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MLS closer to a strike?

Labor talks did not go well Monday in Washington -- one source told me they ended in a downright nasty manner -- and the sides did not meet Tuesday, leaving just 48 hours to agree upon a new collective bargaining agreement.

My understanding is that some teams have begun to vote whether to strike and that players are largely unified in their battle with management.

Clubs are currently in training camp and the regular season is scheduled to begin in four weeks. The Columbus Crew is preparing for the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals in two weeks against Toluca. If the Crew is inactive, Columbus would have to forfeit or seek a postponement.

Could a deal be reached by Thursday night, thus avoiding a work stoppage? I suppose, but the sides seem too far apart at the moment. Would the deadline be extended again? I doubt it.

While guaranteed contracts and free agency within the league are high-profile issues, another key element -- unique to MLS -- is team autonomy. What does "team autonomy" mean? In MLS, a club can't simply identify a player, negotiate a contract and sign it. A proposal must first be approved by league headquarters, which has been known to kill deals for various reasons. The players would like to see greater team autonomy and less interference from the central office.

Because the league has final say on contracts, most deals are the same: a series of one-year agreements over four seasons with the team unilaterally holding the option each winter. Under the current CBA, very few contracts are guaranteed -- another point of contention in these talks. As part of its proposal, the league says a larger percentage of contracts would be ensured.

We're hoping to hear more on the labor front Wednesday.

By Steve Goff  |  February 23, 2010; 11:45 PM ET
Categories:  MLS  
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Next: Wednesday kickaround

Comments

Goff if the strike happens can I play Left Back. I got a full 2009 D.C United Kit and I'm sure we can find more players. You can be the coach.

Posted by: Ivanovich84 | February 23, 2010 11:57 PM | Report abuse

I feel for the player's plight, but they're being penny-wise and pound foolish. A work stoppage for MLS is the death of professional soccer in America. Period.

Posted by: alecw81 | February 24, 2010 12:01 AM | Report abuse

Really, voting on a strike? Both sides are completely in the wrong. A work stoppage of any kind is absolutely unacceptable. They have had how long to get this done. The players need to quit worring about how the league is structured and focus purely on player compensation. The owners need to take better care of the product they own; by bringing back the development league, raise salary cap by 20% a year for the next five years, and finally raise the league minimum to 30,000 plus living expenses. If a stoppage happens, Garber should resign immeadately.

Posted by: m20001 | February 24, 2010 12:22 AM | Report abuse

@alecw81

why? are there that many casual fans who will never come back? will the sponsors abandon them? maybe, but for the most part, i think the hardcore fans will remain and the strike will be nothing more than a blip for most people (assuming it doesn't drag on for months). i could easily be wrong, but i'd like to know what you're basing your statement on. and if MLS were to disappear, how would that affect the US WC bids for '18 and '22?

what will hurt most is that MLS could be using the ramp-up to the World Cup to raise its profile. then again, most of the USMNT regulars have been getting better opportunities overseas, so the number of them left in MLS has dwindled. that's good for US Soccer but probably bad for MLS.

and speaking of penny-wise but pound-foolish, let's talk about the owners. they may be losing money per season (and certainly they are not all losing money), but as people have been mentioning, if the value of their franchises is increasing (and the indications are that they are), then they could still be coming out ahead overall if and when they were to sell. Anschutz sold the Metrostars to Red Bull for over $100M. how much did they pay for the franchise originally? the longer the league continues to grow and survive, the more the owners stand to make. in my opinion, they are jeopardizing their investment while the players are doing little to diminish their own earning power when there are so many other leagues out there where they could earn similar money.

Posted by: dimesmakedollars | February 24, 2010 12:26 AM | Report abuse

Damnit Ivanovch, I wanted to play left back!!! I have good fitness so I can slide up to the left mid spot, but only if you play the ball to feet. I won't be chasing endless long balls.

Seriously though, this situation is not good. I feel for the players but a work stoppage will kill the league. MLS has great momentum now so please do not kill it. I may be one year removed from college/pdl ball but trust me no one wants/or will pay to see my play.

Posted by: grubbsbl | February 24, 2010 12:27 AM | Report abuse

The question is will players get the needed votes. As put many times, are some of the players able to live without playing?

Posted by: njndirish | February 24, 2010 12:38 AM | Report abuse

I am not with the player, if the median income is 88,000, good luck trying to find a JOB that pays that much now. You can not have team autonomy because it threatens the Single Entity Structure.

Posted by: Patricksp | February 24, 2010 12:43 AM | Report abuse

I'm solidly in the players camp on this one...both with agreeing with their plight and thinking they have the advantage in this game of chicken. So many variables, especially with Donovan being in England on loan (can he stay if there is a strike?). Also, isn't the fact that he is working in England now supporting the owners' argument that their league is different than other US sports leagues in that their employees can find work easily in other leagues worldwide? Well, not easily, but you know what I'm saying. Definitely not on the side of the owners, but thinking it out.

I just keep going back to the guy making like $26k in New York and playing soccer professionally and trying to live. Sure, he can get another job and he's living the dream. That's their argument. But, that's beside the point. The guy needs to live. Plus, why not make your employees happy? Or, at least given a livable wage?

