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Thursday kickaround

*All is quiet on the MLS labor front. The deadline for a new collective bargaining agreement is today. No one seems to know if that means the end of the business day or 11:59 p.m. While we wait, read Brian Straus' review of the situation. And on the continuation of this thread, a loyal reader expresses his thoughts on the labor situation.

*Wayne Bridge, the back-up choice to injured Ashley Cole at left back, has withdrawn from consideration for England's World Cup squad because of the John Terry controversy.

*Hope Solo stopped not one, but two penalty kicks in the U.S. women's team's 2-0 victory over Iceland at the Algarve Cup.

*Americans abroad:
Wednesday
GK Brad Guzan 90 in Aston Villa's 3-1 FA Cup win over Crystal Palace
MF Stuart Holden 90 in Bolton's 4-0 FA Cup loss to Spurs
Thursday
GK Tim Howard, MF Landon Donovan for Everton at Sporting Lisbon in Europa Cup

Soccer on TV:
Europa League, Galatasaray-Atletico Madrid 11 a.m. GolTV
Europa League, Juventus-Ajax 3 p.m. GolTV
Copa Libertadores, Blooming-Lanus 5 p.m. Fox Sports Espanol
Copa Libertadores, Once Caldas-Sao Paulo 7 p.m. FSE
Europa League, Roma-Panathinaikos 8 p.m. GolTV
Copa Libertadores, Universitario-Libertad 9 p.m. FSE

*Highlights from Mexico's 5-0 demolition of Bolivia -- it was 4-0 in the 21st minute -- before 34,244 in San Francisco:

From Jeremy, a loyal reader of the Insider:

Right now there is a USMNT game on and I sit here trying to find a reason to watch. I haven't had this problem in the past; I would blow off school or work to try and catch as much of the game as possible. I have been planning my vacation days in June around the start times of the U.S. games at the World Cup, but I can't even bring myself to turn on the TV tonight and watch the game. I have been thinking about why this is and I have come to a conclusion: The players I support have, I feel, let me down. Looking back on the last few weeks, I have noticed a steady decline in my desire to watch the sport I love and have grown up with. Why do I feel like the players have let me down?

When this collective bargaining agreement issue started creeping up last year, I felt like it wasn't going to be that big of a deal. Considering the economic world had just imploded, I figured that the these individuals would take some measure of freedom or economic stability and build from there. Surely they realize that Rome wasn't built in a day and the benefits that workers enjoy is built over a series of negotiations. They had to realize that the level of support wasn't up to a level that would allow sweeping or drastic changes. The thought of how the last major professional soccer league disappeared would show them that 15 years of existence doesn't mean permanence.

Like any business, MLS is going to negotiate to try and make sure that its side of the business is in order and can run smoothly and profitably. The players are trying to get as much as they can without causing themselves to be out of a job. If MLS runs a hard line, they risk alienating the work force and having a stoppage that causes them to lose money. If the players run a hard line, they risk damaging an entity that provides 300 of the highest-paying jobs in their field in the country. When you consider the possible damages, you would think both sides would negotiate and try to find the common ground.

Since this past Friday, the players have made several comments that have made me wonder if they are really negotiating in good faith. I can tell from the tone of several players that their hearts are in this. Most of the time I would say this is a good thing, but not in this case. Labor negotiations are strictly business and you don't bring your personal feelings to a business negotiation. When you make things personal, you tend to act irrational and can end up cutting off your nose to spite your face. So what exactly do I see as the problem here and why am I putting it on the players' feet?

The players started saying how the league didn't respect them. I can understand their feelings, but I doubt that the league's position has anything to do with respect and probably has to do more with their numbers and how certain changes would affect them. However, if the league was outright rejecting everything and stonewalling them (which has been suggested by the players' side in the past few weeks), I could understand them. That theory fell apart Saturday when the league responded that they had made concessions (except for free agency). Sunday came with the expected reply from the MLSPU, but it caused me to really question what the union was after. They broke down the numbers that MLS had provided and put a negative spin on them (which was to be expected). Personally, I can't understand how, as a union, you complain about a guaranteed increase in spending every year and at least 60 new jobs. The real problem, though, was that they never denied that MLS had made proposals, which is a change from their previous stance. This was further complicated by them reinforcing their stance on their "rights."

"Rights" is just not a good word. People fight for their rights and people die for their rights. Once you get it in your head that it is your right, you will not accept anything less. The problem is that what the players are asking for aren't rights. They are benefits. You have the right to be paid the money you are due, you have the right to not be discriminated against at the workplace, you have the right to all sorts of things on the job. A guaranteed contract is not a right; it is a benefit. Club autonomy is a benefit. You can look at any number of industries in the United States and see that these "injustices" at play. There are many jobs that are filled from a central location and you are then sent to another city. I can assume a large majority of the fans that come to see these players could be fired from their job tomorrow. They might not even be fired because of poor performance, it might just be because the company is losing money. To threaten to strike because they don't have their "rights" just makes me feel like the players don't get it.

