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Dear Mr. Anschutz

Thank you for your time, sir. Can I call you Phil? No? Okay, no worries. I feel as though I know you as well as any reporter, which isn't saying much considering you've been politely declining interviews since your 14th birthday. We were introduced before an MLS board of governors meeting years back and you were quite gracious in allowing me to stay at your Eagles Nest Ranch on the high plains outside Denver for a story about D.C. United's unique getaway after a match against the Rapids.

Anyway, now that we've gotten reacquainted, I first want to apologize for interrupting your busy day. However, this is important. You and the other well-heeled men who brought top-flight pro soccer back to America (and we thank you from the bottom of our Home Depot Center-loving hearts) have fundamental differences with your labor force, those pesky players. You see, the collective bargaining agreement has expired and, without a new one, the 15th season will not start on time -- or take place at all. The deadline has twice been extended, but with the players saying that things aren't going well, it seems unlikely a deal will be struck by the Thursday cut-off.

Most of America will shrug, but to those of us who have followed MLS since John Harkes and DCU faced Eric Wynalda and the San Jose Clash at Spartan Stadium in April 1996, an interruption would be a terrible setback to the league and the sport, possibly tarnishing a year in which we will again celebrate the beautiful game through the grandest of sporting events, the World Cup.

I don't mean to single you out. After all, MLS has attracted diverse investment in recent years (credit to Don Garber for helping bring them aboard) and no longer has to rely solely on you to prop up the league and operate half the clubs. You, though, have been the most influential figure in American soccer the past decade and a half (hence, your induction into the National Soccer Hall of Fame and your name engraved on the MLS Cup trophy). You were the force behind the Carson stadium, which is the premier venue in the country (until Red Bull Arena opens this spring). If not for you, MLS might have followed the Miami Fusion and Tampa Bay Mutiny and folded altogether nine years ago, which would have stunted the sport's growth and destroyed opportunities for young players not ready for the rigors of Europe (not to mention deprived us the joys of SuperLiga).

Given your political leanings (CPAC was in D.C. this weekend; we could've done lunch!), I am guessing you are not fond of unions. To each his own.

For the good of the game, we have bought into your slow-growth philosophy and endured the measly salary cap, which has resulted in bland imports to complement the select U.S. and foreign standouts and promising young American lads.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if there is a work stoppage, the players will have the public relations advantage. All they will have to do is post copies of the master salary list on every lamp post. This ain't the same as Major League Baseball's labor problems, when fans took little sympathy for the middle reliever earning $4 million. We're talking about fundamental living wages for a large percentage of the work force. Another concern is the inability of players to move within the league and the iron-clad grasp clubs have on players even after contracts expire.

One of my most trusted contacts, who knows this league inside and out and is respected on both sides of the aisle, says: "It's like the old Soviet Union -- everyone knows the system stinks. The old guard is desperately trying to pretend that the system is essential and still works." Ouch. That's the perception, sir.

Money magazine attributed your wildly successful business instincts to your "ability to spot value and trends long before most mortals -- his ability, in other words, to see around corners."

While most potential investors were scared off by pro soccer, you saw around that corner, investing in American soccer's enormous untapped resources. Your efforts have paid off in the form of a 16-team league (soon to be 18), new stadiums sprouting up seemingly every spring, clubs that cultivate emerging talent, a marketing arm (SUM) that holds held the TV rights to the World Cup, annual visits by foreign clubs and much more. MLS is not as big as the NFL (nor will it ever be), but it is part of the sports discussion in many cities.

I don't pretend to have the answers to these complex labor issues, and frankly, with so little specific information seeping out of either camp, most of us don't fully appreciate the reasons behind this dust-up. But I do know this: Any work stoppage, particularly one that cuts into the regular season (which is a mere 4 1/2 weeks away), will damage the league and sport in which you have poured so much money and effort. We know you have more important matters to address in your vast business portfolio, but MLS is obviously one that is dear to your heart.

American soccer supporters are counting on you and your fellow investors to work harder to reach a solution.

If you'd like to discuss this further, please have your people text my people. (Actually, I don't have people, so maybe give me a call?)

Regards,
Soccer Insider

By Steve Goff  |  February 22, 2010; 9:50 AM ET
Categories:  MLS  
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Next: D.C. United, Ryan Nelsen, Marcelo Gallardo

Comments

WOW!!

Posted by: beergorila | February 22, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Nicely done Steve.

Posted by: SomeSoccerFan | February 22, 2010 9:57 AM | Report abuse

This was brilliant. Well written Mr. Goff!!

Posted by: isaac101 | February 22, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

FTW.

Posted by: Section117 | February 22, 2010 10:09 AM | Report abuse

If the union ever posts that list on a lamp post they should do it in reverse alphabetical order, to keep Beckham, Blanco, and Angel on the last page . . .

Posted by: fallschurch1 | February 22, 2010 10:10 AM | Report abuse

What? Goff, you don't have people? In the words of Bruce Arena, "Are you kidding me?"

You have Mrs. Insider. You have Son of Insider. You have the entire Inside Nation!

What are we chopped liver?

Mr. Anschutz can text any of us anytime. We'll get you the message, pronto.

;-)

Posted by: Ron16 | February 22, 2010 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Well done, Steve, but I do not believe SUM has the World Cup rights anymore. I thought ESPN/ABC bought them outright last time. SUM may help them sell ad time, but I do not believe they are the rights holder. Just a nit to pick in an otherwise spot-on assessment.

Posted by: beach3 | February 22, 2010 10:14 AM | Report abuse

oh wow, that story from 2004 is classic:

Forward Freddy Adu and midfielder Dema Kovalenko got into spirited putting contests, with howls from observers on the fringe after each near-miss.

"First time with club!" Kovalenko, a lefty, shouted after draining a long putt. "You see that, Freddy Adu, you see that?"

Posted by: stairs | February 22, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Those are some big grapefruits you got there Goff.

But I couldn't agree with you more. If the season doesn't start as scheduled, the league and the sport will be taking massive steps backwards.

In order for MLS to succeed, it needs to continue playing and developing the young American talent that it has done since it's inception.

Posted by: hardcoco | February 22, 2010 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Again with the "living wage" argument.

Look, two things:
1 - MLS would have no choice but to stop paying those incredibly low-wage young-player contracts IF THE PLAYERS WOULD STOP SIGNING THEM.
2 - The vast majority (please look it up, I have) of "those" types of players either move up (to better contracts) or out (out of professional soccer, or to the second division or wherever) within two years. Which is as it should be. Don't like your crap early contract? Play better. Can't play better? Go slice meat.

As for the movement thing - I think a player should have the same rights as any other American worker if his employer says "get out." If you can make a better deal for yourself, you should be able to. And your previous employer should have no recompense. That's what "release" means, to me, at least.

Posted by: very_clever_username | February 22, 2010 10:17 AM | Report abuse

I like this letter and am glad it's out there, but it pretty much flies in the face of Goff's oft-stated impartiality and insistence that he has no interest in DCU's results or progress towards a stadium.

Posted by: joe_hill | February 22, 2010 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Well done!