I see the fact that most MLS players earning paltry sums strengthening the players' resolve.

New teams/stadiums coming online, the WC this summer, MLS getting so much traction these days, ticket prices recession-friendly (ish). The owners have much more to lose.

Hope I could add something to the discussion.

Oh, and I respect our athletes. These aren't coddled, spoiled athletes. They, too, are helping build the foundation for the league and most do not earn much. Owners are being too hard core.

I grew up on Team America in RFK. Good ole Crescitelli! Don't kill soccer in the US!!!!

This league produced Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Brian McBride (mostly), Steve Ralston, Brad Fridel, Tim Howard, Luis Gil (oh, sorry, ahead of myself there). Let's keep this going!

Posted by: EssEff | February 24, 2010 12:43 AM | Report abuse

The owners need to give way on some of these issues. I think they're cleaving to a model and legal advice that is outdated. Antitrust exemptions are for industries that serve some public good and need to be protected from potentially ruinous competition. They are allowed to behave in ways that would be illegal because society sees little gain in having a local competitor.

Perhaps when the league started it needed to act as a cartel to prevent a challenge from other businessmen interested in the American soccer market. MLS is too well-established to face a serious domestic challenge -- at least, so long as the league doesn't self-destruct because of labor strife.

The real competition MLS faces is from foreign leagues. So long as MLS rules drive away better MLS players, the league will be fighting a losing battle.

It's not just the impact of losing players to other leagues. On Wednesday, I'll watch online to see how Stu Holden does with Bolton. On Thursday, I'll be watching Donovan in the Europa League. This is the real competition. For a time, MLS was competing against only the top European teams for TV audience. However, with more Americans playing abroad, I suddenly have a rooting interest in lots fo foreign games, and the games are now available to us. In fact, I have a stornger rooting interest in Everton tean I do for a desultory Sunday afternoon match between FC Dallas and Colorado. Until MLS does something about that, the league will never capture the interest of the legions of soccer fans here who follow the EPL more closely.

The league needs to work with its players -- they need to create rules that will entice players to stay rather than get out while the getting is still good. Players know a 30+ soccer player isn't going to suddenly make it overseas. So, their window to get overseas is pretty short. If younger MLS players see the league abusing its veterans, they're going to want to get out while they are still marketable. MLS can change that dynamic by making the league a more attractive and lucrative place to spend a career.

That's why I say the league needs to compromise more on these structural issues. It's now really in the owners' interest to do so, even if it wasn't when the league was starting out.

Posted by: fischy | February 24, 2010 1:25 AM | Report abuse

Hate them typos.

Should read: "However, with more Americans playing abroad, I suddenly have a rooting interest in lots of foreign games, and the games are now available to us. In fact, I have a stronger rooting interest in Everton than I do for a desultory Sunday afternoon match between FC Dallas and Colorado."

Posted by: fischy | February 24, 2010 1:28 AM | Report abuse

" These aren't coddled, spoiled athletes. They, too, are helping build the foundation for the league and most do not earn much. "

I feel the same way. I'm surprised to see(am I reading that right?) that the owners are talking about guaranteeing contracts. To me that's a big deal. If you're going to ask these guys to stay here and help grow American soccer, the least you can do is compensate the guys fairly if you expect them to throw themselves at their jobs %110.

If you blew out your knee working at McDonald's you'd at the very least be guaranteed the opportunity to collect some disability pay, and have an opportunity to reclaim your job when you are match fit so to speak. If guys sign on, and are willing to stay here instead of trying their hand abroad, they should feel secure in that decision. I'm fine with them scraping by for a season before getting a raise, and having fair incremental salary increases. I think the guaranteed contract is crucial though. Especially for the developmental player who can be waived at any given time. If you're going to pay em peanuts, at least guarantee the kid's going to eat if he puts on the jersey and throws himself at his job.

Posted by: DadRyan | February 24, 2010 1:30 AM | Report abuse

Goff, this post from you was the first time I have really felt pessimistic about the agreement. It seems like the sides are entirely too far apart for something to be reconciled by Thursday.

I will stand by United until it or I, or both are gone. But at this point I do not know which "side" is more United than the other. United is a kid standing in the rain between two adults with umbrellas, neither covering the kid.

I hope they work this out.

Posted by: redstarsix | February 24, 2010 1:40 AM | Report abuse

Nobody who is not at the table knows what's been agreed to, what's been offered by either side and rejected by the other, how far apart they are on one issue and how close on another. If you're not at the table, you have no idea. Public statements, even statements made on the sly to the media, are posturing to push your position. Anyone who's ever actually been involved in collective bargaining themselves can tell you this.

When it comes to grousing about what the players demand when they shouldn't, or what the owners withhold when they shouldn't, we don't have any idea what we're talking about.

Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | February 24, 2010 1:46 AM | Report abuse

@Metzler -- You're right that we don't know. But, DadRyan is also right on the crucial nature of guaranteed contracts for players. Take my point about making MLS more attractive for players. Right now, it's apples and oranges. Not only do foreign leagues offer the prospect of playing at a higher level and for more money, the contracts are going to be honored even if the player gets hurt. Not in MLS, if the player is hurt before July 1. That's gotta help tilt the scales in favor of going abroad -- or, for aging European stars, to stay there. Just one example of how the current rules are not helping...