I understand that I'm not there in the room and I am not privy to the information that they are. I could have it all wrong and the players could be right. However, the half-truths, hyperbole and outright falsehoods that they have stated at times has severely undercut my faith in them as well. In the past they have used quotes in the media like how it is impossible to live off of a wage of 15k a year. I don't deny that, but that is such a small subset of the union that it is laughable. They misrepresent what they mean to try and make it seem like they have no rights and don't get paid nearly enough. Then, there was this lovely statement from a player rep: "Why are our players leaving at an alarming rate to go play in Scandinavia? What are the reasons for that? It's not just the money, it's the fact that contracts are guaranteed, and once that contract is up he has the freedom to move." I shook my head at this. If you consider Denmark part of Scandinavia (it really isn't), then you have two players (I'm not counting draft picks, since you don't know how many MLS kept from going) leaving this year. Hardly alarming. Of course, you also have two former players coming back, so that leaves the rate at even. But that doesn't take into account the three other players that teams have signed from over there. So this "alarming rate" has actually turned into three more players coming to MLS from Scandinavia than vice versa. It is statements like this that have left me feeling like I have misplaced my hopes in the players.

And that is really what this all boils down to. It was easy to take the players' side and rally against faceless MLS (okay, Garber isn't faceless, but he is just one man). But the more this has dragged out and the more the players have said, the less confidence I have in them to make the right choices and not risk the health of U.S. soccer. That is why I have sat here writing an essay instead of watching them play against El Salvador. I hope that I'm wrong and that the players and MLS can work something out. I just feel, though, that the players have drawn a line that isn't based on what is good for them in the long run. In December 2008, Jay Heaps said: "We've been treated and thought of as kind of a work force, and we're more involved than that." I hope that the players can see that if they want to be more involved, they have to find a way to make this work. If you are more than a work force, you are willing to work things out for the overall health of the organization. But in order to do that, you need to start thinking about what is best for both sides, not just your side. So all I can do now is hope that I'm sitting in Seattle next month watching my team's first game and that I'm not wondering if the players have let me down.

By Steve Goff  |  February 25, 2010; 10:17 AM ET
Categories:  2010 World Cup , Americans Abroad , England , MLS , Mexico , Women  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: In victory, U.S. players make World Cup push
Next: MLS labor talks: another view

Comments

Well-reasoned and well-said, Jeremy.

Posted by: VercengetorixII | February 25, 2010 10:30 AM | Report abuse

whether or not I agree with you, Jeremy, that was a well thought out and well structured argument. congratulations.

Posted by: troy6 | February 25, 2010 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Jeremy's a whiner.

It's not about you, kid. It's just business. If you were in their shoes, you wouldn't worry about letting Jeremy down.

Don't take it personally.

Posted by: very_clever_username | February 25, 2010 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Bravo Jeremy.

Find a deal today MLS/MLSPU!

Posted by: VirginiaBlueBlood | February 25, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Vercengetorix apparently reads faster than I do.

Posted by: troy6 | February 25, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Outstanding, Jeremy. Thank you for pointing out the Scandanavia fallacy. It's a trickle heading over there and players who pass on MLS for anything other than first-team jobs in top-tier leagues are likely to come back.

I support the MLSPU's aims, but their strategy to get them has been horrible. One wonders if Bob Foose will be running the show much past the signing of this contract.

Posted by: beach3 | February 25, 2010 10:34 AM | Report abuse

@Jeremy: Kudos on a well-written, well-thought-out essay. One thing that bugs me, though: Are you in any way affiliated to with MLS or soccer in any kind of professional way?

Goff, I know this is a blog, but printing Jeremy's full name would have helped in this instance.

Posted by: Juan-John1 | February 25, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Jeremy unlikely to use Twitter...

Posted by: JkR- | February 25, 2010 10:39 AM | Report abuse

That was well worth the time to read.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | February 25, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Jeremy's a whiner.

It's not about you, kid. It's just business. If you were in their shoes, you wouldn't worry about letting Jeremy down.

Don't take it personally.

Posted by: very_clever_username | February 25, 2010 10:31 AM

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

Jeremy is a fan. The fans are the reason these players have jobs. If there is a work stoppage, MLS stands to lose many fans. They SHOULD be worried about letting Jeremy (and the rest of the fans) down. If that's not on their minds, they've lost the plot.

***********************

Goff, I know this is a blog, but printing Jeremy's full name would have helped in this instance.

Posted by: Juan-John1 | February 25, 2010 10:36 AM

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

What's to stop any of us from submitting something from a pseudonym? Any one of us could be a player or MLS official posting under the guise of Average Joe Fan. His name doesn't matter.

Posted by: DCU_Rick | February 25, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Jeremy, I agree with you. When people think is their "right", they take the benefit for granted. Best example, driver's license.

I just hope these fools get it straight and not delay the start of the season.

By the way, you missed a pretty good USMNT match.

Posted by: hardcoco | February 25, 2010 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Jeremy is a loyal reader and a soccer fan. He sent it to me in the form of a personal e-mail and had no intention of having it posted on the blog. However, I thought he made a passionate argument that others would be interested in reading. So I asked him if it would be okay to post it. He granted permission. I asked him if he would prefer to use just his first name or full name. He chose just his first name. Given the circumstances, I had no problem with honoring the request.

