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MLS responds to players' comments

MLS players broke their silence Friday about the direction of labor negotiations. Now, the league has responded with their first public comments concerning the collective bargaining agreement talks.

In a nutshell, MLS is annoyed that the players broke protocol by speaking out while negotiations were on-going. It says it has made fair offers. It says free agency within MLS ain't going to happen.

Let's get started.....

"Our view had been that the most productive way to negotiate a CBA had been in the bargaining room across the table from the players' union and not to do it publicly," MLS President Mark Abbott told the Insider on Saturday afternoon. "Obviously, the players made a decision to take a different path. I am struck by a number of inaccuracies and misrepresentations."

Without offering specifics, Abbott said the league has offered to increase spending by $60 million over the term of a new five-year pact.

Please keep reading.....

"We do that despite the economic troubles in the country and frankly despite the fact that our teams continue to have significant financial struggles and our owners continue to lose significant money," he said. "We have made a proposal that would guarantee not all, but a significant number of player contracts. We have made a proposal limiting the number of unilateral options the league can have in player contracts. We have made proposals in several other areas as well."

However, Abbott said the league will not budge on what appears to be the biggest issue in the talks: free agency within MLS. Under the current system, a team retains the rights to a player whose contract has expired, consequently making it difficult for a player to sign with another MLS club unless a trade is negotiated. Players are, however, free to sign with an international club.

"That is something the league is not prepared to do," he said of free agency within MLS. "What is important to understand is that our league is in a different situation than the other professional sports leagues in North America. When it comes to players, we function in an international market and other leagues are not subject to our salary budget and do have greater resources. It is that dynamic that makes us different from other sports leagues in the U.S., and that's why we don't believe free agency works for us. The players have an opposite view, but our view is that it's not something that is good for the continued growth and development of the league. Our system was designed to counteract the international market."

But what is the harm in a player declaring his intent to remain in MLS but wanting to play for a different club?

"That situation just doesn't arise. What makes our league unique in North America is that the players may choose to go abroad, which is their right. When you talk about free agency, our players have more opportunities to play for more teams in more leagues than any other athlete in North America."

Abbott did say that the league has proposed new guidelines to address issues involving players who are no longer wanted by a club but wish to remain in MLS. "We have made specific proposals on how to deal with that and in ways that you do not need free agency," he said. "We may want to bargain with those proposals, but we have made them."

The sides met multiple times this week and, with a twice-revised deadline looming Thursday, they plan to talk again Monday in WashingtonNew York.

"Would I say a deal was imminent the last couple days? No, I wouldn't, but I would also say we continue to make progress in all significant areas."

Abbott declined to speculate on whether the deadline could be pushed back again.

"Clearly, no one is in favor of a work stoppage, but we spent years establishing the structure of the league to make it work and we did so against a background of repeated failures to launch professional soccer leagues in the United States," he said. "What we would never do is compromise those things that we think are necessary for the continued growth and prosperity of the league simply to avert a work stoppage. We have to think about this in the long term and we have to make sure the right system is in place."

By Steve Goff  |  February 20, 2010; 5:07 PM ET
Categories:  MLS  
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Comments

I wonder how much the debut of the Philly team and the opening of Red Bull Arena will weigh on the owners' willingness to compromise. A strike/lockout would have significant impacts on those two franchises.

Upside: Will Chang would stop losing money :-(

Posted by: jofij | February 20, 2010 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Of course, it was inevitable that the sides would eventually try to employ the media. The real bargaining doesn't happen in public, because public sympathies mean little -- but negotiators look for every advantage they can imagine.

I'd be curious what the league means by limiting the number of unilateral options a team can have in a player's contract, and how that differs from free agency. Are they saying they'll limit the options, thus allowing players to leave to go abroad sooner, but not move about the MLS??? If that's what they mean, I have to say their thinking is exactly 100% bass-ackwards.

MLS should want to encourage players to remain in MLS. The league gets nothing if a player goes abroad after his contract is up. It also hurts the league's image among fans, as it reinforces the inferiority of the league, both in image and in fact. If the best players go abroad, what's left? Inferior players.