Posted by: fischy | February 24, 2010 1:58 AM | Report abuse

Hm, apparently the Post's blog software ate my last post. Let's try again.

fischy -- when it comes to aging European stars, guaranteed contracts here are a non-issue. Under the status quo, a small fraction of contracts in this league *are* guaranteed; and guess whose contracts are among those?

But my point is this: we know that guaranteed contracts are an issue that matters to the players, and we know from their public statements that they've asked the League for movement on this issue. We don't know what they asked for, or how reasonable that is. We know from the League's public statements that they *have* moved on this issue, and have made counterproposals that address guaranteed contracts. We don't know how far they moved, or whether their proposal really addresses guaranteed contracts at all. We don't know how close or far apart the two sides are on this issue. We don't even know that it's not a settled issue right now, with the principal disagreement between the two sides coming from completely different issues. We simply don't know enough to gripe about the issue. Of course, that's never stopped such a thing from happening on the internet . . .

Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | February 24, 2010 2:32 AM | Report abuse

I am not with the player, if the median income is 88,000, good luck trying to find a JOB that pays that much now. You can not have team autonomy because it threatens the Single Entity Structure.

Posted by: Patricksp
-----------------------------------

The players near or below the median are prepared to walk and get started with their post-soccer careers. They're going to have to take entry level positions at some point and if their soccer contracts are not guaranteed the thought is that it might as well be sooner rather than later.

A strike will not happen because the union will not be able to hold the lines and NFL style scab games would not benefit either side. It will be a lockout.

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | February 24, 2010 5:05 AM | Report abuse

I'd guess no lockout, but a strike by the players is probable. I don't think a strike will produce much for the players in terms of concessions from the owners.

A strike might not destroy soccer in America, but if it is prolonged it very well may.

Posted by: Ron16 | February 24, 2010 7:22 AM | Report abuse

At least its a World Cup year.

A majority of Americans (the ones who know MLS exists) will think the league just takes a break for the World Cup. And the rest of us will at least have the US team to watch over part of the summer...not to mention all the buildup and hype over the spring that will overshadow MLS anyways.

Donovan and others will get to extend their stay in Europe and get valuable warm up experience and I can save money on my season tickets to bet on WC games.

Go ahead and strike or have a lockout, work out your issues and we'll see you next season.

Posted by: Southeasterner | February 24, 2010 7:45 AM | Report abuse

Both sides have so much to lose. The players feel like the owners have more to lose, because of significant investment the owners have made. The owners believe that giving in to the players' demands will put their investment at risk. The question is whether the risk becomes so high that they are willing to simply throw in the towel and walk away (avoiding throwing good money after bad), or are they bluffing.

I find it difficult to "root" for one side or the other in a situation like this. Both sides have merit. The players *are* playing for chump change, and the single-entity model is collusion. On the other hand, the league is not making money hand-over-fist, and while it may be internally-colluding, the league is in competition with foreign leagues that are increasingly willing to hire talented Americans away. So, hopefully everybody will settle down and find a viable middle road.

Posted by: glfrazier | February 24, 2010 7:51 AM | Report abuse

What is the likelihood of the league attempting to proceed with replacement players in the event of a strike?

Posted by: granadoskerry | February 24, 2010 8:19 AM | Report abuse

I can't decide whether to be incredibly saddened by all this or just plain furious.

As one who saw the demise of the NASL due to the insane decisions made by the ownership, I have been quite content with the steady growth and the model of the MLS.

The stance by the players - or at least that which can be gleaned from the public utterances of both sides just doesn't hold much sway with me.

In a month where pink slips have been handed out to friends who are making significantly less than these athletes, I have very little sympathy for their plight.

I cannot fathom why they would risk harming all the progress that has been made by the sport.

For those of us who are old enough to remember the dark days of no league available for aspiring players with talent, it seems incredibly short-sighted of this generation of players to mess with a good thing.

At least there's one silver lining in all this. Back in the day, we had to make do with merely having Toby Charles and Soccer Made in Germany or SIN for our fix. This year there will be plenty of soccer available to entertain my children.

I would have hoped that it would be live in RFK watching the likes of Pontius and Wallace develop. However, if they choose to throw the opportunity we never had at their age away, I will sadly move on.

Sigh.

Posted by: jc101 | February 24, 2010 8:38 AM | Report abuse

Sighhhhhhh indeed.
I hope this is just the normal posturing that goes on with these things.
A strike or lockout might just be the end of this little league.
And really, who would notice or care?

Posted by: marksman37 | February 24, 2010 8:41 AM | Report abuse

I feel for the player's plight, but they're being penny-wise and pound foolish. A work stoppage for MLS is the death of professional soccer in America. Period.

Posted by: alecw81
-------------------------------------------
No, it's not, Bro. It may be the first death drops of the IV as far as MLS is concerened--which would be a STRAIGHT UP, ABSOLUTE DEBACLE--but there would still be NASL & USL...So there would still be pro soccer in America...