Posted by: Steve Goff | February 25, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: DadRyan | February 25, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse

But seriously, expect 30,000 or so more readers of the blog by tomorrow afternoon. Goff's got the US Soccer Blog of the year in the bag for 2010!

Posted by: DadRyan | February 25, 2010 10:49 AM | Report abuse

I think Jeremy ignores that the owners' "concessions" are nebulous at best, and that the parties are negotiating over a FIVE-YEAR agreement. And frankly on the issues that most concern players, the league hasn't shown any movement or compromise, at all, over that FIVE-YEAR period.

The "concessions" the league has sort-of offered might placate the players enough to win a one-year extension of the CBA. But not FIVE YEARS.

Players are already voting with their feet. Fans are already following their favorite stars to Europe and elsewhere. Bith will continue to call the league's bluff. This does not help the league.

Neither side is being realistic, and neither side has a we're-in-this-together mindset anymore. Blame this on the players if you like, but that seems foolish.

Everyone, without exception, should be looking toward a future where clubs are financially and operationally independent, sign lower-level affiliates, and compete on the open market for talent and fan dollars. No-one, without exception, has presented any kind of plan for getting from here to there.

Without that plan, there ain't much to talk about, and it ain't going to happen this year. A year from now, there could be a serious discussion where the sides really do work together.

If the league is serious about 2010, they will forget about this FIVE YEAR nonsense, today.

Posted by: Godfather_of_Goals | February 25, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Godfather, the league already has. They've already said they're willing to run 2010 under the old CBA while they keep working on a new deal.

The players haven't made that same commitment. That's why I said what I said yesterday - there's only one side at the moment (of course, that can change instantly, but it's the situation as it stands right now) that is threatening a work stoppage. It's the players.

Posted by: VercengetorixII | February 25, 2010 11:02 AM | Report abuse

I was a long thought comment by Jeremy but he completely doesn't get the players position.

Players are saying that though the idea MLS will increase spending is really faulty logic. They are not spending more money per player but will spend more money b/c the incoming teams mean more money will be spent.

As many players have said,they are not actually asking for money but what the do want is when a player contract ends teams do have the right to compensation from another team that signs that player. Now this being framed as free agency. But one has to remember that MLS is a single economic entity who teams function as subsidiaries of the larger company. That means that though a player may leave the Fire for Dallas the contracts are still own and controlled by MLS. So there is no real free agency nor could there be under single entity. But in the case of a Kevin Hartman if you are let go Kansas City can still ask for compensation though they ended the contract. This really hurts a players chance of drawing interest from other MLS teams that might be interested in a players services but don't want to give up anything to the old team and (why should they have to if a team is not willing to employ that player anymore?). So the players have little options its either play MLS's game, go to the 2nd division or go abroad. No matter what though a team can still hold your rights like what happen to Brian McBride who had been out of the league for years and yet somehow his rights were being held by Toronto who was not even around when he left MLS.

So players what the right of freedom of movement to not have the owner team or other team interfere with their movement to another team. They know that even with this that MLS still owns all the teams and the contracts so they don't expect the salaries to every go sky high b/c the league simply want approval such a deal. MLS HQ knows that as well but refuse let go of this major position of power.

The players are then stating that this goes against industry trade standards for owner to hold this kind of power. But no one should expect MLS to give up such control without one hell of a fight.

I do not believe either side is being unreasonable in their demands. This battle has been brewing for a long time . I am glade that MLS players have found their voice and started to call the league out on some the major issues.

Posted by: degerron | February 25, 2010 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Isn't a bigger issue too, under the single-entity sanction as fair under anti-trust rules, that if you had more autonomous clubs, revenue sharing between more separate entities would actually make it a cartel and an illegal entity?

Right now, the issue with club autonomy is that for all the "profitable" success of certain clubs, they are propping up many others (DCU included).

Posted by: VirginiaBlueBlood | February 25, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

If the owners are offering the old CBA with no changes for one year, that's not really a negotiation, is it?

And WTF is wrong with Bridge -- all this over one total skank he's not even seeing any more? God, does he really think Terry was the only one? Please, no-one tell him there's no Easter Bunny -- he may never be heard from again.

Posted by: Godfather_of_Goals | February 25, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, Goff, just wanted to make sure. No question the essay is a very good one.

Posted by: Juan-John1 | February 25, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Everyone, without exception, should be looking toward a future where clubs are financially and operationally independent, sign lower-level affiliates, and compete on the open market for talent and fan dollars. No-one, without exception, has presented any kind of plan for getting from here to there.

Without that plan, there ain't much to talk about, and it ain't going to happen this year. A year from now, there could be a serious discussion where the sides really do work together.

If the league is serious about 2010, they will forget about this FIVE YEAR nonsense, today.

Posted by: Godfather_of_Goals

This, IMHO, is a delusion.