Allowing players to move about within the league holds the prospect of retaining some players who might otherwise be lost to the league. Does it make it harder to put together a roster for the long haul? Sure, it does. So do injuries, retirements and players going abroad. Would it drive up salaries? Not if there's a rigid cap. Look at pro football -- what it does is make it more expensive to sign the best players, requiring teams to be creative with the cap.

I would also argue that it will increase overall interest in the league. Free agency has been a boon to most pro leagues. It increases the interest of fans in the offseason. It can be done without the league starting to look like baseball or the soccer leagues in Europe, with a handful of teams that can afford to bring in the best talent. If those leagues operated with salary caps, they could maintain the parity that MLS craves so badly.

KC declined to pick up Hartman's option. Presumably, they intended to negotiate a salary cut. At this point in his career, if some other team would value Hartman more highly, why shouldn't he be able to move? MLS has got this all wrong.

Posted by: fischy | February 20, 2010 5:34 PM | Report abuse

MLS management was right. They were in a better position, in terms of the fans' opinions, when all the negotiations were taking place in secret. Their explanation for opposing free agency within MLS makes no sense. What does the opportunity to play overseas have to do with free agency within the league? Absolutely nothing. The most reasonable explanation is that management can't resist any opportunity to flex its muscles and dare the players to strike.

Posted by: Jphubba | February 20, 2010 5:35 PM | Report abuse

Translation:

"You see, when someone is in an abusive, controlling relationship, the best way to please your man is to not tell anybody. It's best to keep it in the family.

"It would be silly of us to break up what we've got going here, I spent a lot of money on you. You do you think pays for this apartment, those outfits you like to wear?

"You'd like some more freedom. But you've got all that we're able to handle right now."

Posted by: UnitedDemon | February 20, 2010 5:37 PM | Report abuse

"That situation just doesn't arise."

Hartman.
Van den Bergh.
Serioux.

Inaccuracies and misrepresentations, indeed.

Posted by: Chest_Rockwell | February 20, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse

I'd also be curious about the terms of that $60 million. That's $12 million a year, in a league with 16 teams -- next year it's 18, and possibly 20 teams within those 5 years. It's not a very big increase, since it would be about $600,000 per team per year, when it goes to 20 teams. And, I'm assuming that the figure doesn't include rosters of the new clubs projected at the current levels of spending. If it does, it's a pittance, since at least half of that amount would be allocated to thoe new teams. It wouldn't mean much more money per club, so individual salaries would be barely increased. Even if it's meant to be over and above the spending of new clubs -- and I'm suspicious that it's not -- the amount of new spending could be one DP contract per club. There's not reason to think it'll be distributed among the other 23 players. Even if it were, you're still talking about no more than an average increase of less than $30,000 per player.

For big-time sports, that would be a laughable proposal for a 5-yr plan. Worse it doesn't allow for the kind of raises the league will need to hold on to some of the better players. Given that the increase won't be evenly distributed through the roster, it'll mean that the bottom rung will still be playing for wages that are more like entry level wages for civil servants. Not a big enticement for a career that will only last a few years == maybe ten years, if they prove to be better than their first contract. This is not the way to get a deal done.

Posted by: fischy | February 20, 2010 5:53 PM | Report abuse

Prince Paul -- when did the three of them all say that under no circumstances were they interested in deals outside MLS? In Hartman's case, I think we can feel confident that he wouldn't have to -- he's much too near the end of his career. But if offered a sweet deal in Holland, no way van den Bergh would take it? He committed to that?

Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | February 20, 2010 5:55 PM | Report abuse

United throws up more goose eggs. Beginning to look like the defense is improved, but they will struggle to find someone to score....assuming there's an MLS season to play.

