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MLS labor update

In an attempt to avert a strike before next week's season openers, MLS management officials and players' union representatives have gathered in Washington today to continue collective bargaining agreement negotiations.

Best-case scenario: They reach a deal by the end of the day.
Worse-case scenario: They break off talks and prepare for a strike.
Most likely scenario: They agree to reconvene Friday, and if necessary, chat through the weekend.

THE LINEUPS
Management: Commissioner Don Garber, President Mark Abbott, executive vice president Todd Durbin, personnel and finance officials, outside counsel Robert Batterman.

Players: Union executive director Bob Foose, general counsel Jon Newman, executive Eddie Pope and numerous players representing the clubs, including Bryan Namoff, Taylor Twellman, Kevin Goldthwaite, Nick Rimando, Nat Borchers, Pat Onstad and Joe Cannon.

Referee: federal mediator George Cohen.

TV: None. The session(s) are closed to media. Despite the D.C. setting, even C-SPAN is banned. Perhaps the sides will indulge us with formal statements this evening. Or maybe another major investor will speak out.

By Steve Goff  |  March 18, 2010; 12:38 PM ET
Categories:  MLS  
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Comments

Players have to feel good about George Cohen running the middle. He's about as pro-unin as it gets at the mediation service.

Posted by: lgm6986 | March 18, 2010 12:44 PM | Report abuse

NO TV!?! This would be great C-Span material!

Posted by: Modibo | March 18, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Find a way, both sides, get it done.

Posted by: lrg1231 | March 18, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Hopefully players can find a way to "win" without getting free agency -- which they are never going to get.

If there is a middle ground -- better contract guarantees, strict rules on player transactions so that players out of favor on one team can more easily transfer or trial or something.

There is a real answer, something workable for both sides. But the players need to back off the unrealistic part of their demands and settle for something less.

Posted by: scott47a | March 18, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

This would make for better TV than the "Health Care Debate"

Posted by: VirginiaBlueBlood | March 18, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

This would make for better TV than the "Health Care Debate"

Posted by: VirginiaBlueBlood
----------------------------

so would the Grass Growing Channel

Posted by: troy6 | March 18, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

VBB, I think CSPAN should go split screen with the MLS Negotiations on one side and Health Care debate on the other and we could have some tickers at the bottom with progress and see who is getting done faster.

Posted by: csd1 | March 18, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Could you imagine the Grass Growing Channel in HD?!

Posted by: nairbsod | March 18, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Steve, you mean another major investor like Dave Checketts? From a Deseret News blog:

"I just came from a meeting with several owners and the commissioner down here in Los Angeles, and we know exactly what we'll do. These are all owners who've been in the NBA, they've been in the NHL, some of them own Major League Baseball teams even today. We know what we'll do. We have a plan if the players strike,"

Sounds like some seasoned hands are getting ready to release the Kraken.

Posted by: seahawkdad | March 18, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

I propose something similar to the British "Ask the Prime Minister" sessions in Parliament or whatever. Sure hope you've all had a chance to watch those sessions, or at least the SNL parodies.

"What does the Commissioner propose to do about...?" -Player rep
"Here, here" -Other player reps
"Rabble, grumble, rabble" -Owners
(all said with smirks on their faces)

Posted by: davemcl | March 18, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Its time for the players to face reality. They need to reach what ever compromise they can and put an end to it. They just have no bargaining power. The owner's have way too much money; and its not like the major sports in the country where in a strike the owners are going to lose tons of income in the short term and fans in the long run.

A strike will just accomplish nothing positive for the players or the sport.

Posted by: hacksaw | March 18, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Hell, if they're meeting in Washington, there's a good chance that both sides will give one another everything they want, and just raise taxes on "fat cats" or borrow money from China to pay for it.

Posted by: OWNTF | March 18, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

@hacksaw

The players do have bargaining power. Their athletic ability is it. What the players don't have is anything to offer. They can accept something less than what they want, or they can strike. But because the league likely won't do anything to jeopardize the single-entity structure, the ball is in the Player's court.

Posted by: TCompton | March 18, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

If the players go on strike I'd be more than willing to be a replacement player.

I've really been honing my skills as goalie lately. Troy Perkins ain't got nothing on me.

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | March 18, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Goff, it would be great to get a perspective on the parties that are really waiting for a decision either way. Obviously, fans and ticket salespeople are waiting. But, I'm sure there are many more groups: stadium crews, vendors, TV (what happens to unfilled time slots?), US Open Cup, international tournaments, US National Team, Everton. Kind of interesting to see what the trickle down would be in a worst case scenario. Is the A League loving this impasse?

Just curious (even if I'm really bad at trying to get my point across!)

Posted by: EssEff | March 18, 2010 1:39 PM | Report abuse

The players may have no leverage, but they also don't have anything to lose by pushing it to the limit. I've thought for some time that it's on the owners backs to avoid a strike because it's their businesses that will be damaged.

But if it comes to a strike, it's going to last 2 weeks and then the players will completely cave.

Posted by: david93 | March 18, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Settle it with the lawyers jousting at RFK.

Posted by: carnack | March 18, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

It occurs to me that the MLS owners would have a much more sturdy leg to stand on if (a) they would ever get around to dispensing with all the cloak-and-dagger nonsense and actually produce hard data to corroborate their claims; and (b) if they could actually provide a sensible reason (which Mark Abbott certainly couldn't!) why salary caps aren't sufficient to prevent player salaries from getting out of hand. Either of those things (and certainly both) would bolster their case, wouldn't you think? Or would they...

Also, as an aside -- am I the only person who sees the blatant irony and hypocrisy in a bunch of uber-moneyed proponents of unfettered capitalism (especially the ultra-conservative Phil Anschutz) now championing socialism (i.e., single-entity) like there's no tomorrow? Just thought I'd throw that out there...