I found Jeremy's essay persuasive. But then I've never understood why the players are so hung up on guaranteed contracts. As a fan of sports in general, I don't think any contracts should be guaranteed. Haven't we seen the guaranteed contract ruin the NBA? Didn't anyone else feel a sense of disgust when the Wizards paid Juwan Howard millions of guaranteed dollars to suck? Guaranteed contracts, from a fan's perspective, should be public enemy #1.

Now, free agency I can understand. And I think the owners should work with the players to begin to establish some kind of free agency system that works within single entity.

What I _really_ can't understand is why the players haven't made the cap the #1 issue. It's pathetically low and it looks like it's going to stay that way. Why are they fixated on getting their current, small amount of money guaranteed? Shouldn't they be focused on getting the most money that they can? Of course, I'm a fan and I think that a higher cap would improve the product I watch...so there's that bias.

Posted by: florifischetti | February 25, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Personally, I think MLS is more then just a work force as you like to think. Why? Because even though they want to be thought of as a big company like you'd and sometimes you ahve to work in different cities as a result, thats not how the worlds game works OUTSIDE of the US.

They are looking for more freedom on that level, that is outside of the US. Yes, It may not be in the best interests of the MLS right now to do everything the same as most leagues around the world, but there are little things they can introduce to help players out with things like trades, allocations, and other confusing things to me as a fan of the Futbol, but not so much of any other american sports that get confusing with teh rules.

And I dont think the issue is as simple as 2 young players leave 3 new ones come back, we're even right? No.

Look at mexico, they are a great example of good players that stay in the league, make it better, instead of jumping ship to similar or maybe lower level leagues just for better pay. They get paid WELL, and the only other teams that can beat them money wise and opportunity is only in Europe, at pretty decent teams and leagues.

MLS not so much. Even losing 2 good players still makes a difference, because they are 2 difference makers for their own team, and represent this league when playing with their internal team in tournaments and representing the US yet still playing in MLS. If anything, this new trend of players leaving is what the players are trying to bring up, yes its 2 players now, but maybe 5 the year after, maybe 10 the next time, etc.

I just hope MLS one day starts paying better to internal middle level americans so they can stay, and help this league grow, and for the cap to raise a tad bit higher so we can bring in even better foreigners then we have now.

Posted by: BolivianDCFan | February 25, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

The article from Brian Straus stated that the current system was mean spirted and unfair. I am in total agreement. MLS players have every right to want to strike. However I still think that they should try and settle for some contingencies such as asking for complete free agency once the league has finished expanding or economic conditions improve. I really think it is in the best interest of both parties not to have any work stoppage. MLS does not have the following or the economic stability of the NBA, NFL, or even the NHL. Both sides need to has this out because if they don't we may not have a domestic league.

Posted by: no_recess | February 25, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

"Godfather, the league already has. They've already said they're willing to run 2010 under the old CBA while they keep working on a new deal."

The reason MLS would be happy to get through 2010 without having to bargain a new contract is because this is the year when the players have the strongest hand:

-a new team in Philly
-a new stadium for NYRB in what is supposed to be a marquee market
-a World Cup year, which means MLS wants to capitalize on any buzz around the tournament, but also has pressure from the USSF which is going to need MLS players to be getting game time
-FIFA is selecting hosts for the 2018 and 2022 world cups, and a work stoppage this year would have a very negative impact on the USSF's bid

this year is a perfect storm for the players to get maximum value, so of course MLS would be fine to stall until next year

Posted by: joe_hill | February 25, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse

MLZZzzzzzzz

Hope Solo 2 PK saves in one game? Are you kidding me?

Lori Lindsey with the thru ball assist. Dumb move Freedom.

Posted by: OWNTF | February 25, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

well played DadRyan:

Jeremy spoke in, spoke in
Jeremy spoke in, spoke in
Jeremy spoke in Soccer Insider todayyyyyy

----------

How do we know it wasn't Jeremih?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYMxOzxKYYo

Posted by: diego_r | February 25, 2010 11:35 AM | Report abuse

what I don't understand is why the owners haven't colluded to work out deals for Hartman, Dave VDB (and Steve Ralston before he decided he had had enough).

Those cases highlight what is wrong with the MLS system and are going to make the league look bad if the strike goes forward. I'm surprised they haven't volunteered to release them.

Posted by: joe_hill | February 25, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

I was with him until I realized he was a Sounders fan, now I think he is whiny like Montero

Posted by: rockotodd | February 25, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Well-reasoned and well-said, Jeremy.

Posted by: VercengetorixII | February 25, 2010 10:30 AM

He lost me at "USMNT"

Posted by: Kev29 | February 25, 2010 11:38 AM | Report abuse

MLS and team operators are gambling millions of their own money, every year, on soccer becoming a truly major professional sport in the United States. Certainly some very good players have made similar sacrifices to that end.

So, now, this is a "delusion"?

I'm NOT saying 2010 is the year to s__t or get off the pot, vis-a-vis the MLS operating like the rest of America. But, by the time the next CBA expires, the league will be 20 years old. If the league plans to continue asking good players to sacrifice their careers to "grow the sport" at that point (while forking millions over to foreign legends for the same purpose), then, I agree, it's a delusion. I thibnk this is what Jay Heaps was getting at.