Posted by: fischy | February 20, 2010 5:58 PM | Report abuse

@Metzler -- I believe van den Bergh is very interested in staying in the USA, for family reasons. Not sure who Prince Paul is -- but why do you think it's great consolation that players might be able to move abroad" Leaving aside that they might face visa issues in some countries (unless they play for the USMNT, or have an EU passport, they can forget about the UK), why should someone have to find a job in Scandinavia. or a third division team in Austria, when all he really wants is to get a job on the West Coast, or the East Coast?

Posted by: fischy | February 20, 2010 6:04 PM | Report abuse

"What makes our league unique in North America is that the players may choose to go abroad, which is their right."

A certain N.E. striker may argue with this.

Though I believe the season will be played this year in its entirety, I do not think it's the fairest system. I wonder about the reputation MLS will have amongst our future professional footballers. Though the soccer should always be the better, I don't see the MLS continuing to be so enticing to future college grads if international reputaion and average saleries continue to stagnate.

Posted by: ratco | February 20, 2010 6:17 PM | Report abuse

Just a theory on my part b/c I'm not a lawyer nor do I play one on TV but...

I think "free agency" (let's call that moving to any team in MLS you want to once your contact is up) is actually a real problem for MLS b/c of the single entity structure. Here's my thinking....

I was always in favor of free agency, feeling that players like Dema Kovalenko (who weren't going to be MLS max salaries) could compensate by moving to a club they were more likely to play at or better family conditions, job for the spouse, pick up a college assisting gig--whatever--as compensation for getting low salaries (which was a necesity for MLS owners...let's face: Dema Kovelenko or even Dave van den Bergh don't sell tickets in MLS). But MLS is single entity. That's not just a label. They have to be able to meet a legal test that says they're single entity. Otherwise they can be sued for antitrust. Players (or agents or someone say...in Montreal....who wants into MLS) could go to court and sue and the court system could find against MLS, against the cap, against limits on clubs. So preserving the single entity structure (and that includes LEGALLY or in a form that the courts accept as proof of single entity) is critical for MLS until the league reaches a point where they don't think they need to be single entity.

Now, if the league says "we're single entity" yet players get to jump from team to team without compensation to the original team (unless under contract) it actually sounds to me legally like they're separate entities in the same league. Which means a host of the protections MLS gets from being single entity all disappear. So...just guessing here folks, but that may be why MLS is so reluctant to give on something that seems reasonable to most of us and something that likely impacts only middling level players (ala Dema Kovalenko or maybe Devon McTavish).

Posted by: JoeW1 | February 20, 2010 6:30 PM | Report abuse

fischy -- I was responding to Chest Rockwell, which is a pseudonym that Prince Paul went by in his hip hop project with Dan Nakamura (Dan the Automator), Hazndsome Boy Modeling School. I called him Prince Paul to communicate that I, too, like Handsome Boy Modeling School.

As for your last question, I ask that question all the time -- why should I have to look for work in my field in one city when I want to find it in another city?

Look, I don't know of *anyone* that thinks the Reserve Clause is fair. The practical reality, though, is that the pool of investor/operators would rather take their money and go home, for good, than allow unrestricted free agency. There are reasons for this, and people can reasonably debate whether those reasons make sense or are any good; but that's the reality. The players are asking for something that the owners are absolutely, unequivocally not going to give in on. I'm not favoring the owners or siding against the players in saying that: I'm just acknowledging the reality of the situation. They ain't gonna get it. Period.

I'd be interested in learning about the League's counter-proposals to address individual cases, which Abbott refers to in Goff's quotes. It suggests that while the League isn't willing to allow free agency, they are willing to do something that addresses specific problems with the Reserve Clause. But in the meantime, the players seem committed to free agency, which is bad news for fans because the players aren't going to get it.

Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | February 20, 2010 6:32 PM | Report abuse

The league is a single business that doesn't want to bid against itself for talent. That's understandable.

Because there is a world market for players' services, there is no antitrust reason for free agency. The players don't have that trump card that other sport unions have.

If the players feel they're not getting their fair share of league profits, they can strike. Of course, the question is what is the players' fair share of a negative number?