Posted by: yankiboy | February 24, 2010 8:45 AM | Report abuse

Let me state this clearly because a number of folks have not followed MLS from its founding and understand its fundamental dynamic.

MLS is single entity, today, tomorrow and for the foreseeable future. Single Entity is the future of Sports Leagues not the past. The original owners of MLS went through several years of litigation to ensure they were on a sound legal footing in this regard.

No action by the Players Union will cause MLS to change its single entity structure.

I believe MLS does have some flexibility on Salary, guaranteed contracts and some accommodation to senior players on movement between teams. Past that the players have zero chance at trying to modify Single Entity. MLS will fold over that issue.

Instead, if players do not come on board, I can see the season being delayed and new players brought into the League.

The players have little leverage at this stage in the development of the game in the US and Canada, and if they push too far in this economy and given the reality of Single Entity, they will lose, the owners will lose and we the fans will lose.

Posted by: dcufan53 | February 24, 2010 8:46 AM | Report abuse

Viva la revolucion!

Posted by: Rand-al-Thor | February 24, 2010 8:47 AM | Report abuse

@granadoskerry,

I hear Fro Adu, Damani Ralph, Franco Neill, Orlando Jones, Jamar Beasley, and Chad Ochocinco are on their way to RFK for physicals.

Posted by: VirginiaBlueBlood | February 24, 2010 8:48 AM | Report abuse

I just fear what negative PR will come of this. You have 2 brand new SSS, 1 team on its inaugural season, another 2 teams on the way. All could never happen.

Also this could end up proving the h8rs right

Posted by: njndirish | February 24, 2010 8:53 AM | Report abuse

Between the huge amount of soccer available on TV these days, and the fact that this is a World Cup year, people won't even miss MLS until the day after the World Cup final...if then.

Then the Mexican league and the Prem (most popular leagues for U.S. viewers) start up again in mid-August and MLS will drift out of people's minds entirely.

It'll be a few hundred hardcore fans in each city who weep, and that'll be about it.

Posted by: StanShmenge | February 24, 2010 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Goff,

This is crazy. The CBA should have been resolved months before. If nothing else, they should have a slightly modified version of the old CBA extended for a year or two.

What are the specific issues that are holding both sides apart? Get these issues out on the table.

Regards,
Tim

Posted by: tfoisie | February 24, 2010 9:02 AM | Report abuse

This would be a good time for a Q+A chat on the Post site, but Goff has been shunned from those for some reason.

Posted by: fallschurch1 | February 24, 2010 9:14 AM | Report abuse

Cancelling my trip to KC. Anybody for a pick-up game in Lot 8 on March 27th? Hopefully the Himalayas will be gone by then!

Posted by: boda-united | February 24, 2010 9:16 AM | Report abuse

Actually, I'm not really looking forward to more news on the labor front. It's pretty clear where this is headed.

Posted by: UnitedDemon | February 24, 2010 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Chest Rockwell for coach of the replacements. He'll have a hard time picking starters for the right and left wing spots.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | February 24, 2010 9:22 AM | Report abuse

Good thing most of the USA World Cup squad plays abroad. I wouldn't miss MLS a bit. It's hard to watch. The World Cup is over July 11th. The European leagues start backup mid August. Support your local USL or NASL team during the summer.

Posted by: peridigm | February 24, 2010 9:23 AM | Report abuse

If you're having trouble "rooting" for a side in this, there's a pretty simple way to figure it out: which side is seriously considering a work stoppage that could do irreparable damage to American soccer?

Posted by: VercengetorixII | February 24, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse

@DadRyan - under the existing contract, injured players cannot be waived. A healthy player can be waived and salary avoided, but not an injured one. So your example doesn't hold.

The players are making absurd demands regarding the fundamental nature of the league. That is not a good faith position.

Posted by: hoodwich | February 24, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse

It'll be a few hundred hardcore fans in each city who weep, and that'll be about it.

Posted by: StanShmenge | February 24, 2010 9:02 AM
-----------------------------

So even though the average MLS attendance in 2009 was 16K+ only a few hundred per team will miss it?

Right.

Posted by: PrinceBuster21 | February 24, 2010 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Chest Rockwell for coach of the replacements. He'll have a hard time picking starters for the right and left wing spots.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | February 24, 2010 9:22 AM
======================

If I don't get the right wing position, there is no justice in this world.

Posted by: Rand-al-Thor | February 24, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Strike = Mutual Assured Destruction

General Jack D. Ripper: You know when fluoridation first began?

Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: I... no, no. I don't, Jack.

General Jack D. Ripper: Nineteen hundred and forty-six. Nineteen forty-six, Mandrake. How does that coincide with your post-war Commie conspiracy, huh? It's incredibly obvious, isn't it? A foreign substance is introduced into our precious bodily fluids without the knowledge of the individual. Certainly without any choice. That's the way your hard-core Commie works.

Posted by: delantero | February 24, 2010 9:38 AM | Report abuse

If you're having trouble "rooting" for a side in this, there's a pretty simple way to figure it out: which side is seriously considering a work stoppage that could do irreparable damage to American soccer?

Posted by: VercengetorixII
-----------------------------

Lame argument. By that definition ANY position taken by management--no matter how unreasonable--must be accepted because the only lever the players have is to threaten to strike, and to even threaten it means they're the bad guys.