To the league and its owners/operators, a year is a year and five years is five years. To a player, that's potentially their entire career.

Posted by: Godfather_of_Goals | February 25, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Well written, but unfortunately, Denmark IS part of Scandinavia, always has been.
Scandinavia refers to Denmark, Norway and Sweden, which share a lot of cultural and linguistic similarities. Finland, while situated geographically on the traditional Scandinavian peninsula, does not share these traits and is not considered by most to be a part of Scandinavia.

Posted by: mjhoya12 | February 25, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Jeremy is DQed for saying that Danmark is not part of Scandinavia. I'm Danish and said "what?" out loud when I got to that line.

But yeah, a work stoppage would suck.

Posted by: EricVilhelmsen | February 25, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

By the way I meant hash this out not has this out.

Posted by: no_recess | February 25, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

By the way Jeremy, as someone who was educated when when geography was actully taught in school, Denmark is generally considered part of Scandinavia.

I agree with the players position in these contract negotiations. If the owners get what they want they and the league office will be happy, but it will do nothing about the constant stream of young players that are skipping MLS altogether to go to Europe.

Any player with European options will head to Europe to test the water, while those with lesser potential will "settle" for MLS.

In the end the fans will be the losers. As a former season ticket holder, I am not planning to spend any money with this bunch of owners until they start treating the players fairly. I held my nose and put up the cash in the past to support soccer in this country, but now I realize that I the people running this league aren't worthy of my support.

Posted by: tkelley55 | February 25, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

I don't believe that MLS will ever change from single entity.

Posted by: florifischetti | February 25, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse

On the one hand, The MLSPA is arguing that there is no free agency for players today. On the other hand, they rail against how many players are jumping to Scandanavia. They seem to want to have it both ways, which doesn't make for a fair, logically consistent argument.

Posted by: schmuckatelli | February 25, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

do they have ligonberries in Denmark?

Posted by: VTUnited | February 25, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Jeremy - poor, poor Jeremy - he may not have the ability to watch the underpaid MLS players ply their trade under an archaic system that has long outlived its usefulness. The MLS is entering its 15th season - "the survivability of the league" is a damocles sword the owners will forever hold over the players head to keep costs down and more money in their pockets. If the owners really wanted to grow soccer into profitability they would open their wallets and bring in the players American soccer fans want to see. Instead, it is obvious that MLS is content to be a farm league for European clubs who will occasionally spend a few quid to buy a MLS player here and there. MLS can make its money bringing in AC Milan, Man U etc, for a summer show stopper that packs 90,000 into a US football stadium. MLS is not only shortsighted - its small-minded. Soccer will never be a major sport in the US as long as these cheap clowns are running this league. I hope the players strike - if only for their self-respect. Sorry, Jeremy, you may have to wait a few weeks to watch your beloved Sounders. You can wait - the players have to act now.

Posted by: dcpsycho | February 25, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Those who thought that Goff was biased in his open letter to Anschutz (sp?) now have two more pro-owner-ish pieces to look at. Goff knows how to optimize the number of eggs in the pudding.

Posted by: fallschurch1 | February 25, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

I think the players should stick to their guns until everyone recognizes that Denmark is officially part of Scandinavia.

No retreat, no surrender!

Posted by: Joel_M_Lane | February 25, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

I do agree with Jeremy about how it makes him feel.... I also didn't watch the game because of all this labor contract dispute. Who's right? well, i don't know to tell you the truth; however, the only thing that makes sense to me is that MLS still is losing money. In your own personal lives, how many of you invest in a losing proposition? when is enough and you pull what ever money you have left and invest in something else?


Posted by: temuco | February 25, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: JkR- | February 25, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

@dcpsycho,

I have to politely disagree with the whole notion that purchasing the best of the best will hold the interest of so many.

If I take your suggestion to one end of the spectrum and MLS were to put Barcelona, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Arsenal, Man United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Boca Juniors, River Plate, Club America, Bayern Munich, Lyon, Ajax, AS Roma, Chivas, Celtic and Rangers here and scrapped our current teams - that, long-term we could hold the interest of the soccer purchasing public?

That compiling those rosters on American soil will not only result in a better product but the associated revenues?

The soccer public is bigger than the MLS public, for sure. However, does ESPN plop down NFL-TV rights money the next day for that league? Do advertisers and others rush to fill in revenue to operate those teams?

I don't think so. I still think MLS is right to grow slow (NOT AS SLOW AS DON THINKS) but slower than that logic would call for.

MLS needs to win the continent before they compete with the Hemisphere and then the world. I think there are steps that ownership should take that puts it in a better position to keep Americans, compete with players for the Mexican league and start earning CCL trophies. I don't think those steps are the mountains of money trying to get Messi and Torres at PPL Park or the Rio Tinto. You still have to grow naturally in order to make your trophies and competitions (plus the money) something that players will want to come and compete for, and that doesn't happen over night or by MLS saying they'll spend half a billion on player development and acquisition.