Posted by: davemcl | February 22, 2010 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Balls

Posted by: DadRyan | February 22, 2010 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Now I know why it took so long for a new post to appear on this Monday morning.... :-)

Posted by: Juan-John1 | February 22, 2010 10:29 AM | Report abuse

@joe_hill, well, it's pretty simple: if MLS goes away, so does a great deal of Goff's job. Perfectly natural and reasonable self-interest, as well as (I believe) genuine concern and affection for the sport.

Posted by: VercengetorixII | February 22, 2010 10:30 AM | Report abuse

joe_hill, that struck me too, but I guess Goff would argue that it is indeed impartial to say that (a) work stoppage hurts league and (b) players likely have a big pile of PR snowballs.

I know the owners have PR snowballs of their own, don't stone me . . .

Posted by: fallschurch1 | February 22, 2010 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for saying what we've all been thinking, Steve. These labor negotiations are for the young kids trying to follow their dreams on meager developmental contracts.

They're for the Kevin Hartmans and Dave Van Den Berghs, vets trying to make a living for their families and tethered to the antiquated single-entity structure.

We appreciate what you've done for the league Anshutz, Garber et al., but it is time to stop the paternalism. You're like crotchety old dads locking your teenage daughter, MLS, in her bedrooms as young men in shiny new cars drive past the house, forlornly staring at the light coming from your daughter's window.

You've raised her well. You can let her go.

Posted by: DonDraper | February 22, 2010 10:37 AM | Report abuse

@Joe_hill:

Where in the post did Goff say anything about DCU results or progress toward a stadium?

Posted by: Ron16 | February 22, 2010 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Senor Goff -- why do you throw out stuff like "We're talking about fundamental living wages for a large percentage of the work force"?

National median income for males: $33,196
National median income for males 25-34 years old: $32,875
Median income for males living in metropolitan settings: $35,017 ($29k in rural areas)
Median income for males living in the following regions...
Northeast: $34,921
Midwest: $34,324
South: $31,887
West: $34,609
National median income for males holding a bachelor's degree (all ages): $56,826

Removing the DPs from consideration (which would only inflate the MLS median income even further), the median income in MLS is $88k.

But that's just the median income, you say. What about the bottom end? The senior roster minimum in MLS is *right at* those median income numbers with the exception of the median for those with bachelor's degrees, which includes people in their 30s and up who have had career time to boost their salaries since graduating.

Unless you want to argue that over half the population of the US isn't earning "fundamental living wages," this claim doesn't make much sense to me.

(thanks to Sirk on BS for the research here)

Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | February 22, 2010 10:39 AM | Report abuse

I wonder how much money MLSPU is paying Goff to write these.

Posted by: MLSfan22 | February 22, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Very nice, Steve.

While you're sitting on Santa's lap, don't forget about the stadium...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...

Posted by: Kev29 | February 22, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

You forgot to add theme music to your letter for a dramatic affect..
I suggest Guiles Theme song from Street Fighter

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWqIfiJ_th8

Posted by: TheWashDipsSince88 | February 22, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Oh and Mr. Anschutz, while you're at it, could you pay for the construction of a stadium for DCU? I'm sure no one would mind if it was named "Anschutz Stadium."

Posted by: Juan-John1 | February 22, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

The Godfather will hopefully grant you an audience and heed your adivce

Posted by: njndirish | February 22, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

So the league setup is the equivalent of the "Soviet Union" of which the organized players "union" itself doesn't like working under? Ironic.

And isn't this blog written by someone who belongs to an organized labor group? Slanted.

Thanks for the entertainment this morning comrade Goff.

Stabaek K
Blog contrinutors union local 115

"We need to organize and get paid a fiar wage for bringing traffic to these blogs"
:-D


Posted by: Stabaek_Kofie | February 22, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Goff, when Phil's people call you, can you let them know that fans like me, won't be buying any tickets to their local team until after the real schedule is available.

I'm just saying... that's money that my dear DC United won't have to offset the massive losses it experience this year while continuing its operations in a decrepit national monument.

Posted by: TCompton | February 22, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Goff's opinion lives! Very nice.

Posted by: UnitedDemon | February 22, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

@TheWashDipsSince88 I was thinking this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3q9WaW0_grw

Posted by: njndirish | February 22, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

christopher_a_metzler,

You have to remember a vast majority of MLS players have college degree's.

Posted by: strago | February 22, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

strago -- why, exactly, do I have to remember that?

Is $32k in the United States a living wage or not? Yes or no?

Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | February 22, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Why does everyone have to bash the SuperLiga all the time?

But seriously, I think all parties involved are aware that the league will not survive a labor stoppage. I would assume that as we reach the 11th hour, both sides will be able to come to an agreement for survivals sake.

Posted by: rademaar | February 22, 2010 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Hope no one confuses the 'new guard's willingness to spend a little more money to bring in better and exciting players with willingness to change the Single Entity system. Two completely different things.

Posted by: MLSfan22 | February 22, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

http://www.usatoday.com/sports/soccer/mls/2009-salaries.htm

The bottom end are making $20,100. Good luck living on that in DC or any other major U.S. city.

Posted by: DonDraper | February 22, 2010 11:07 AM | Report abuse

I'm going to agree that $32K is a living wage in many parts of the US.

Not to mention that these men can choose to play elsewhere or choose another career path if they don't like the wages. Most of us out in the real world have to make that choice frequently.

Now I hope the two sides come come to an agreement for the sake of the game here and us soccer fans; however, this is the normal process of things when organized labor gets involved with an industry so we shouldn't get too stressed out or be too surprised if there's a work stoppage. Two sides trying to slice up the pie, even if the pie isn't a viable "business".

It's the normal process of this business model.

Sit back and enjoy the ride!


Posted by: Stabaek_Kofie | February 22, 2010 11:08 AM | Report abuse

DonDraper -- as noted a zillion times, those are developmental contracts. The senior roster minimum isn't $20k.

Lots of people would like to see the developmental contract minimum raised, for a variety of reasons -- but historically, the MLS Players' Union hasn't been among them. Neither the owners nor the Union have cared much about the developmental minimum. The Union doesn't really represent those players, and historically hasn't cared about them.

Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | February 22, 2010 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Sorry Chris...I don't buy it. There is no reason the players union cannot advocate for the 40+ players (that number will increase with the new teams) in the league making under $22,000 a year. For your argument to work you would have to argue that 40+ players do not represent, in Steve'r words, "large percentage of the work force". Well it turns out 11-13% of the workforce is making under $22,000 a season. So we are talking about one in every 8 or 9 players.

To change this argument into a discussion of median salaries is a little disingenuous, and if the issue is also about public relations (and it is) Goff's point holds even more strongly.

Posted by: rhorto01 | February 22, 2010 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Nice job Steve.

Regardless of where we each stand on this the simple fact remains that this league will suffer massively if there is a work stoppage or strike. I get the playing hard ball thing, it's the MO of these types of negotiations. But one can only go so far before cutting off the nose to spite the face.

League, owners, union, players and fans beware...

Posted by: Kosh2 | February 22, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Vast majority of the players earn more than the average Americans do and they do it with only about 3 hours a day of work. Even the handful of those that make slightly less they still get bonuses and other benefits many Americans don't get. I'd kill to make a living playing a child's game in a country where soccer is not that popular, and especially in this economy.