Come on, man.

I'm not taking a side here, but your statement is overly simplistic.

Posted by: PrinceBuster21 | February 24, 2010 9:39 AM | Report abuse

It's a game of chicken all right, but a game of chicken in a couple of Pinto's. It's not going to turn out well for anybody. For DC United, I believe the stakes are even higher. If there is a strike and it causes the MLS to restructure, I don't believe that United will survive - not in DC anyway. They will scale back on teams and will focus only on those with a solid financial structure, and key to that is a soccer only facility. DC doesn't have one, and clearly there's no hope for one anytime soon.

Posted by: harkes4ever | February 24, 2010 9:41 AM | Report abuse

If I don't get the right wing position, there is no justice in this world.
Posted by: Rand-al-Thor

I'd agree to that if you move centrally and don't hang out on the touch line all day calling for the ball.

Posted by: delantero | February 24, 2010 9:41 AM | Report abuse

one thing I keep seeing people say in this is 'well, can Donovan stay longer at Everton during the strike?" well, no, he can't. if there's a strike called by the MLSPU, then all members of the Union will be expected to join. Landon Donovan is a member of that union, under contract to MLS. if Donovan crosses the picket line to play under contract to LAG/MLS, then he's a scab/replacement worker, whatever, and is actively working to destroy the strike by not participating in it. Same goes for Beckham, of course. Both Liverpool and Milan are strong labor towns, scabs are going to be about as popular there as well, Tiger Woods in Sweden. and with the wealthiest members of the union crossing the line, it's going to be hard going to get the guys without a couple million in the bank to eat rice and beans, don't you think? .

Posted by: joshuaostevens | February 24, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

@hoodwich, don't tell me that a player isn't still in danger of being shown the door before even given a chance to play after they've come back from injury. There are a whole cast of ex-dcu reserves who've suffered that fate. Guys getting dropped because someone like Joe Vide shows up for a couple games...

Posted by: DadRyan | February 24, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

@delantero: I don't mind checking to the ball now and again, but "moving centrally"?! I don't think I can do that. I'm afraid my spine would fall out.

Just play it out wide to me. I serve a wicked cross.

Posted by: Rand-al-Thor | February 24, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

It seems unlikely to me that a brief stoppage would be the death knell of MLS.

Hopefully, if there is a stoppage, cooler heads on each side will be willing to back away from brinksmanship and seek some kind of accommodation.

All stoppages are not equal in length.

A stoppage could be just a matter of a few days or so - in which case it's effect on the season would probably be imperceptible. If it's a season-long stopppage then MLS would be in serious danger.

The outcome might not be settled til stoppage time!

Posted by: Joel_M_Lane | February 24, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse

@PrinceBuster

Those are SOCCER fans, not diehard fans of MLS or its teams, of which there are only a few hundred per city, maybe a thousand in Seattle and Toronto, maybe 50 in Dallas.

If this strike does take place, you'll be surprised at how tepid the reaction will be after a week or two of outrage. Soccer fans will have plenty to watch this year and the U.S. to root for.

The absence of MLS will be an annoying footnote, nothing more.

Posted by: StanShmenge | February 24, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse

LEAGUE AGREES TO PLAY 2010 UNDER OLD CBA...

Goffinho, how could you not report or update us on this?!?!

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/sports/blogs/Cheers-and-Jeers/MLS-will-play-2010-season-under-existing-CBA-85146287.html

Posted by: Section107 | February 24, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Not good news amici sportivi... WC year, NYRB new stadium, new franchise and stadium in Phila. and two sides trying to protect their interests. Why did they wait until twilight time to settle differences? At least we have the Euro-leagues on TV. On the brighter side, we'll miss the everpresent yada-yada of Christopher Sullivan on FSC and JP Dellacamera and John Harkes on ESPN who tend to suffocate the game with their constant overanalysis of the simple and silence on the obvious critique. I won't miss the winded trio!!!

Posted by: juke2 | February 24, 2010 10:11 AM | Report abuse

section 107: its been reported, not all that new, a couple weeks ago, maybe? frankly, the players have been outmaneuvered the whole time.

Posted by: joshuaostevens | February 24, 2010 10:28 AM | Report abuse

I'm with the workers on this one, though the consequences are scary. Good column by Paul Gardner today in Soccer America's newsletter (posted online: http://www.socceramerica.com/article/36942/to-strike-or-not-to-strike-the-players-no-win-op.html)

Posted by: DCUSince96 | February 24, 2010 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Note that a work stoppage need not begin Thursday. The players could vote to authorize a strike at a time of the players' union's choosing -- thus giving management of imposing a lockout to avoid the possibility that the players might choose to make the time of their stoppage one that is particularly inconvenient to management. What many bosses do at that point is lock-out so that THEY can choose the moment.

Posted by: DCUSince96 | February 24, 2010 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Can we PLEASE stop referring to soccer players as "workers"!

They're playing a GAME, people! They're not fighting the good fight. They're fighting to raise their income to PLAY A GAME!

Today's word of the day: perspective.

Posted by: Rand-al-Thor | February 24, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Can we PLEASE stop referring to soccer players as "workers"!