In any negotiation, it is better when the sides are working together. I'd like to see that, and I don't feel like the players have much strength as an adversary.

I'd like to see the players get a bit more money to live on and some benefits that don't cost the league a lot.

Posted by: neil_g | February 20, 2010 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Actually JoeW1 - in addition to succeeding with the single entity defense in the case against the players, I'm pretty sure that the jury in Fraser case found that because the market for soccer players' services is international, MLS (and its teams) couldn't collude to suppress the market...

Posted by: combedge | February 20, 2010 6:54 PM | Report abuse

The league is a single business that doesn't want to bid against itself for talent. That's understandable.
-------------------------------------------------------

Not if you consider that they're operating under a hard cap. Salaries can't go way up in that kind of a situation, If one team would bid more for a player, it's only because they have greater need and more room under the cap. Doesn't impact the league's finances at all. The reality is that the league is afraid to open the door to free agency, even a crack. Better to have the players continue to bargain for that in future negotiations, instead of over money.

Posted by: fischy | February 20, 2010 6:56 PM | Report abuse

I think MLS makes an excellent argument. The players appear to have won some significant concessions. The average joe worker doesn't have a guaranteed contract either. Wait until the next round to go for 100% free agency. The league is not ready.

Posted by: mbyrd28 | February 20, 2010 6:57 PM | Report abuse

JoeW makes an interesting point. One for me to consider and research. Not sure if free agency would change the outcome of that legal test, since the league still owns the contracts and would simply allow for a player to arrange for a transfer.

Posted by: fischy | February 20, 2010 6:59 PM | Report abuse

The point that free agency may threaten the ability of the League to claim single entity status in a court of law has been a frequent subject of article, blog and post for most of the last year. It's been raised here before, and it's very likely the main reason why the League isn't willing to consider free agency. Some of the Q&A in the Supreme Court hearing of the American Needle case recently speaks to this.

Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | February 20, 2010 7:11 PM | Report abuse

I forgot to factor in the Philly expansion. I'm not a math genius, but I think I've got the numbers right now.

There is one new team this year -- at current levels, that's $12 million more right there. There will be 2 more new teams next year -- over $19 million right there. That's without a salary cap increase. There will probably be a small one. A 10% increase (less than $250k) means those teams will contribute well over half of the increase -- close to $35 million. If 2 more teams join in later years -- over $5 million per year. So, we're at $40, 45, maybe even $50 million. Add in the 10% increase for the 15 teams already in the league, and you get to $60 million. So, we're looking at a salary cap increase of about $240k, divided among 24 players per team -- an average of $10,000. That's an average, mind you. Some will get more, and most get substantially less. Big whoop.

What concession is the league proposing? Bringing in new teams that are paying the league $40 million each just for the privilege of joining. Plus, a salary cap increase of about 10%, averaging out to $10k per player. That's with the generous assumption that this new spending doesn't include DP signings and amounts that don't come under the cap.

Posted by: fischy | February 20, 2010 7:28 PM | Report abuse

fischy -- what concrete info do you have indicating that the figure quoted by Abbott includes the salaries of the expansion teams?

Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | February 20, 2010 7:57 PM | Report abuse

Nice work in this thread, fischy.

From the MLS statement: "That situation just doesn't arise."

Neither that sentence nor the paragraph that follows it makes any sense.

1. If it doesn't arise, why are the players raising it?
2. Why are the owners fighting it?

Makes the single-entity theory sound quite plausible.

Posted by: benonthehill | February 20, 2010 8:00 PM | Report abuse

@christopher_a_metzler,

If you were playing the PR/negotiating game in the media, wouldn't you count every imaginable $ you could to polish your case?

Posted by: benonthehill | February 20, 2010 8:03 PM | Report abuse

benonthehill -- I'm involved in discussions about this on three different sites. In *every single one*, within just a few minutes of these quotes being posted, it was pointed out that if the League was including the new teams' salaries to come up with that figure, it meant a mere pittance in player salary increases. Everyone everywhere saw that immediately. That being the case, I find it almost impossible to believe that the League would be so incredibly unbelievably mind-blowingly stupid as to imagine they could get away with it.