Posted by: VirginiaBlueBlood | February 25, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

@Virginia BlueBlood -- I'm not an expert on anti-trust law, but I can say that the NFL shares much of its revenue. Are they an illegal cartel? I don't know, but it doesn't matter much. They continue to operate that way, with no financial penalty. The NFL has free agency -- probably much broader and "freer" than the MLS players are seeking. Many NFL players make more each year than entire MLS rosters.

I disagree with Jeremy's argument on numerous levels. I could lay out my disagreement, but the comment length restrictions would require multiple postings to do it adequately. And, I'm a fan, too.

Posted by: fischy | February 25, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

IHOP features Swedish Pancakes w/ligonberry butter.

Posted by: VirginiaFan | February 25, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

I think that the Straus article - and to a lesser extent Jeremy - miss the economic impact that occurs when MLS clubs retain the rights of a released player. When a team like DC United releases a player and retain his rights, Straus argues that that player is not restricted from finding work with another team, he just has to go through the league to do it, and his old club has to receive adequate compensation. Straus argues that if there is no demand for a player, he is probably not valuable to the league and MLS is the better for not supporting his salary.

However, what Straus and Jeremy don't address is that by reatining the player's rights and demanding some form of compensation, the releasing team artifically (and in my mind unfairly) inflates the player's market value above his true value. No team would (or should) pay for a player above market value and therfore the player is forced from the marketpalce by his old employer.

Now this does argument does not purport to say that all players (Hartman, van den Bergh, etc.) are out of work because their releasing team is demanding too much in return for their services. Clearly, the current system has the potential to weed out over-priced salaries from the books. However, I would argue that the players' position is fair because they are not even given an equal chance at finding work with another team. Their trade value is automatically overvalued.

Further, I would argue that abolishing the current system of rights retention would not necessarily endanger the league to the perils of escalating salaries as now befalls the NBA. The MLS could retain the rights to players within the league and demand compensation for players leaving MLS. They could do this and yield significant returns while allowing players a fair opportunity to find work with other teams from within the league.

While guaranteed contracts are another issue entirely, I'll put my two cents in by saying that MLS could avoid an NBA style disaster by allowing teams to give an "x" number of guaranteed contracts to its players much in the way each team is given a number of DP slots.

And while I believe owners are ultimately responsible for the bad contracts they dole out, this seems like a middle solution to give some of the higher-profile players greater job security while protecting owners from themselves.

Posted by: abc8 | February 25, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

dcspycho - there is nothing wrong with a 14 year old league serving as a "farm league for European clubs". in fact, I think most would agree that this is a logical progression/step for a young League, and that MLS is ahead of the curve on this progression for being so new on the world scene.

and if the owners just spent money to "bring in the players American soccer fans want to see", you would have the old NASL again. it all has to be done gradually, and I commend MLS for exercising the restraint to stay the course. its why we are still (hopefully) watching MLS games in 2010.

Posted by: VTUnited | February 25, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

@VirginiaFan - thats what I'm talkin about!

Posted by: VTUnited | February 25, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Denmark, Norway & Sweden are *always* considered to be part of Scandinavia, it's after that where one one can quibble about who else is.

And yes, I like lignonberries with my Swedish meatballs.

Posted by: KireDCU | February 25, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

If Jeremy knew ONE thing about labor negotiations (which clearly he does not), it would be that labor's #1 concern almost always come down to RESPECT.

This, unfortunately, is a consistent problem in management-labor negotiations, a lesson that has to be re-learned in practically every negotiation.

In any case, MLS labor negotiations did not dampen my enthusiasm for the US-ES game last night. Far from it - as far as I'm concerned, the negotiations are ongoing. Instead, I'm looking forward to seeing the US perform against a WC-bound top 3 team next week, not an unqualified CONCACAF side whose fed was clearly in the match just for the cash payout. The play by ES last night was sloppy and lackadaisical, but the lack of US domination had nothing to do with MLS labor issues.

Posted by: Modibo | February 25, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

I was with him until I realized he was a Sounders fan, now I think he is whiny like Montero
Posted by: rockotodd

He's not a Seattle fan, he's a Philly fan. Big difference (I mean that in a nice way to all SOB's). Philly's first ever game is away at Seattle.

Posted by: KireDCU | February 25, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Just bought 4 tickets for the USA Philly Turkey Cheesesteak Experience. Just thought I'd give a heads up, in case you didn't know, that the tickets appear to be selling fast. Couldn't find a group of 4 anywhere but midfield in the upper deck for the money I wanted to spend. Ended up buying from American Outlaws so we could be closer to the field.

Get em while they're hot people!

Posted by: DadRyan | February 25, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Danmark not part of scandanavia? You just lost some credibility there friend.

Posted by: TheDane1 | February 25, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Godfather_of_Goals says the "owners' 'concessions' are nebulous at best." How can you pass judgment on something we reallyd on't know all the details about?

That's the worst part of choosing sides here - it's being done blind. Maybe they have made significant concessions, but the players are downplaying them.

I'm generally on the players' side, but their public attitude really can't be taken at face value.