Posted by: MLSfan22 | February 22, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

I love it when the anti-unioners come out. I'm glad someone is there to fight for corporate rights and to protect those poor multi-millionaires from those receiving poverty and near-poverty wages for their labor.

Posted by: vivzig | February 22, 2010 11:19 AM | Report abuse

rhorto01 -- however much you don't buy it, the MLS Player's Union doesn't care. A suggestion: talk to some developmental players sometime about the support they get from the Union. It'll be an enlightening experience.

Heck, that's why a certain revered DC United player who shall go nameless told Jay Needham he was doing the right thing when he went to Puerto Rico's USL team rather than take a developmental contract at DCU. The developmental salaries should come up, if only to keep bubble players from making that decision -- something that's happened to DCU twice in the last few years. But it's never been a major issue for the Player's Union, and the League doesn't seem to care either.

Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | February 22, 2010 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Good letter, Goff! It doesn't take a dogmatic partisan to point out some inconsistencies that have arisen between things like MLS honcho Mark Abbot's statement late last week, the union response and the disparities between what MLS players get and what average fans may think they earn.

Now who knows what Phil Anschutz' username is when he posts on the Soccer Insider?

Posted by: Joel_M_Lane | February 22, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse

vivzig -- $32k is near-poverty wages?

Why isn't there an icon for eyerolling here?

Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | February 22, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse

christopher_a_metzler,

You have to remember a vast majority of MLS players have college degree's.

Posted by: strago

I'm assuming you don't :) ("degree's")

Posted by: Reignking | February 22, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Well, it's almost 9:30 AM in Colorado - have you heard back from Mr. Anschutz yet? He should have seen his morning WashPost by now...that is, unless it's snowing and he has the same delivery guy as I do!

Posted by: soccerman | February 22, 2010 11:27 AM | Report abuse

I think we should ALL organize, unite and demand that we get our "fair share" of Goff's income.

We're the ones who buy subscriptions to the paper or the online service to read Steven's well prepared and informed articles. We're the ones bringing traffic to the WashPo website. Yet we get nothing in return for doing our part. Nothing!

Mr. Goff, we haven't met personally, but I'd like to suggest you share your wages with us subscribers, us blog posters, us the little people of the interweb.

Yes you provide a service that we like, but without us, there is no WashPo soccer beat. No readers, no web traffic = no salary for you.

Let's bring the UNITE to DC United here people.

A fair wage for fair participation Steven, here us now!!! Power to the people.


Thank you kind sir for you understanding, now please only negotiate with me and only me. I'm the representative of this readers union. But first, you'll need to contribute to our newly formed PAC, health care co-op and to our general coffers. Thank you.

Posted by: Stabaek_Kofie | February 22, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

love it when the anti-unioners come out. I'm glad someone is there to fight for corporate rights and to protect those poor multi-millionaires from those receiving poverty and near-poverty wages for their labor.

Posted by: vivzig | February 22, 2010 11:19 AM | Report abuse

============================

It's pretty hard to construct a Marxist critique of the MLS labor situation when the "poor multi-millionaires" are losing money as a result of their gratuitous sponsorship of a league that plain and simply would not exist without them. Where's the exploitation, comrade?

I think the players have a more compelling argument from a free market perspective -- i.e., free agency. But that's where I'm coming from to begin with.

Posted by: OWNTF | February 22, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Anschutz probably phoned him "what are they paying ya ..I'll double it"

Posted by: MLSfan22 | February 22, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Awesome letter Mr Goff. Not only was this a great read, but its really encouraging to see one of the most well-respected journalists in the American soccer community stepping up.

What gets lost in the salary discussion every time is that these players have other opportunities to make income outside of their MLS salaries. They host soccer camps and clinics and make appearances at shoe stores and various other places. They also earn additional bonuses for playing in CL, Open Cup, and Superliga matches. I'm not saying that this would bump the minimum income of a senior roster player up from $32K to 60K, but I'm sure it helps.

So I don't think the wage/salary cap is really the biggest point of contention. I could see the player's union agreeing to the modest 4-5% increases that the league is proposing. The bigger issue I think is free agency. That's where it's hard to see either side budging.

Posted by: DCUMD | February 22, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

"Mr. Anschutz probably phoned him "what are they paying ya ..I'll double it"

Posted by: MLSfan22"

==============================

Goff can't accept that offer, because if he did he'd have to leave the journalist guild. And if Steven left the guild, then he'd be "The Man", at which point we in the newly formed readers union would not have access to Mr. Goff's income.

That simply won't do.

Posted by: Stabaek_Kofie | February 22, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

@Metzler -- You've totally missed Goff's point. When the baseball players go on strike, they get no sympathy because the minimum salary is stratospheric -- more than many people earn over the course of their lives. (I remember when it was 500k, but I believe it's set at $1,000,000 now). Plus, they're not facing crippling injuries every moment like a football player does, or even a soccer player does to some extent.

So, the starting point is completely different. When soccer and some freedom of movement, they're talking about protecting earning levels that are in line with many, if not most, of the people in attendance at the games.

The baseball owners don't get a lot of sympathy from fans, but they know the players don't either. MLS came out with this ridiculously deceptive, meaningless $60 million number because they wanted to play the public relations sympathy game. Goff's point is that most fans will understand that this isn't about filthy rich athletes trying to maintain a free agency system that basically gives them all the leverage and leads to hugely escalating salaries, costs and ticket prices.

In MLS, there is no free agency, and there aren't very many players that would be thought of as rich. Few can rely on what they've already earned to live handsomely for the rest of their lives. So, when Goff says "We're talking about fundamental living wages for a large percentage of the work force," he's exactly right. The players need these jobs -- a lockout or strike means they will struggle to make end meet like the rest of the unemployed.

Posted by: fischy | February 22, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Anschutz probably phoned him "what are they paying ya ..I'll double it"
Posted by: MLSfan22
=================

Change your bookmarks to http://blog.washingtonexaminer.com/soccerinsider

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | February 22, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Accidental deletion -- second paragraph should read:

When soccer players ask for guaranteed contracts and some freedom of movement, they're talking about protecting earning levels that are in line with many, if not most, of the people in attendance at the games.

Posted by: fischy | February 22, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Goff,

While you are at it you should have asked him to buy back DCU.

Posted by: no_recess | February 22, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

"Goff,

While you are at it you should have asked him to buy back DCU."

----

He probably did and I think Anschutz' response was "do not want".

Posted by: MLSfan22 | February 22, 2010 11:47 AM | Report abuse

OWNTF -- The Free Market Perspective isn't working so well in the EPL. Check out Portsmouth, Liverpool, and even Man United's balances. I'm no corporatist, but salary caps have worked pretty well in American sports, and unbalanced spending in the MLS would surely give us more than one Portsmouth type of situation. For a league as fragile as the MLS, that would be disastrous.

Posted by: DC07 | February 22, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

fischy -- I don't think I have "completely missed his point." Contrary to what it may seem, Goff's letter wasn't to Phil Anschutz -- it was to you and me.

You're absolutely right that there's no sympathy for baseball players going on strike. But there's no sympathy for MLS players going on strike, either, for a very different reason: nearly everyone in the US doesn't care. The vast majority of the population here couldn't care less whether the League dies or not. So the target audience are people like you and me -- the tiny fraction of the population that will ever even come across this blog, let alone this blog post. I think it's fair to say that both you and I already know this is nothing like the situation in Major League Baseball. And it's to you and I that Goff wrote "We're talking about fundamental living wages for a large percentage of the work force."

Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | February 22, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

DCUMD brings up the point about bonuses for playing in other competitions - but remember the flap about the vaunted $1M prize attached with the Superliga? The Mexican clubs gave the bulk of that money to the players, but the MLS clubs gave something less than $250K (IIRC) to the players. Outside of the Open Cup (which carries a smaller purse), those other competitions are only open to teams who finish in the top half. So what does that mean for a guy on San Jose's roster making the veteran minimum?

And the argument about "other opportunities" (ie, camps) would be like a school district telling a teacher's union they don't deserve a raise this year because the teachers make enough extra money painting houses on the side during the summer.

What the players do to make money outside of MLS should have nothing to do with this discussion.

Posted by: VTUnited | February 22, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

"Vast majority of the players earn more than the average Americans do and they do it with only about 3 hours a day of work." from MLSfan22 -- tell that to Ben Olsen when he's struggling to walk up and down stairs with his child. Still paying his dues for his work on the field.

Posted by: fallschurch1 | February 22, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

@ron16 - i'm not interested in making this about Goff and not the owners, but it just seemed odd that he would interject himself in an ongoing labor dispute, rather than just Report on it. He often cites his impartiality about DCU. what I was doing is called making an "analogy".

anways...

What the anti-union folks on here routinely forget to mention when they're comparing median or average salaries for people in the same agegroup as players is that the players have a 10-15 year window (if they're lucky) to make enough income to subsist on when their playing career is over. And their bodies are broken by injuries, surgeries, concussions etc, and they have also missed out on the opportunity to start a career using their college degree (if they went that route).

There's only so many head coaching jobs available. For every ex-player who becomes a coach or color commentator, how many dozens are forced to try to reboot with a new career competing with recent college graduates, or scrape together a living running soccer camps, as the regular folks that they've been compared against have moved on to better paying jobs?

Posted by: joe_hill | February 22, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

OWNTF says the owner/investors "are losing money as a result of their gratuitous sponsorship of a league" -- that would be the Soccer Philanthropist explanation of why they invested in the league. It's not that they see a payoff within a reasonable amount of time; they do it for the love of the game. I don't buy it.

Posted by: fallschurch1 | February 22, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

@ christopher_a_metzler

Well done my friend. I like your research and the fact that you point out that athletes are well over paid.

@ Goff

I just read several other soccer blogs (I won't name names b/c I am not trying to offend), but one writer put it well. The solution lies in the middle. Both sides are being unfair and uncooperative in their unwillingness to come up with solutions. As an American I have come to realize that we often times are not capable of compormise. Look at our political leaders for instance. They are unwilling to find solutions during a time of serious economic crisis.

I think that there can be a solution to the free agency issue. First their should be minimum salaries required for veterans and rookies depending on the amount of years played (professional soccer and not just in MLS). Also they should have free agency, but with limits. For example, if you do not have more than 4 years experience you should not be allowed to be a unrestricted free agent. This would be much like the NFL. However without becoming innovative with their solutions to free agency players will get nowhere and without allowing any sort of free agency neither will the owners.

The players would have to strike without any compromise and because of Robin Fraser's failed lawsuit they have no leverage. Ultimately the league would have a work stoppage during a World Cup year. It is unfortunate the owner's are being greedy and the players have been demanding rather than coming up with solutions.

Posted by: no_recess | February 22, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

no_recess -- I wouldn't characterize what I'm saying as being that "athletes are well over paid." At least, I'm not trying to say that. I just don't like the characterization of MLS players as grossly under-paid.

Personally, I'd love to see professional soccer players get paid a lot more in this country -- then the sport would be more appealing to athletes that now dream of careers in other sports, better atheltes from other countries would be more willing to come here, and the quality of the game overall would be better. Of course, if the salary cap were to quadruple overnight, a lot of the players currently in the League would be seeking work in lesser leagues.

Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | February 22, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

it's funny that the "player appearances" thing is being used to show that the players have *so many* other opportunities to make money.

i always found it really sad when you'd be at an equipment sale and players like justin moose and david stokes would be hunched behind a table signing autographs. it was always only players who make the league minimum, and they were only doing it because they needed the $250 appearance fee to pay rent and live. the fact that they are professional athletes and NEED to do player appearances to get by has always been incredibly depressing to me.

Posted by: joe_hill | February 22, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Nice Goff, well said. Bravo!

Posted by: dvseawolf | February 22, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Meh. What's incredibly depressing to me is how we pay teachers, EMTs/paramedics, firefighters, police offcers and soldiers (in no particular order).

Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | February 22, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse

"Vast majority of the players earn more than the average Americans do and they do it with only about 3 hours a day of work." from MLSfan22 -- tell that to Ben Olsen when he's struggling to walk up and down stairs with his child. Still paying his dues for his work on the field.

Posted by: fallschurch1

Um...what?

Posted by: Reignking | February 22, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Meh. What's incredibly depressing to me is how we pay teachers, EMTs/paramedics, firefighters, police offcers and soldiers (in no particular order).


Posted by: christopher_a_metzler

Really dude? this is a sports blog. of course people feel that teachers, firefighters, etc are underpaid. this discussion is about soccer players though. so lets stay on topic. people who work regular joe jobs simply can not be compared to athletes and entertainers. its apples and oranges, a different world. if you are on here griping about people arguing that a professional soccer player should make more than $33K a year, then i sure hope you are over on the Skins/Nats blogs railing against the absurd salaries those players make. get a grip dude.

Posted by: VTUnited | February 22, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

And in other news:
http://soccernet.espn.go.com/news/story?id=745559&sec=england&cc=5901

I really should get into the apology planning business. Those people are making a killing these days.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | February 22, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

"What," Reignking?

Well, MLSfan22 says that players have no business negotiating for higher wages because they work only 3 hours a day. My response is, for one thing, players feel the effects of their work for not just their career, but even afterward. (Goff has written that Olsen's decision to retire was inpired in part by the pain in his feet from walking up and down stairs while holding his child.)

How's that?

I also think they work more than 3 hours a day, but I left that out.

Posted by: fallschurch1 | February 22, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

It seems to me that when push comes to shove, the owners will steamroll the free agency issue by bribing the low paid players with a sizable increase in the league minimums (and commensurate increase in the cap). That's where the bulk of the votes lie in the players union.

Posted by: david93 | February 22, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

VTUnited -- You may want to re-read the post to which I replied (unfortunately, the crappy blog software here doesn't auto-quote or thread). My point was merely that I can't "get depressed" (not my words, but those of the person to whom I replied) for professional athletes' pay at *any* level. No matter how little they're being paid, they're being paid to be professional athletes, and not something upon which our lives depend; so I can't get depressed over it.


Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | February 22, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Now that was an interesting lunchtime read.

Posted by: DCB23 | February 22, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

fallschurch -- that's better. It just seemed like a non-sequitur. I was wondering if we had suddenly started talking about medical plans.

You think that new expansion team in Philly would like to change its name right now? Or do they like seeing "Union" in every MLS headline right now?