Posted by: Rand-al-Thor
-------------------------------------

Uh, no. If soccer is their liveliehood and they worked hard to get good enough to play professionally and now provide entertainment for sports fans they are most certainly "workers."

Posted by: PrinceBuster21 | February 24, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

the idea that the players are to blame here because they are the ones threatening the stoppage is ridiculous. the owners have all the power here and and are refusing to bend on key issues.

the owners have expanded from 10 teams to 18, have greatly diversified the ownership base, and most teams have a favorable stadium situation. the situation is not as dire as it was 8 years ago, and the players deserve some flexibility and guaranteed pay at this point.

Posted by: joe_hill | February 24, 2010 10:56 AM | Report abuse

The first rule of collective bargaining is that the union needs to portray the outcome as a big win for members. The second rule of collective bargaining is that once there's an agreement, management doesn't care about how the union spins it. I think a work stoppage would be crazy for the players. Not crazy is the union spinning up the possibility of a stoppage in order (not to pressure management, but) to persuade its members that it is putting as much pressure as possible on management. That way, when management does make the offers it was going to table all along, the players can describe the result as management caving and a big win for the union.

Or I could be wrong, and everybody is crazy, and the players are going to blow up their livelihoods and ownership is going to defer for a decade or so its dream of a viable, respectable professional American soccer league.

Posted by: dccal | February 24, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

LEAGUE AGREES TO PLAY 2010 UNDER OLD CBA...

Goffinho, how could you not report or update us on this?!?!

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/sports/blogs/Cheers-and-Jeers/MLS-will-play-2010-season-under-existing-CBA-85146287.html

Posted by: Section107

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

Did you read the actual headline?

"MLS COULD PLAY 2010 SEASON UNDER EXISTING CBA"

Your "agrees to" version is entirely different. Of course management would agree to the status quo. That's exactly what the players have a problem with.

Senor Goff has provided excellent coverage of this issue. I think you're way off base here, Section107.

Posted by: PrinceBuster21 | February 24, 2010 11:02 AM | Report abuse

I'm past taking sides. I bought my season tickets this year, despite a huge pay cut. There is a good chance I will lose my job before the season starts. One of the few things I am looking forward to in 2010 is going to United games. If there is a strike or a lockout I am going to be pissed, and it will take a lot to bring me back.

I can watch EPL and other leagues around the world for my soccer fix. I'll use the money I save on season tickets, parking, etc. to take a trip to Europe every year and watch some real footballers.

Posted by: DCU4LIFE | February 24, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

I will say this again where are these players going to find JOBS now, nobody is hiring right now, if the union's fight is for free agency then they are stupid. MLS cannot have it because it threatens Single-entity structure. I have read nowhere about how the players union wants to raise the starting Salary or Dev players, They ONLY talk about free agency, which MLS cannot have for legal reasons, they don't want to open the door in case they get sued again. Remember the average player makes 88,000.00.

Posted by: Patricksp | February 24, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Can we PLEASE stop referring to soccer players as "workers"!

Posted by: Rand-al-Thor
-------------------------------------

I love my job. It is rewarding, it serves the community, it is the sort of political work that I dreamed of doing when I was a child. It uses my creativity. I am good at it. I look forward to going to work every day.

But I am a worker. A rank-and-file worker indeed. Same is true for MLS players.

Posted by: DCUSince96 | February 24, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse

It's a game of chicken all right, but a game of chicken in a couple of Pinto's.

Posted by: harkes4ever | February 24, 2010 9:41 AM

Comment of the month.

Posted by: fallschurch1 | February 24, 2010 11:47 AM | Report abuse

@PrinceBuster -

did YOU bother to read the ARTICLE (as opposed to just the headline)? then you would learn that the league is offering to continue under the current CBA while continuing to negotiate a new agreement.

it is the players who appear unwilling to continue playing while negotiating a new agreement.

Goff has given coverage, but I woulnd't call it excellent since, as "The Insider" he has provided very little solid reporting that lives up to his moniker. AND he has at least implied that neither side was willing to continue playing without a new agreement.

but yes, it would have been better to say "offers" instead of "agrees."


Posted by: PrinceBuster21

Posted by: Section107 | February 24, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

'Can we PLEASE stop referring to soccer players as "workers"!'

Whether or not they enjoy their jobs is neither here nor there. John Grisham's publisher could argue that he deserves only $60k a year because he likes writing anyway and $60k is still above the national median income, but that's not relevant.

Now, MLS is certainly not a cash cow like Grisham's novels are, and the league could be on the ropes, so there is no prosperity to divvy up -- only powerboater knows for sure -- but whether or not the employees enjoy themselves shouldn't be an issue, I think.


Posted by: fallschurch1 | February 24, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse

i guess the right wingers on here are also going to stop calling it a "work stoppage" and start calling it a "games stoppage" or "childs-pastime stoppage" or something else, since it's blowing their mind to realize that professional athletes are actually workers.

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

JC101, that SIN reference was priceless. Wasn't that shown on Ch 56 from Frederickburg or something in the day? Amazing the riches of soccer on the tube and interwebs that we have today.