Something I find more interesting is that the amount of money is being discussed *at all*. Historically, the value of the salary cap has *never* been part of MLS CBA negotiations. If the League is bringing them in as a negotiable point, that's a signficant precedent.

Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | February 20, 2010 8:13 PM | Report abuse

"Abbott did say that the league has proposed new guidelines to address issues involving players who are no longer wanted by a club but wish to remain in MLS."

I may be mistaken, but wouldn't this be the situation known as free agency in any other American sport?

Posted by: Josh86 | February 20, 2010 8:35 PM | Report abuse

Josh86 -- I read it as saying that they've proposed alternatives other than free agency that address it. What those alternatives are, or whether they're any good, we don't know.


Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | February 20, 2010 8:40 PM | Report abuse

@christopher_a_metzler,

You may be right. I hope you are. I guess I'm unlikely to be accused of overestimating the forthrightness of parties to labor negotiations.

And if you are right, I don't understand why they wouldn't have included the expansion $ and cited an even larger figure.

I guess we'll find out eventually. Maybe. Or else we'll all be reading more Yanks abroad news.

Posted by: benonthehill | February 20, 2010 8:50 PM | Report abuse

benonthehill -- oh, I agree that it doesn't pay to assume *anyone* in labor negotiations is being completely forthright. I just mean that if you're going to b.s. people, you'd normally do it in such a way that wasn't so easy to get called on.

Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | February 20, 2010 9:04 PM | Report abuse

The United may not take the field until after the World Cup the way things are looking.

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | February 20, 2010 9:36 PM | Report abuse

Ooh, The PowerTroll has shown up.

Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | February 20, 2010 9:40 PM | Report abuse

The PowerTool

Posted by: beergorila | February 20, 2010 10:14 PM | Report abuse

The United may not take the field until after the World Cup the way things are looking.
-----------------------------------

Even if they do, they may not score until after the World Cup

Posted by: Wyrm1 | February 20, 2010 10:36 PM | Report abuse

Sorry to throw cold water here, and I hate to encourage the dude, but PowerBoater's been calling a tune, and it sounds like the band's warming up to play it.

EPL on ESPN2 in HD; WPS starts in April; World Cup soon thereafter. So I'll survive.

Posted by: OWNTF | February 20, 2010 11:18 PM | Report abuse

If someone leaves a subsidiary of a large corporation and takes a job with another subsidiary of the same corporation, does that make that corporation any less of a single entity? I don't think so. For my money, this argument is just a smoke screen thrown up by MLS.

Posted by: Jphubba | February 20, 2010 11:29 PM | Report abuse

Even if they do, they may not score until after the World Cup

Posted by: Wyrm1 | February 20, 2010 10:36 PM
--------------------------------------------------

Pay the man, Shirley.

Posted by: fischy | February 20, 2010 11:38 PM | Report abuse

Jphubba -- I guess the Supreme Court a couple of weeks ago took your money?

Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | February 21, 2010 12:31 AM | Report abuse

WPS?

Really?

I'd rather watch a replay of the 2007 World Series of Poker.

Posted by: alecw81 | February 21, 2010 1:22 AM | Report abuse

PowerBoater's been calling a tune, and it sounds like the band's warming up to play it.

Posted by: OWNTF | February 20, 2010 11:18 PM | Report abuse

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

I should note that the comment about the lockout extending to the end of the World Cup was pure speculation on my part. The exact tip I got was that there will be a lockout instead of a strike because the union reps fear that the players would break ranks during a strike. Also that the Fire are in danger of folding. I won't see my source again until April but if you guys want I could call him and request that he pump his source for more info.

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | February 21, 2010 7:30 AM | Report abuse

I can see why the Owners wouldn't want anyone speaking out publicly, seeing as how every fan seems to be taking the players' side.