Posted by: Reignking | February 22, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

christopher_a_metzler - fair enough, i apologize for my tone. im in the camp of people who do feel bad that players we cheer for every week struggle to get by in an expensive city like DC. most of them could make more money at a joe job, but choose to play because they love the game, and want it to succeed in this country. that doesn't mean I dont feel bad for the underpaid police officer or teacher, I just don't think the magnitude of the situations are comparable.

Posted by: VTUnited | February 22, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

This is a courageous piece of journalism, because Goff presumably runs a risk of being shut out by MLS in the future. Still, people who don't talk to the media (Anschutz, in this case) are more vulnerable to this kind of criticism than a valuable source would be--the reporter has little to lose by criticizing people who already won't talk to him. Of course, both owners and players have a vital interest in avoiding any work stoppage, which would harm the fragile sport.

Anyway, when the CBA talks are all over, I'm expecting to see player ratings for the negotiators on this blog.

Posted by: hungrypug | February 22, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Well said, Goff. Couldn't agree more.

Posted by: hogmesh | February 22, 2010 12:44 PM | Report abuse

@Metzler -- You make a fair point. It's why the public relations gambit is a silly one for either side to play. I can speak form personal experience about the impact -- or even the lack of it -- of public opinion in such situations. When the baseball owners were planning replacement player games, I was called upon to draft legislation that would have prohibited the use of publicly-funded parks (e.g. Yankee and Shea Stadium), and would have also provided a refund mechanism for paid cable subscribers. Even with little sympathy for the players, the public was dead-set against the owners plan to trot out a bunch of scabs and third-rate players. That happened, because there was real interest in the situation. With MLS, much of the public won't even know it's happening. The point still stands, though, that the league is going to win many pr points by pretending to throw a lot fo money the players' way, even among the small numbers that pay attention.

About this, though -- I think some of us underestimate teh potential. Last week, I saw a premiere of a new documentary called "The Music Lesson", about a youth orchestra that travels to a small Kenyan village for a musical exchange. As it happens, there are a few shots of bags of soccer balls -- and it turns out, in the closing credits, that MLS actually was involved in the project. I guess they were donating balls to the village-- I don't know what else they might have done. In any case, I say bravo, MLS -- but that's not what was interesting to me. These high school kids -- classical music geeks -- were also soccer geeks. Maybe not all of them, but one kid was pictured in his suburban Boston home wearing an Arsenal jersey, and another wore a USA soccer warm-up jacket. A third got involved in a pick-up game with the locals. Maybe they're not diehard MLS fans, but they're into soccer. If MLS can reach this generation, soccer could be a strong 3rd or 4th sport in this country.

Posted by: fischy | February 22, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

players have a 10-15 year window (if they're lucky) to make enough income to subsist on when their playing career is over.
================

Ummm . . . do they suddenly become disabled at the age of 30 or 35? And shouldn't they think about this before they turn away a college education at a place like Virginia or Virginia Tech . . . an education some folks would sell body parts to be able to afford?

I mean, it's just whacky to suggest that because someone can kick a frikkin ball (or hit a home run) they shouldn't have to work for 50 years after their "career" is over.

Our beloved country has lost sight of one basic fact -- in the words of Jackson Browne: "Nobody owes you nothing (Nobody)."

Posted by: OWNTF | February 22, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Oops -- " the league is not going to win many pr points by pretending to throw a lot of money the players' way."

My point about the music geek kids -- this matters. There's a chance over the next 12 years, with another World Cup probably coming, to really carve out a place for MLS in the sports landscape. I hope they don't blow it. I think limited free agency can only help, because it gives fans something to talk about in the offseason, and gets fans of one team interested in players from different teams. Not the rent-a-player that goes on in baseball and killed off the love and loyalty for individual players, but something that allows for some movement.

Posted by: fischy | February 22, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

well said soccer insider!! good piece of work~

Posted by: futix | February 22, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Senor Goff -- why do you throw out stuff like "We're talking about fundamental living wages for a large percentage of the work force"?

.....

Unless you want to argue that over half the population of the US isn't earning "fundamental living wages," this claim doesn't make much sense to me.


Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | February 22, 2010 10:39 AM | Report abuse

----------------
----------------

Christopher, its not that hard...

The answer to your question is that over half the population of the US are not 1 in a million talent like MLS players are. Yes, these players earn at least as much as the median American income, but they don't hang shingles for a living.

Don't their skills demand compensation a bit more reflective of their uniqueness in the American workforce? Are you saying that a brain surgeon doesn't deserve to be paid more than a retail sales clerk? Come on...

Posted by: Atlanta4MLS | February 22, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