Posted by: EssEff | February 24, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

I'm going to start referring to the struggle as the proletariat vs the bourgeoisie.

Posted by: delantero | February 24, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

The league says they can't afford to concede what the players are asking. Will they ever? I think they could. Could not the league create benchmarks that upon reaching would trigger certain changes? For instance, when league earnings reach a certain level, contracts for 5-year veterans become guaranteed?

Posted by: DaninFL | February 24, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

I support the players. If a strike is called I will still support them and not go to another sport. When a club can drop a veteran like Kevin Hartman and he doesn't have anything to say about it, then something needs to be done. I, if I were the players union, would get a lawyer and have every bit of paperwork from 1996 that the league has thoroughly examined. The league in their zeal to protect the product is killing the ones who make the product work - the players. They need to show their books. I remember when MLS started and Kevin Payne housing all the single guys because they could not afford housing. It is 14 years guys. Garber & Gulati need to explain just how they have run the league. How can Los Angeles afford Beckham and Donovan? There is different bookkeeping evidently for different clubs. When a player has served his contract he should be able to be a free agent. Just because a club pays a salary the player should not be in bondage for life. On another note, the veteran's should not be dumped like old garbage. That is what it is looking like to this fan. If a strike is called I support the players in this one. Ham fisted New York needs to get real and bring about a solution to the talks and get the season started. If not, I'll wait and we will be season ticket holders again for when they do start. I, for one, will never forget the Unity Games after 9/11/2001 and seeing Kevin Hartman with cut out stars dyed blue in his hair to show his love for his country. The way he is being treated is terrible. He has a family to support. Again, I support the players both new and seasoned veteran and in-between.

Posted by: VirginiaFan | February 24, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

270:

I would like to be a player/coach, but after running last night as a portion of my workout, I would put myself in my own doghouse.

joedoc will be occasionally used on the left wing, where he'll have an easier time cutting in to shoot. Our normal left winger, however, will be chosen based on his or her ability to get angry about the bourgeoisie and/or control of the means of production.

Posted by: Chest_Rockwell | February 24, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Memo to: DC United web team
RE: "Workers"

As of today, please replace all references to "Players" and replace it with "Workers."

For example:
"Player Statistics" is now "Worker Statistics"

"Games Played" is now "Shifts Worked"

"Games Started" is now "Shifts Started on Time"

And, of course, "Player" is now "Worker"

For more information and details, please read our new manual, "Das Kapital."

Posted by: Rand-al-Thor | February 24, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

oh come now, VAFan: how can the Galaxy afford Donovan and Beckham? The same way that Chelsea can afford it's stars despite only having a 41k seater of a stadium; and Man City can afford all those stars, etc. they are owned by multi-billionaires who don't particularly care, for whatever reason, about those losses. Phil Anshultz doesn't give a flying whatever about a couple of million in salary losses, as long as other things make money ( how much do you think ESPN paid AEG for the use of the Home Depot Center for the X-Games last summer? or, how many Donovans did they pay? 2? 3? at least. how much did Herbalife pay to be on Beckham's chest? how much is the Galaxy brand worth on the naming rights to Home Depot? how much does USSF pay to use Home Depot for training sessions? AEG is a atadium/arena operator, one of their properties is the Home Depot Center, where a tenant happens to be the Galaxy (they also operate the Staples Center where Anshutz owns a chunk of the Lakers and the Kings) the Galaxy are a line item in a multi billion operation, and a loss leader. Just like most sports teams are.

The Yankees are a loss leader for MSG/YES; the Redskins are a loss leader for Dan Snyder, etc

and no one is stopping Kevin Hartman from making a living. last time I checked, there are two other divisions in the US that might want his services, he can go there at any time he just can't sign a new contract with his previous employer without jumping through some hoops.

Posted by: joshuaostevens | February 24, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

ok, Rand. don't be deliberately obtuse here. if you get paid to do something, you are a worker. no matter how much you get paid, or what that activity is, you are a worker. it doesn't matter if you are a machinist, banker, lawyer, president of a company or a soccer player. or heck, even a hooker. someone is paying you to do a task that is worth more to them to pay you to do than it is worth doing themselves. you can give them all sorts of fancy names: Associate, partner, player, professor,manager, etc but at the end of the day, you either own the business or work for it. you either pay the money (an owner) or you get paid the money (a worker) and you know it.

Posted by: joshuaostevens | February 24, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

MLS closer to self-destruction.....

Dimesmakedollars,

Work stoppages have proven to alienate American fan bases. It is irrelevant which side is right or wrong. The league is still in it's infancy and it would quickly vanish off the radar of the American sporting public if there is a prolonged work stoppage.

Posted by: blackandred777 | February 24, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

I have mixed feelings on this one. I think the league structure made sense early on and I credit them with having realistic expectations of what type of league this country would support. Also, the players knew the deal coming in - they could have signed with another league somewhere else if they were good enough. Let's face it - this league gave opportunities to a lot of players no other league would have touched; for better or worse.

Having said that, I think league management may now be too conservative in not recognizing the threat international soccer poses to the league now that it is widely available on tv throughout the US. They need to invest again in a development league, the minimum salary should be raised to at least $50K for all players (no exemptions) - the current minimum is insulting - and the team salary cap needs to raised incrementally each year. I don't have a problem with the players having to sign with the league, but there should be longer term contract guarantees rather than year-to-year.