I've yet to see a solid argument against free agency. JoeW1 does bring up an interesting point that should be considered, but if the single entity structure was a reason not to have free agency, then it shouldn't really be a negotiating point at all. It should be totally off the table. And if this was the case, then MLS would be telling us that the single entity structure is their reason why they can't have free agency. Instead, they are saying they're opposed to free agency because players can sign overseas instead of with other MLS clubs. As fischy has pointed out, this is totally backwards.

I actually think the owners have way more to lose than the players. If MLS goes away, the players will find jobs with USL clubs or in Scandinavian leagues. Most players will still be able to make a living. It's the Owners who would be screwed out of all the money they've invested. That's why I still think they're going to find a way to come to an agreement.

Posted by: DCUMD | February 21, 2010 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Supreme Court? The Court has issued 21opinions so far this term. None of them, as far as I can see, have anything to do with the concept of single entities.

Posted by: Jphubba | February 21, 2010 9:44 AM | Report abuse

"What makes our league unique in North America is that the players may choose to go abroad, which is their right."

You know what, us fans have that option, too. I won't miss it if it's gone. I'll get my fill from other leagues. With the World Cup this year, It will only be July without significant soccer on TV.

Any significant strike or lockout, MLS will die. Especially if it drags into mid-May. Once the National Team callups begin, you can kiss the league goodbye if MLS isn't playing.

Thx,

Jay!

Posted by: jayrockers | February 21, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Jphubba -- three weeks ago, American Needle vs. NFL was argued in front of the Supreme Court, and the concept of Single Entity status came up in the Q&A. The NFL argued that the fact that the teams in the NFL competed amongst each other for players through free agency did not detract from the League's ability to identify as a single entity when it came to making League-wide marketing contracts. The Justices giggled.


Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | February 21, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

I'm with fischy -- the league's case sounds weak, especially since a new agreement locks in their terms for five years. If I were a player I'd like to see some form of FA grandfathered in during that time (along with higher minimums, better benefits, etc). Of course the low cap means MLS can't compete with Europe for out-of-contract stars, but why can't MLS teams compete with each other under the cap? Single entity or no, it's weak logic.

Free agency is not all or nothing. All major sports put at least some limits on it, often affecting entire, large classes of players. Baseball survived for a time with a proto-free-agency, with the commissioner acting as final arbiter for new contracts, trades, etc.

There probably isn't time to compose a revolutionary 5-year-plan before the '10 season starts, which works in favor of the leagues' position in the short term. If there really is an extra $60M infusion on the table, both sides ought to offer proposals on that, if they can't move forward on the FA issue.

Meanwhile, the league may need to ask what it would take to gain a one-year continuance from the players, with the understanding that in the long run, yet-unsigned players will vote with their feet, and the league can't win this one.

Posted by: Godfather_of_Goals | February 21, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

What does the American Needle case have to do with MLS? The factual situation is different. The NFL is clearly not a single entity and until recently did not even claim to be a single entity. The teams existed before the league and helped form the league. The teams still exist as separate entities.

Moreover, the logical link between free agency and a single entity has yet to explained in any meaningful way. From what I can discern, the argument is that, if the MLS teams can sign players from other teams, after their contracts expire, then MLS is no longer a single entity. If that's the case, someone ought to tell General Motors, AT&T and most of the other large corporations in America.

Posted by: Jphubba | February 21, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Jphubba -- nevertheless, the Justices directly addressed the *specific assertion* that free agency did not speak directly to the ability to claim single entity status, and *specifically* indicated they didn't buy that particular argument. There isn't exactly much case law to address the situation; but you're choosing to simply ignore the one thing we have that does. Meanwhile, you're asserting that conglomerates and MLS are structured in identical ways, something that doesn't match with common sense. I'm presuming you have an LL.D. in corporations/anti-trust?

Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | February 21, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse

So, the owners - many of whom have spent millions on stadiums - are going to watch the season go bye-bye to save the reserve clause?

Maybe there are enough tractor pulls and motocross events to fill the summer stadium schedules anyway.