@joe_hill; what players can't work other jobs after they stop playing? It's not like they need to amass $10.000M to live off of for the rest of their life whilst they don't lift a finger to do anything. At 35 they can continue to work, often in soccer related jobs and make very respectable salaries doing so.

~~~~

Dear, Commies, there is free agency in MLS it is called playing for another club anywhere in the rest of the world.

A lot of you forget what Single Entity is all about, it is more like the players work for Northrup Grumman (a corporation) than an individual franchise at McDonalds. If you quit Northrup Grumman to work for a firm in Norway and then want to come back and work for a different NG office they will go back to the old office to see if you're worth bringing back, and further if the first office said, "hey I really need this person for X project, so you can't hire him until I see if I can get him back" then guess what they'll defer hiring to the old office.

That and if you tell your boss at NG that you want to go work in San Jose once this project is done they can say no. It doesn't stop you from going there just with NG, you always have the option to go work for SRA or GD instead. How is that any different than MLS?

I hope USSF bans any player striking from ever participating in US Soccer sanctioned events again (i.e. USMNT, USOC). There are some labor concessins I agree the owners should make (e.g. 401K, benefits, etc.) but free agency isn't one of them. It ruined baseball, it ruined the NBA and it is going to ruin MLS if it comes to pass. Break the Union in 2010 (applies to Philthadelphia as well)

Posted by: mcontento | February 22, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

one kid was pictured in his suburban Boston home wearing an Arsenal jersey,

Posted by: fischy | February 22, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse
===================

Eurosnob.

Fischy if you too are a music geek (and why else would you watch a documentary about a HS orchestra), I say Denis Matsuev is the best thing to come out of Russia since Andrei Arshavin.

Posted by: OWNTF | February 22, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

@ OWNTF

you conveniently ignored the rest of my post. How would you feel to be a 35 year old trying to compete with a bunch of 22 year olds fresh out of college.

Particularly if you had a degree that qualified you for the job, but had never actually gotten any work experience using it, and most likely had forgotten most everything you've learned. (I've never worked in the field that my degree is in, and if I tried to land a job in that field 10 years out of college, I'd have no chance.)

I'm not saying that players shouldn't have to work ever again after they retire (even though it is called "retire" after all) but there are not enough jobs in the soccer world to employ them all, and they've just given up their best working years of their lives - when you and I are gaining the experience and networks that we'll use for the rest of our careers.

Posted by: joe_hill | February 22, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

actually, the starting salary for a teacher in Arlington County is $42k, with summers off. I'm not saying they don't deserve it -- far from it -- but I wouldn't say they are underpaid, especially since Hristo Stoichkov isn't breaking legs in the staff room.

Posted by: troy6 | February 22, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if the kids in that HS orchestra would play in an MLS marching band.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | February 22, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

If they don't come to an agreement can the league hire scab players?

Posted by: hawknt | February 22, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

It's pretty hard to construct a Marxist critique of the MLS labor situation when the "poor multi-millionaires" are losing money as a result of their gratuitous sponsorship of a league that plain and simply would not exist without them. Where's the exploitation, comrade?

I think the players have a more compelling argument from a free market perspective -- i.e., free agency. But that's where I'm coming from to begin with.

Posted by: OWNTF | February 22, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

------
------

Yes. I'll agree with that. Usually I believe that labor unions have outlived their purpose. With most of the old work place injustices having been fixed long ago, they now move to reach for the next benefit they can get their grubby fingers on. I have no sympathy for labor unions.

But, on this, I take the players' side. A professional soccer player possessing the skills and talent to be in the 99.9999th percentile of the American workforce should be allowed access to appropriate compensation. I personally don't like the Socialistic nature of MLS's structure and believe in a more "free market" approach where players get paid what someone believes they are worth and not what is dictated to them by a Communistic league.

Posted by: Atlanta4MLS | February 22, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure if this has been said yet, but what about establishing an reasonable league minimum salary? The two sides would have to meet in the middle. Say the owners are ok with $30K and the union wants $100K, make it $50K. That is a good above-average wage in even the bigger cities. I know it's easier said than done, but this should be possible. Free agency is another story!

Posted by: paulp_00 | February 22, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

It's really a question of how many golden "free agency type" eggs can be squeezed out before it would kill the goose.

Posted by: OWNTF | February 22, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Goff - funny post, thanks. Even funnier thread. All these folks talking about unions and anti-unions and scabs and the like must have way more info than I do about the whole mess. I thought the point of your piece was that there isn't enough info out their for folks to make informed judgments and that, failing that, sympathy is more likely to be with the players. If so, I agree. In a perfect world there is free agency and the market rules, but the league's situation seems far from perfect to me. It would be nice to know the facts. But in the meantime I'll just keep reading this thread :)

Posted by: regularfan | February 22, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Goff certainly doesn't represent my opinion in the matter. I detect a bit of bias. I certainly don't want a strike, but I agree with an earlier poster that says the truth lies in the middle.

By the way, Stabaek_Kofie, I've got your back!

Posted by: mbyrd28 | February 22, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Hey Steve, if he was at CPAC, I guess he probably does not like Bruce Springsteen either...

Posted by: alan19 | February 22, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Goffie, now that right there is one fine piece of writing :)

Posted by: dccavalier | February 22, 2010 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Great letter, Goff! I hope it actually gets read.

Contento, you're late for your tea party.

Posted by: Shortpump | February 22, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

I am going to go ahead and disagree with everyone lavishing praise on Mr. Goff for this piece of "journalism." This was a partisan opinion piece, citing unnamed sources. It is not journalism.

I am extremely disappointed to see Mr. Goff interject himself in this manner, taking one side against the other. The argument that Mr. Anschutz and MLS will suffer from public relations problems if there is an MLS work stoppage is a weak one, at best. As Mr. Goff acknowledges, the owners, and Mr. Anschutz in particular, have lost hundreds of millions of dollars essentially propping up a sport that would not have succeeded and may still not succeed in this country.

If we were to list the MLS teams that currently make a profit, we would find that about 3 or 4 of 15 made a profit last year. The rest lose millions a year. And yet the MLSPU -and apparently Mr. Goff - would have MLS restructure its business to accommodate Kevin Hartman. Poor Kev can't get a job -at the price he wants - in Kansas City. So go play in Norway. Or Mexico. Or Japan. Or wherever.

The bottom line on the MLS-MLSPU negotiations is that MLS shouldn't have to restructure its entire business model to accommodate a few, especially considering that MLS is still considered by most media outlets and influencers to be a second tiered, niche league the long term future of which is still in doubt. I admit - it's come along way - but DC can't even get a stadium built. Let's be realistic here, people.

The bottom line regarding Mr. Goff, and the Washington Post, is that I have serious questions about their respective journalistic integrity. Which I previously did not have.

Posted by: colingmccarthy | February 22, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Just to put it bluntly, soccer became my #1 sport during the MLB strike. I never went back to baseball, and never will. If MLS goes on strike, I'll remain a soccer fan, but perhaps not an MLS fan.

I bought my season tickets again this year despite a huge pay cut and the probability I will lose my job in the near future. If the season is delayed, I will be seriously ticked, and I don't really care who is at fault.

I don’t blame the players for trying to get as much as they can. I also don’t blame the owners for trying to cut their losses and get closer to turning a profit. That is all part of business. I don’t consider either party greedy or immoral. Morality has nothing to do with it. Greed, or some synonym of it, drives all of us in negotiations. But in the end they better work something out, or they will all come out losers.

Posted by: DCU4LIFE | February 22, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse

@troy6: thanks for the laugh my man.

I also keep laughing at all the "under paid" cops baloney that keeps floating around. Y'all talkin' about cops in DC? Seriously? Most of those chumps are too busy talking on their cell phones AND driving to actually fight crime, let alone even notice it going on right under their noses. Boo Hoo.

Posted by: DadRyan | February 22, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Steve --

Are you by any chance writing a letter to Will Chang about the (un)stadium?