Both sides need a reality check. MLS will cease to exist if there is a strike lasting more than a few weeks. The NHL and MLB suffered for years following their strikes. MLS is nowhere near as entrenched as those leagues were at the time and lacks the resources to survive a setback like that. There's simply too much competition in the US in the sports entertainment market and advertisers/sponsors have no tolerance for these shenanigans in this deep recession - they WILL spend their dollars elsewhere.

Posted by: grognard66 | February 24, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

This is absolute insanity. I can't believe each side is actually toying with letting this happen. Any stoppage of a discernable length is suicide.

Posted by: Gambrills4 | February 24, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Any of you who say a strike would be "the death of professional soccer in America. Period." or that "MLS will cease to exist" are idiots.

Complete, utter, raving idiots.

You have no idea of the history of the game in this country. We didn't have a DI league FOR TEN YEARS in this country, and that couldn't kill the game.

Every sport has had labor issues over the last 30 years, and not one of them has folded. People griped. Fans said they'd never go back. And they always do. Always, always, always. Bumps in the road.

MLS will not cease to exist if there's a strike. It's not the end of professional soccer in this country. The game is far too strong to be killed. Momentarily interrupted? Absolutely. That happens to everybody.

But you're an hysterical, idiotic fanboy if you think it's going to kill the league or the sport. Stop it. Just stop.

Posted by: very_clever_username | February 24, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

@very_clever_username - ironic username considering what you just posted.

You just made the point for why this potential strike is so dangerous for the league. This country has NEVER sustained a soccer league for any discernable period of time. TV ratings for soccer are still far below that of "sports" like poker; let alone football, baseball and basketball.

Yes, soccer is gradually increasing it's awareness here - but most of that is at the international/National Team level. International leagues consistently have higher ratings than MLS matches on ESPN.

If the league strikes, most US soccer enthusiasts will gladly make do with the plethora of international soccer alternatives and give up on MLS.

No one is talking about the sport being killed - kids will always play the sport and amateur leagues will always be around - we're talking about MLS surviving and that is in doubt even without a strike.

Posted by: grognard66 | February 24, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Interesting story about the NBA and it's financial issues. Issues that MLS is trying to avoid.

I really like the playoff format proposed towards the end.

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/100224

Posted by: mbyrd28 | February 24, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

grognard66: Couldn't have said it better myself.

Posted by: alecw81 | February 24, 2010 4:00 PM | Report abuse

grognard66: The issue isn't whether or not soccer will survive. Obviously it's the largest sport on the planet and will remain so for the forseeable future. Regardless of the fate of MLS American interest in elite foreign soccer will continue to grow.

The real issue is whether or not AMERICAN soccer will grow. I'm not convinced that selling more Cristiano Ronaldo shirts here in America and packing oversized gridiron stadiums for travelling exhibitions reflects growing interest in developing our game at home.

Yes, it's great that a few of our best players can currently ply their trade overseas but without a sustained and viable professional league the sport will ALWAYS be a tertiary interest (not even a secondary one) in the American consciousness. Our national teams will not be able to continue to improve and compete sufficiently as other countries continue to refine their game. The few prospects who show promise to perform in the big leagues of Europe will remain in Europe without having to opportunity to build professionalism and quality back home. I'm no great fan of MLS per se but without significant growth in our domestic league many of our best athletes will never know this great game and our country won't be able to make its mark on soccer's world stage in the long term. We can host World Cups and the largest teams in the world can salivate at our market and open up fiefdoms here. However none of that necessarily translates into improving how we play or understand the game here.

With our embarassment of athleticism in this country a lack of full domestic engagement with the beautiful game would be a shame. MLS isn't perfect and hopefully if the league and players can work this out without destroying the league it will emerge a better league on the field and off as it grows. Without MLS we have to start over yet again on building sustained interest to the casual American fan. If soccer is only ever seen as a recreational sport primarily for children then Americans lose out on a chance to fully participate in a great game as well a greater opportunity to be connected to larger international cultures outside just our own interests.

Posted by: nvamikeyo | February 24, 2010 4:59 PM | Report abuse

I wouldn't be surprised if there is a strike called by the players. Management (MLS) has all the cards and appear to believe the union will cave on there demands for some form of free agency. The union rank and file really have very little to lose since their salaries are so meager, this isn't Major League Baseball where I beleive the minimun salary is close if not a million dollars a year. The average MLSer has very little to lose. Worst case, they will have to accelerate their career planning for life after MLS. They are going to have do that anyway sooner or later!

Posted by: kanicko | February 24, 2010 5:13 PM | Report abuse

A decent job reporting on this would tell the reader what law firm is representing management. You can tell by the firm if union busting is going on; in this case, union busting would mean trying to force the union into accepting an unacceptible contract to keep it a weak and meaningless nothing.

There are firms that are expert at this and make their bones doing this sort of thing. Do some freakin work and tell us something worthwhile about the negotiations! This was once a real newspaper; no more.

Posted by: cohenra | February 24, 2010 7:13 PM | Report abuse

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