiations been publicized? (serious question – I don’t know)

    I ask because there is a difference between a guy getting blackballed and a holdout. Holdouts happen all the time, and it is frequently the player who is making the more exhorbitant demands (see: Michael Crabtree; see also: JD Drew).

    Do we know whether any teams would be willing to meet their demands?

  120. Mike says:

    Off topic much? No club in the world has to sell a player it doesn’t want to sell. Nothing in the current negotiations would affect this either.

  121. alexandria says:

    You just answered your own question. Thats why? honestly what young player would play for the revs, if they new there was no way they could make a move abroad. I mean honestly I think the majority of the teams have solid leadership, except those teams owned by the hunts and kraft. And they are the oldest members, so this is probably a culture clash between the owners as well, but I think right now, those two big players are not willing to tip the bucket yet, and rightfully so, they made this league have supported it from day one, sometimes its hard to let go, and they aren’t ready to yet. The players though are risking a lot. Question do you have to be in the union, or are their non- union players?

  122. Eurosnob says:

    DClee, I agree with you that MLS has done a lot of good for US soccer, but the league can do a lot better. I cannot get over the fact that players like Andrew Jacobsen (Union took him away from DCU in the expansion draft) were paid 36K last year. Although 36K may be a decent pay for some areas of the country, in DC it puts you on the brink of poverty line. If the league wants to make money, they should first become a feeder league for top European leagues. This would require MLS to stop penny pinching and focus on developing their soccer academies and creating opportunities for young players through the reserve league. Collecting $10 mil. from Josy Altidore’s transfer is several times more than the total salary cap for the MLS team that he played for.

  123. Graeme says:

    Bottomline – is MLS still insisting that the players sign away their FIFA rights? If so, then stick to your guns. If not, then get to the table, work it out, and quit wasting all of our time.

  124. I am sure that you don’t want to hear this, but being the original investor in a business doesn’t give you the right to take all the profits or to exploit your employees. Believe me, no one would pay money to watch the Hunts or Kraft or Anschultz play soccer… so the players have also made a contribution from the beginning.
    I would think all you free market zealots would support the players in this because what they are asking for is the right to sell their services to the highest bidder, once their original contracts are done. Isn’ that what Ayn Rand would have wanted?

  125. rustico210 says:

    Call The players union and let them know what you think the # is 301.657.3535

    I just left a message for Eddie Pope.

    For those of you who wish to contact MLS The email is feedback@mlsnet.com Sorry no # for them.

  126. war says:

    Feel sorry for Hartman. They talked about him on Phone-in today. Since the “league” didn’t pick up his contract, he doesn’t have insurance for his family and cant work anywhere. Things need to change fast or Norway and Denmark will be the new MLS very soon.

  127. David says:

    That’s BS Ives. There is not the slightest argument in favor of the conclusion that the players should share any blame for this situation. My understanding is that they are not asking for significant new expenditures; rather, they are asking for relief from oppressive contracts, which, quite frankly, as a contract attorney, I’m prepared to conclude are unenforceable.

    How you can have a situation like Van den Bergh’s where his team has elected not to pick up the option on his contract, but still controls his economic future, is beyond me. The players’ union’s lawyers have to be idiots not to realize this is an unenforceable restriction.

  128. Seriously? says:

    A few points Alexandria. First, just to get it out of the way, the NFL has a hard cap (well, it did, until they have an uncapped year) – look up the Wiki. Next, why does free agency destroy parity? I’d say it allows for more parity, because it keeps a team from being able to collect too much talent. Your point about Detroit or Steve Francis have nothing to do with free agency. Free agency didn’t cause player to not want to go to Detroit, the fact that the team was horribly run and terrible on the field did. Until a few years ago people were coming up with silly reasons to say why NBA players didn’t want to play in Boston, when the reason why they didn’t want to come was because the team and it’s management sucked. New management came in, turned things around, and suddenly, Boston isn’t a terrible place for NBA players to play any longer.

    Free agency doesn’t ruin parity, bad management does. If everybody has the same resources, then it’s up to teams to get the most out of those resources. Players want 2 things, to get paid as well as they can, and to play for a winner. All the other stuff is just window dressing.

  129. ETJ says:

    If by cheapskates club you mean the type of club that keeps MLS alive, then yes Kraft and Hunt make a very good cheapskates club

  130. ETJ says:

    I admit you’re right, sorry for disagreeing with you… that’s the last time I trust the league’s figures

  131. srfinger says:

    Single entity structure would still be in place for guys new to the league. All the players want is for guys who have performed well under the full terms of their initial contract to have SOME bargaining power.

    It seems like the league is doing everything in its power to gain the flexibility to pay rookies, new foreigners, and DPs, while restricting what they have to pay for a guy who has shown for 4 years that he can contribute to the league. Isnt that backwards?

    The league is much less interesting when teams build by signing mediocre foreigners, rather than paying an extra 50K to keep a 24 year old US player from going to Scandanavia. DC wouldnt pay up for Bobby Boswell, but was happy to pay double for the frickin Martinez brothers, who were terrible.

    Yes, soccer is at a stage in the country right now where a lot of professionals are going to get paid $15K-$34K a year while they demonstrate whether or not they have play. Many of these guys will never make it and will get cut, or will finish their contract and decide they have a better chance to play for a USL team. However some of these guys will develop into MLS starters. Those guys shouldnt be held hostage by a team that doesnt want to pay them, but also wants compensation to give them up.

    Of all of the issues being discussed, this is the one that seems the most ridiculous. I am fine with the cap. I am fine with the cap not going up very quickly. I am fine with contracts that are not guaranteed.

    But lets have a league that rewards guys for succeeding and doesnt force every decent player to go to the Danish second division in order to get paid.

  132. bgnewf says:

    Frankly I don’t buy the “poor finances” story of MLS nearly as much as many others do.

    Soccer United Marketing is a cash cow, and the league has a, relatively speaking, decent handle on costs. On top of that there is all the expansion dollars coming in this year and next (Upwards of $100 million +). Yes there are some weaker sisters (KC, Dallas, Columbus, etc.), but the league has added two (soon to be three with Philadelphia) strong franchises in Seattle and Toronto that undoubtedly make money.

    It might surprise some of you to learn that Soccer United Marketing is responsible for selling the US English and Spanish broadcasting rights for the World Cup, which for example I am sure makes a nice little chunk of change for the league…

    If this league was in the poor shape the owners claim it to be in then I do not think that there would be clubs building new expensive stadia (RSL, Red Bull, KC) and new cities (Vancouver, Portland, and maybe Montreal) lining up to join the party.

    I understand the cost control angle but I think the ownership is being far too unreasonable on issues like free agency, DP allocations, player movement and of course players on the bottom end of the scale making next to nothing in salary.

    Let’s hope saner heads prevail on both sides.

  133. ThaDeuce says:

    FREE AGENCY NOW!

  134. ThaDeuce says:

    YAY!