Posted by: beach3 | February 25, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse


So, I'm likely running up against a post size/embedded links limit; so I'm going to do this in a couple of posts. I hope folks will bear with me, and read through to the end.


Many people seem to think that the single-entity structure of MLS is something that the League has adopted to grow the League, but will be put aside sooner or later (and hopefully sooner). "Godfather_of_Goals" says as much above when he writes that "Everyone, without exception, should be looking toward a future where clubs are financially and operationally independent." no_recess wrote above that "I still think that they should try and settle for some contingencies such as asking for complete free agency once the league has finished expanding or economic conditions improve." And in public statements, even MLSPU spokesman Foose has referred to the trappings of single-entity status, such as restrictions on free agency, as "training wheels" that need to start coming off.

I don't know why someone would say such things, given the League's demonstrated (in Federal Court!) position on single entity. Maybe it comes from being unaware of certain things about the League business structure; maybe it comes from irrational optimism. Godfather_of_Goals writes "No-one, without exception, has presented any kind of plan for getting from here to there." That's exactly right. And you're not going to see one either.

The League sees its single-entity structure not as a set of training wheels, not as a setup necessary for a fledgling league to be cast aside once things are on firm ground, but as a characteristic of the League that is *every bit as important* as the fact that soccer is the sport the League plays. It's not going anywhere. It's never going anywhere. The set of investor/operators who have sunk their millions into the League will shut the League down forever before single-entity status will change. If you want to see single-entity status gone, then you need to get to work creating a new League or supporting a team in a lower division League that doesn't have a single-entity structure. For MLS, it's not going away.

(continued in next post)

Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | February 25, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

(continuation of previous post)

Don't believe me? Then I suggest spending some time studying the MLS business structure and what investors in MLS, LLC. have said about it. One important source of information: the single-entity structure of MLS has already been challenged once in court, in Fraser vs. MLS, and the transcripts of the case as well as the text of the decision are both available. They're pretty enlightening.

We can talk about whether players should have more freedom of movement as an ethical issue, but from a practical standpoint it's a waste of time. No matter how much I wish April 15 not to come, it's going to come. By making free agency and team autonomy "line in the sand" issues, the players have demanded the League, and MLS LLC., make fundamental changes to its structure. No matter how much any of us may wish for that, it's not ever ever ever ever going to happen.

If you care, some blog posts from the Fake Sigi blog provide a good starting point (but only a starting point, particularly since there are some issues which come up in other blogs' replies to this. but some links to some of the Fraser et. al. vs. MLS materials are there):

http://www.fakesigi.com/2010/01/mlss-single-entity-arrangement-is-not.html
http://www.fakesigi.com/2010/01/limitations-of-single-entity.html

A recent analysis of the Fraser et. al. vs. MLS decision, and why MLS may see single-entity status as on shaky ground and needing to be defended at all costs, despite having prevailed on the case:

http://www.bigsoccer.com/forum/showpost.php?p=20007948&postcount=761

Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | February 25, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

I'll add the obligatory anti-lawyer slant: The talks, as least what I see from way outside the room, seem to be degrading the way many negotiations do when lawyers start telling their clients they deserve "x" and "y" and the other side isn't giving in. I've seen it in divorce cases (not my own) and I've lived through it in business negotiations. This is how so many divorces become acrimonious and why business deals fall through that shouldn't.

If you want to look at it in a purely monetary way, you could say the longer the negotiations drag on, the more money the lawyers are making. They don't care about the long-term health of MLS, or whether a strike or lock-out will depress the fan base for years to come. They don't care about the players; the reps have made their money from them already, and the reps assume they can find work in other leagues anytime they choose if MLS folds.

Sure, I'm a skeptic and I am biased, but it's just my $0.02.

Posted by: DrBeaker | February 25, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

My complaints about the current MLS structure is not a suggestion that the owners should replicate the Premiership, La Liga, Bundeslegia, etc. First, those leagues are over a hundred years old. But there is an alternative to that dichotomy. A US league that has owners who want to improve the product and win as their first priority would be a start. There seems to be an unspoken conspiracy between teams that they will accept a certain level of parity/mediocrity to protect everyone's investment. NASL as the boogeyman is played out. The Cosmos will not be re-born if owners control their own teams and contracts. The salary cap, which has been accepted as a fundamental pillar of US sports economics, militates against that. But there is an opening to improve the MLS tremendously by doubling the salary cap to $5.5 million. 3 or four young, but experienced and talented players, both US and foreign, on each team would raise the product to the point where the MLS won't look like a college team when it plays Real Madrid in a summer friendly. And it will bring in the soccer fan who is searching for a reason to attend an MLS match. There are millions of educated soccer fans who can't bring themselves to watch MLS. Attracting them, as the MLS geniuses finally figured out, is the key to profitability.

Posted by: dcpsycho | February 25, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

1) These two sides need to get this deal done, now. A work stoppage will be a disaster for all concerned.

2) Free agency ought to happen. But as a fan of DC United, I am frightened by the potential effect of free agency on a fragile league. If the league takes the gloves off and allows teams to auction for free agents, then the profitable teams will generally have more resources, better players, and more success. I don't think the competition will destroy the league--but it could have dramatic effects on certain teams.