Posted by: OWNTF | February 22, 2010 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Atlanta4MLS -- yes, you're right in that the players' skills are rare. I don't know about one in a million, but it's certainly a big number. However, I don't see why that's relevant. There are lots of people in this country with fairly unique skills or abilities who don't make tons of money. I can regurgitate music trivia like nobody's business; but nobody's lining up to pay me the big bucks. The pay scale for soccer players in the United States is determined by the fact that the vast majority of people in the U.S. aren't interested -- their "one in a million" skills aren't valued by the public at large.

When people actually start filling stadia to see MLS games on a regular basis, so that the teams stop *losing money*, there'll be a significant argument for major increases in player salaries. As it is, given what we know of the League finances, attendance revenues in every city not named "Seattle," and the economy at large, that the salary cap would continue to get increases in excess of 4% per year is pretty extraordinary.

To be fair, I think the players know this. Not only that, I think the players also realize that if the salary cap were to increase dramatically, a lot of current Union members would actually find themselves looking for work in other (read: lesser) leagues, as the increase in funds brought in players formerly out of reach. That's one reason (a lesser reason, but a reason) why the players haven't been pressing the money aspect in their public statements. They're interested in other issues instead.

Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | February 22, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

MLS management seems doomed to repeat the mistakes made by the MLB owners on the issue of free agency for the players.

According to Marvin Miller's book from the mid-90's, after the baseball players association won the McNally-Messersmith case in 1975 that invalidated the reserve clause and stated that working conditions, such as the rules regulating the ability of a player to move from team to team once his contract expired, are mandatory subjects of collective bargaining, the MLBPA was ready to bargain a system that included free agency with compensation to the losing teams and a requirement of up to eight years of service, among other restrictions. There was also talk on the players side of considering a salary cap of some type.

However, the baseball owners remained adamant that the reserve system was legal, locked out the players in 1976 if a new basic agreement didn't allow for the reserve clause, and appealed the McNally-Messersmith ruling, ultimately losing all appeals. As a result the owners never got any of the system protection measures that the players were willing to consider and have been left with player-movement rules that are lopsided in favor of the players.

If MLS doesn't bargain at least some sort of system that allows the players to move within MLS, they may, like the baseball owners, find themselves with a one-sided system imposed on them by the courts.

Posted by: lgm6986 | February 22, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

@OWNTF -- I'm more an education geek, and a documentary geek -- SilverDocs volunteer. The point of the kids' trip, from the conductor's perspective, was actually to get them out of their classical music comfort zone. To learn to play music by ear, to improvise and to play with real rhythms -- to feel music, not just read it. Much more about African folk music than classical music. Also, it was produced by Montgomery County and DC natives. I recommend it.

@mcontento -- Your post starts with one unquestioned premise. Maybe, it's time you started to think critically about things. Yes, MLS is run as a single entity...now. Why should MLS continue in that model? It made perfect sense when Anschutz and family ran half the teams and the Hunts ran anther third. MLS teams weren't really competing with another. That model made sense at one time. Does it still make sense? If not, why should we be so concerned with protecting the few remnants of the single-entity model -- ones that exist only to hold down player salaries and restrict player movement?

Posted by: fischy | February 22, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

@colingmccarthy

Before you start attacking about Goff's journalistic integrity, please remember that this is a BLOG and Goff is entitled to air his opinions on it. He published an open letter, not a reported piece, and made that very clear. Don't hate.

Posted by: DonDraper | February 22, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Golly; workers want more money and management doesn't want to pay it? Wow. What a surprise.

If the players strike they are idiots. Most have no other serious contract options. It's not like MLS if full of talent just waiting to go to other leagues around the world. Like the few big money guys bankrolling this league would really miss it if it folded.

And enough with the living wage baloney already. If you don't want to make so little, find a job in another field. No one is forcing these guys to sign with MLS.

Posted by: hacksaw | February 22, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Seriously though, he is fully aware of the negative impact this will have on this sport, isn't he.

I mean to have the momentum of the league stop would be a monumental, not to mention cataclysmic, step backwards.

Posted by: cfrazier91 | February 22, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

http://www.usatoday.com/sports/soccer/mls/2009-salaries.htm

The bottom end are making $20,100. Good luck living on that in DC or any other major U.S. city.

Posted by: DonDraper | February 22, 2010 11:07 AM
====================
Lots of incentive there for players to get better.

And I'm amused that people who disagree with my stance on this are absolutely sure of themselves that I'll go to bat for multi-millionaire owners. Talk about judgmental.

For me, it's a matter of principle -- players need to prove themselves before earning the big dollars. Play well, get a wage increase. Stay as you are, we'll keep you -- at this price. If someone comes along who is better, best of luck.

And remember -- we're talking part-time work. They train hard (3 hours a day), watch video (2 hours, maybe) and they're done. For nine months a year. And they GET TO PLAY SOCCER!

Save your righteous indignation for what matters -- Haiti, Sudan, etc. THAT stuff matters.

Posted by: Rand-al-Thor | February 22, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Save your righteous indignation for what matters -- Haiti, Sudan, etc. THAT stuff matters.

Posted by: Rand-al-Thor | February 22, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

=================

And ice dancing. Don't forget ice dancing.

Posted by: OWNTF | February 22, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

"The burden is on the owners to decide if they are also willing to compromise."

Losing millions a year isn't a compromise by the owners?

Posted by: Rand-al-Thor | February 17, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

--I'd say that sounds like you're going to bat for the owners, yes.

Do you think Namoff enjoyed his cushy 3-month off-season? I've heard Szetela and Quaranta have been sitting around on their duffs a lot, also.

Posted by: fallschurch1 | February 22, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

fischy -- no worries on the typo, I figured it out the first time.

I agree with you that the potential is there for the future; maybe more than anything else, it's why I hope this all gets sorted out. I don't want the setback associated with some sort of prolonged work stoppage or (in the worst case) the League closing shop.

Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | February 22, 2010 4:00 PM | Report abuse

lgm6986 -- the points you're missing are 1) that the single-entity structure of MLS was literally reverse-engineered from the case law surrounding MLB and the NFL, so as to be able to operate as they do, and 2) that the single-entity structure of MLS has already been challenged by the players in court, and the challenge failed.

Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | February 22, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

fallschurch1, I think you're stalking me!

That's OK. Get in line.

For each nonsensical post you make, I will respond with what I've already said, and what you cannot seem to accept:

"And remember -- we're talking part-time work. They train hard (3 hours a day), watch video (2 hours, maybe) and they're done. For nine months a year. And they GET TO PLAY SOCCER!"

Posted by: Rand-al-Thor | February 22, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse

And ice dancing!

Posted by: Rand-al-Thor | February 22, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Ok so sure everyone feels for the MLS players, but without the owners, US fans have no national league, or at least not one worth anything. So people feel grateful for the owners probably more than the players and that's why they'll have the advantage of public support (or at least not have the disadvantage of public enmity).

I really feel like the single entity structure should be the way all future sports leagues are set up. It only makes sense. Leagues are a business, not teams. Teams are a franchise. So that's not going away, MLS will fold first.

That said, Phil's one of the main reasons professional level soccer is in the US and one of the only guys that can save it. So its up to him to make an impact. No need to be antagonistic to him...except he doesn't really care what people think and why should he.

Anyway, i'm more worried about DC's stadium situation, a good soccer stadium will survive and be used by any future soccer team/league should MLS fold. No stadium, who cares if MLS survives without DC?????

Posted by: Brian76 | February 22, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

@ DonDraper

I understand its a blog and an opinion piece. Others in the thread labeled it "journalism," hence my statement that it was not journalism. Perhaps I should've added a sentence to so state.

But it is also an opinion piece based on an "unnamed source" for who all we know could be Bob Foose or the sandwich guy. So people need to see it that way.

And because he's taken a stand which I disagree with and which lacks a good deal of foundation, I'm well within my rights to knock Goff down a few rungs in my credibility ladder after this. And I will.