I think the union has a pretty low range on what they can ask for given the small stature of this league and sport in the US, but on the other hand it seems that the league is really abusing this position to squeeze the players on this reserve clause.

I hope they can work this out - I only came to soccer as a fan in the first place when baseball shot itself in the foot with that inane strike back in 1994. I'm sure I can find something else to do with my 1500 dollars I spend each season on tickets, parking, beer, brats, and occasional travel.

Posted by: CDRHoek | February 21, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Again, the American Needle case has nothing to do with MLS. The NFL is trying to get away with something. They are trying to somehow morph themselves into a single entity for the purposes of selling merchandise, when they have never operated as a single entity before. Of course, the justices had a good laugh. The whole claim is ludicrous and that fact that the NFL teams have always made personnel decisions on their own is only one of many factors that indicate that the NFL is not a single entity.
On the other hand, MLS was founded as a single entity and has always operated as a single entity. The assertion, it seems, is that if MLS allows the teams to sign players who once played for other teams in MLS, MLS will endanger its status as a single entity.
Now, we all should remember that MLS has not said this. The league has said that it opposes "free agency" because it competes in an international market -- a nonsensical assertion, but one that has nothing to do with being a single entity. Instead several commentators have theorized that MLS is resistant about free agency because of fears regarding its single entity status.
Lord knows where they got the idea.
The assertion that to retain the status of a single entity, a corporation has to control from headquarters all movement of employees within the corporation, or from one subsidiary to another, is, I submit,, laughable

Posted by: Jphubba | February 21, 2010 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Re: The Hartman/Van den bergh problem

Some of the statements from Abbott that were missing from this blog entry are important to the discussion here. Abbott said there are other ways to handle that situation that are not free agency. See:
http://www.soccerbyives.net/soccer_by_ives/2010/02/mls-responds-to-players-union-criticisms.html

"There have been some discussions about what happens to a player whose team no longer wants him and how the right of first refusal works. We've made proposals on those areas too, to address some of those concerns.

What we haven't done is made a proposal on free agency," Abbott said. "We can address some of these right of first refusal concerns without having free agency. Free agency is not something we think is good for the league."

--

To my mind, that would mean something fairly simple: currently, MLS has to 'make an offer' to retain a player's rights. Otherwise he's considered to have been cut and can go try out somewhere else.

But currently the abuse can come in because it doesn't have to be a meaningful offer. That's what you could fix.

Any player for whom his new offer is less than x% of what he was making before is considered waived (unless he takes it). Then he goes into the waiver draft order, where someone can take him if they're willing try to sign him.

Simple enough, and not free agency. What Abbott is trying to say is that some proposal at least vaguely like this has been put out there and rejected by the players, because what they want is bidding over players that a club *does* want to keep.

Posted by: stancollins | February 21, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Jphubba -- What you're saying is not what the Justices said.

Once upon a time, I used to make a lot of money working for one of the largest corporations in the U.S. As you indicate, employees of this corporation were able to move from one subdivision of that corporation to another, even if deemed surplus to requirements by the part of the corporation for which they worked before. However, the analogy with a single-entity sports league breaks down: the divisions of a major corporation typically do not compete against each other for contracts or customers, and do not see success *at the expense of the success of the other division of the same corporation* as a positive outcome. Separate divisions of a major corporation do occasionally compete against each other for employees -- but that's pretty much the *only* way in which they compete against each other. They are not analogous to sports leagues, whether single entity or not; and my understanding is that the case law in the U.S. involving sports leagues supports this. If you disagree, please provide me with case law cites so I can go and look at the cases that support your POV. Thanks in advance.

Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | February 21, 2010 5:54 PM | Report abuse

The league is losing money. How much can the players expect? Seriously. I took a 50%+ pay cut last year, and I am just happy to have a job right now.

To all the fans that are taking the side of the union, why not do your part by paying your team double for your season tickets this year? Or pay to be a sponsor? Or buy a TV contract?

Posted by: DCU4LIFE | February 21, 2010 6:02 PM | Report abuse

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