Stadiums are key to the league's success and have helped create a revenue foothold for the sport in most markets. Still, for its own good, MLS should have put more of these stadiums in urban centers (think Seattle, Toronto, and DC) instead of exurban hinterlands with little accessibility to much of the fan base.

As long as it lacks control of a stadium, DC United cannot be a profitable team. Over the long run, that means DC's teams will be worse than they'd be if the team had more revenue. DC might become a perennially bad team, and bad teams (especially in this area) suffer for support. If big-money losses are expected for the foreseeable future, it only increases the likelihood that DC United will relocate to a different market--a totally unacceptable outcome for a fan such as myself.

Right now, DC is nowhere close to having control of a stadium. Delaying free agency for 5 years gives DC United one last extension to find themselves a viable home in this area. At some point, if the team can't make it work financially, they will leave us. It's business.

Posted by: hungrypug | February 25, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Wow, he had me worried about that 'Scandinavia' thing for a while til I remembered that I lived in Denmark for three years & at it was still considered Scandinavian. Maybe Denmark has seceded since then. Oh Yes, about a possible strike. Not good. What if nobody cares.

Posted by: tfshea | February 25, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Jeremy captures my feelings on this matter perfectly.

Posted by: mbyrd28 | February 25, 2010 2:56 PM | Report abuse

MLS players are leaving in droves for the Minnesota Thunder, because Minnesota is a part of Scandinavia. You betcha!

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | February 25, 2010 2:56 PM | Report abuse

dcpsycho - doubling the salary cap would be a tremendous expense to the League. much easier said than done.

Posted by: VTUnited | February 25, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse

In other news, the Gazette has scooped Steve in reporting that the grass at the Soccerplex could sprout late due to the snow blanket.

Steve, how could you have missed this? :-)

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | February 25, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse

I have read most of the posts here.

I plead ignorance.

Why is it that MLS feels so strongly about preventing "free agency" once a player's contract has ended? Are they afraid that a player near the end of his contract can use "free agency"(after the contract expires) as leverage to negotiate a better contract?

How about some middle ground like setting a reasonable time limit that the team "owns the MLS rights of the player" and/or a reasonable maximum "transfer fee" that is a percentage of the player's salary? Just a random thought.

Posted by: footiefan101 | February 25, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

I have yet to see any reasonable explanation for not allowing even limited free agency (e.g. veterans with X years in MLS) in a league with a hard salary cap.

Even when a player's contract is over, or if he is released, his MLS rights are still controlled by his former club. Management saying he can leave the country is BS. In what other profession would restricting someone's right to work be OK because he can always leave the country to get a job?

I would truly like to understand the hard line that management has taken--because like all of us I want MLS to prosper--but I just don't get it. Irrational bidding is kept in check by the cap, no?

Can anyone show me what I'm missing?

Posted by: PrinceBuster21 | February 25, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

oh man, i feel like I'm back to the negotiations class I took last semester.

There is a lot to chew from Jeremy's message. But bottom line is the quality of the MLS player is nowhere near to the top leagues in Europe( I said tops leagues so don't yell at me if you are comparing Europe as in Estonia). With that said, these players will not be playing anywhere without MLS. The play in MLS has improved but most players and teams have been able to workout some sort of a trade to grant player wishes (I.e. Frederick ADU),

MLS has done what it could, and Garber off course has been a major force. They need to work on areas such as Marketing. So I would say these players need to think carefully before burning their own bridge to an opportunity.

Posted by: godpere | February 25, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

I heard that you can see Scandinavia from a house in Denmark...

Posted by: CDRHoek | February 25, 2010 4:55 PM | Report abuse

PrinceBuster21 -- there are two answers to your question.

Answer #1: with a cap in place, free agency will effectively serve to move money from the bottom end of the roster to the top end of the roster. This pushes against the cap, and creates pressure (not only amongst the players, but the owners as well) to expand the cap more dramatically than it otherwise would be. In other words, under this answer, opposing free agency is a "save us from ourselves" move.

Answer #2: the more significant concern is that allowing independent competition for players under normal free agency, with the increase in effective team autonomy that comes along with it, damages the ability of MLS, LLC. to successfully claim single-entity status in a court of law. There are some people here who think that'd be a good thing; but the owners, by and large, would do *anything* to prevent this.


Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | February 25, 2010 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Way off topic, but Denmark is definitly part of Scandinavia.

Posted by: AbuSamra | February 25, 2010 7:58 PM | Report abuse

"I shook my head at this. If you consider Denmark part of Scandinavia (it really isn't)".

Dear Mr Goff, shake your head till it falls off, we Danes will remain Scandinavian.

Posted by: HenryCopenhagen | February 25, 2010 9:20 PM | Report abuse

In this thread and the next one you've got people who clearly don't understand that the bulk of the post was written by someone other than Goff. Do they teach reading comprehension in Scandinavia? Or does everyone just look at very vague instruction manuals that are often more trouble than good?

;)

Posted by: DadRyan | February 25, 2010 11:17 PM | Report abuse

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