Posted by: colingmccarthy | February 22, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Chris said "however much you don't buy it, the MLS Player's Union doesn't care. A suggestion: talk to some developmental players sometime about the support they get from the Union. It'll be an enlightening experience. Heck, that's why a certain revered DC United player who shall go nameless told Jay Needham he was doing the right thing when he went to Puerto Rico's USL team rather than take a developmental contract at DCU."

How doesn't this prove my point? What was the Union supposed to say? Under the old deal signing with the USL was precisely the right move for the player. Maybe the union was dumb to sign off on the old deal back in the day, but that doesn't keep them from ever changing their position in the future.

The fans are going to relate to the MLS players because most of the players are in the same tax brackets as most of the fans. Half the league makes between $15K and $88K a year... I just don't see how the owners are gonna be succesful painting them as the equivalent of the NBA or MLB players.

Posted by: rhorto01 | February 22, 2010 5:39 PM | Report abuse

"We owe professional soccer in the US to the current MLS owners." Interesting proposition, but misleading in a fundamental way. Professional soccer has a long history in the US, not always profitable to be sure, but there has been no lack of people willing to try to establish professional teams. In our own time, we have the USL and now the new NASL. And if you look at Europe, you can see that professional soccer grew from the ground up, the teams preceded the professional leagues. So, yes, the current league is the work of the Hunts and so on, but there is no reason to believe that this is the only way it could happen, or, if the current league folds for whatever reason, that a new one will not take its place. And in way this accords with old fashioned market theory -- if these is a demand for professional soccer in the US, someone will supply it.
"The owners started the league with their money, so they deserve the lion's share of the profits and unlimited control.. and so on" Another dubious proposition. Surely no one would pay money to watch Hunt, Kraft, Anschultz and company play soccer, so the players must have contributed something from the beginning as well. The proper division of profits and control -- well that's a fundamental political and economic question -- but certainly the right answer is not that it's all the owners' sandbox and the players are only there on sufferance.

Posted by: Jphubba | February 22, 2010 8:36 PM | Report abuse

Before any of you continue on waxing poetic about the injustices of the MLS wage scale compared to American labor statistics, answer me a few questions:

How many of those non-soccer players get free travel and per diems regularly?

How many of those non-soccer players get free equipment and clothing related to their work?

How many of those non-soccer players are paid extra to do promotional appearances for their employer?

How many of those non-soccer players have to be at the office 3-4 hours a day?

Listen, I'm mainly on the player's side, but all the amateur labor economists out there need to just shut up in comparing a professional athletes life is just absurd.

Stop acting like their is an apples to apples comparison to a guy working in an office making 34K and an MLS player making 34K.

Stop acting like the developmental players - who I hope do get increased protection and pay in the new CBA - have this horrible, horrible life playing soccer for money.

And, for God's sake, stop bringing up Jay Freaking Needham. He hasn't risen above the second division level so DCU was completely right in offering him a developmental deal. That's all he deserved and he has shown it time and time again. If he's such a test case for how cruel MLS is, why is he playing for the Austin Aztex this season?

Posted by: beach3 | February 22, 2010 8:41 PM | Report abuse

Dear me, those pampered MLS players! If you are going to go all precise and analytical, you also have to consider that professional athletes have short careers. $35k per year for a 30 year career, for example, is not the same thing as $35k per year for three or four years. Feed that into your labor economics analysis as well

Posted by: Jphubba | February 22, 2010 8:50 PM | Report abuse

A pro-union letter from a very liberal newspaper? Shocking! :o
Sorry Goff, I'm on the owners side here. MLS is giving U.S. players a chance they never would have, a chance to play professional soccer, get noticed and go play in Europe. If MLS was the only game in town, I might sympathize with your and your union buddies. But there are probably more professional soccer teams and leagues in the world than in any other sport, so lots of opportunities for all those lads. All the owners have to do is point to their millions and millions of dollars in losses versus the avergae player salariesto get the public sympathy. Riase the minumum salaries, absolutley! I'm almost to the point that I don't care. I've got other soccer to watch, coach and play. I love DC United, always will. But this is the wrong time for the union and players to get needy.

p.s. It would be hilarious to see the union try and run the league!

Posted by: boda-united | February 22, 2010 9:06 PM | Report abuse

rhorto01 -- half the players make between 15k and 88k? Half the country makes between 0k and 33k. And yet that sounds like "the same tax bracket" to you?

Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | February 22, 2010 10:39 PM | Report abuse

Jphubba wrote:

"If you are going to go all precise and analytical, you also have to consider that professional athletes have short careers. $35k per year for a 30 year career, for example, is not the same thing as $35k per year for three or four years. Feed that into your labor economics analysis as well."

How is that relevant? Surely you're not suggesting that once a player's playing career is done, they'll never earn another dollar or hold another job ever again?

Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | February 22, 2010 10:43 PM | Report abuse

Dumb article. If MLS followed the whims of newspaper nitwits, they'd be the USL. Thank you for reminding me why the Washington Post Company will be out of business in 10 years.

Posted by: mediaman1976 | February 23, 2010 1:09 AM | Report abuse

@joe_hill re: "I like this letter and am glad it's out there, but it pretty much flies in the face of Goff's oft-stated impartiality and insistence that he has no interest in DCU's results or progress towards a stadium."

That is a declarative statement, NOT an analogy. One which you made without so much as a shred of proof from Goff's post. This is just your overblown and baseless opinion, which of course you are entitled to.

At any rate, I actually agree that some of the MLS player salaries are too low. Making $20k in DC is effectively below the poverty line, and no sports league that calls itself "Major" or even "professional" should be paying salaries that low, even for non-senior roster players.

Posted by: Ron16 | February 23, 2010 7:33 AM | Report abuse

U go Goff! Finally someone with the knowledge and insight of the MLS takes a stand. The owners, like all owners everywhere think they are doing their employees a favor for employing them in the first place. But I don't buy DC United season tickets to listen to Garber wax poetic about the MLS brand of soccer. I buy tickets to watch the players - they are the product. And the MLS has been scraping by because the product is just good enough to fill the seats - at times. But the US fan is getting impatient with the mediocrity on the field ( like watching Dallas v. Colorado in the dead of July in Texas) and will lose interest altogether if the players don't get better. Pay them and the fans will come. Also, never underestimate the owners need for control. It in their DNA. They need to get their ass kicked to keep them straight.

I always laugh at the posters here who cry a river for the "millions" the owners have lost. Really, lets see the books. If its millions they lost, then why has the price of a franchise doubled in the last 5 years, with more cities clamoring for a team? Maybe there are more people like Anschutz who "see around the corner" to the coming explosion of soccer in the US.


Posted by: dcpsycho | February 23, 2010 7:43 AM | Report abuse

dcpsycho -- if you actually followed the economics of American soccer, you'd know why the price for a franchise has doubled in the last 5 years, and you'd know that it has next-to-nothing to do with MLS: SUM money. But you don't even know what that means, do you?

(now now, don't go look it up online)

Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | February 23, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse

The late and great Ronald Reagan (and Jack Kemp) thought the length of one's career highly relevant. They both argued for cutting tax rates for the upper income brackets on the theory that some professions earn large sums over short periods (movie stars and professional athletes) and should not suffer higher taxes as a result.

Posted by: Jphubba | February 23, 2010 10:51 AM | Report abuse

Jphubba -- again, are you suggesting that once a player's playing career is done, they won't be earning any more money after that? It's a yes or no question.

If the answer is "yes, I am suggesting that" I don't know what to say.

If the answer is "no, I'm not suggesting that" then I don't know how you can say that the logical comparison to make is between a player's earnings during his brief playing career and a non-player's career earnings during an entire working life, as you did earlier. The tax reference you use doesn't suggest *that*.

Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | February 23, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Jphubba - yes I do know what that means - that MLS has been making millions off of the summer exhibitions of the likes of Barca, Chelsea, AC Milan, Real Madird, Chivas Mexico - in other words the big clubs who pay just one star twice what the salary cap is for one team in MLS. Why? Because the big star bring in the fans who pay the freight - its simple capitalism Mr. I love Ronnie because he reminded me of the doofus grandfather I never knew. Stop worshiping what you don't understand. Jack Kemp was a big supporter of the NFLPA. Reagan was President of the Screen Actors Guild until they realized he was too stupid to know how to negotiate.

Posted by: dcpsycho | February 23, 2010 9:09 PM | Report abuse

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