Posted by: WorldCitizen1 | March 18, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Continuing the theme, I hope post-game player ratings will follow.

Posted by: Section117 | March 18, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

@WorldCitizen

As with most cases, it's about power and control, not economic ideology.

My $0.02.

Posted by: carnack | March 18, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Garber -1
Abbott 1
Durbin 0

Foose -2
Newman 1
Pope 7 (Eddie! Eddie!)
Namoff NR (subbed out after five minutes due to migrane)

Posted by: Tweaked | March 18, 2010 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Just paid my season ticket balance to DCU, here's hoping that a face saving agreement can be made to avert a strike. I certainly hope the mediator is able to bring the sides together. Its seems to me that the players have more to lose in a strike situation and need something however small, to walk away with. The owners can and will unhappily sit out a stike. For the players its a lose - lose because the basic structure of the league will not change.

Posted by: sbg1 | March 18, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

The absolute best assessment of this situation that I've read, @WorldCitizen, came from Peter Wilt over at Pitch Invasion. I highly recommend giving it a read.

Posted by: VercengetorixII | March 18, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

I am perplexed as to why fans think the players should make all the concessions. These are people who sweat, bleed, and undergo painful duress for our entertainment while some fat-cats in suits reap the profits.

Although I think that conceding the free agency demand may be the best tactic for players to wrap up the CBA to their advantage, I have no sympathy for the MLS owners' position whatsoever.

I do not want a strike under any circumstance; I just laid out for my season tickets last pay period. However, if the players vote to strike, I consider it fans' moral imperative to support those who toil on our behalf, not MANAGEMENT.

Posted by: phburris | March 18, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

why no reference to dave checketts' comments Goff-man? As for his comments (which can be googled), I didn realize that only LA & Sea were profitable. I thought 16k RSL would be profitable. I support the players, but here's my scenario should the owners lock the players out: the 6 most unprofitable MLS teams (KC, SJ, DAL, etc) form another division of the new NASL/USL (making that league 18 teams); the remaining 10 teams of MLS push their start date back and bring in "scabs". The "scabs", however, would be anything as such, as the remaining MLS owners would be willing to fork over another 1million or 2 in salary cap...as long as they dont give up the free agency issue. Obviously, with a base 4.3mil salary cap MLS teams would load up with Europeans & Brazilians. And who would pay for this? Sea & LA would agree to give the other 8 owners a million each towards the cost of bringing in "scabs", with fans quickly realizing with the new higher-level players that indeed we now we have some soccer. hehe

Posted by: alespar415 | March 18, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse

People who say the players have no leverage are crazy. Soccer is not a life career. It's a decade or so of their adult professional life. Troy Perkins had no problem selling mortgage loans. If the players want to stand on principal they have every ability.

I still want to know how Ben Olsen and Clyde Simms feel. Those would be two of the more interesting POV of anyone available.

Posted by: dsheon1 | March 18, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

With all those players in attendance, surely a few will post play-by-play updates on their twitter sites.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | March 18, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: lrg1231 | March 18, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

I'll gladly show my ignorance here; If the majority (88%)of owners are losing money in MLS, would they stand to lose less with a strike and thus come out ahead? It would probably vary based on stadium usage...?

p.s. @ alespar415, the owners will not lock the players out. They want all the blame to fall on the players.

Posted by: boda-united | March 18, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

To expand on an earlier comment, this article in the Deseret News has the most recent comments from the owners side:

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700017486/Checketts-meets-with-MLS-owners.html

"I just hope the players understand the implication of the threats they're making to strike because if they do in fact go on strike, then that forces the owners to do something very aggressive and very different." Replacement players may be in the cards, but I wonder if that's as aggressive and "different" as what Checketts is saying.

Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | March 18, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

some fat-cats in suits reap the profits.
======================

except for one thing -- THERE ARE NO PROFITS

in other words, those "fat cats" are subsidizing YOU and your entertainment and making it possible in the first instance

and you are a churlish ungrateful son of a gun . . .

Posted by: OWNTF | March 18, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

WorldCitizen, I'm afraid you may be making us fellow travelers look bad -- single entity is not socialism. Single entity is still owned by a small group of owners. Socialism would be running the league like . . . a public library system. We all pay taxes to support it and then get free tickets, only paying for perks like beer and paying fines for . . . for . . . not sure.

Even I wouldn't be in favor of that -- see, Thor and OWNTF? I'm someone you can work with.

Posted by: fallschurch1 | March 18, 2010 2:35 PM | Report abuse

It seems like the players should back off the whole free agency thing until most teams have their own stadium and expansion is on hold. That would be two to three years from now and if teams are still losing money or do not have huge profits it would be because of their business models. To me this would be a good time to force the free agency issue. I understand that the players believe it is part of their basic rights as employees to MLS, but if they strike now it could cause a serious collapse of the league. I think the player's stance on free agency is correct, but I believe their timing is wrong. IMHO it would be wise of them to create a temporary bargaining agreement (2 years) until they have a better leverage with the league.

Posted by: no_recess | March 18, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

My season tickets came today. Sweet ............ I think.

Posted by: tcbannon | March 18, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Metzler, you are saying "owner"??? When I said that you chewed me out! They're investors, for goshsake!! Here, let me explain to you how the league works, son . . .

Anyway, I wonder what "very aggressive and very different" could be: A Hooters-sponsored women's league?

Posted by: fallschurch1 | March 18, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

@fallschurch1: Thanks for clarifying; I believe you're right. MLS is not run like Cuba. MLS is run more like OPEC. What a shame that our country chose to embrace a serious petroleum addiction and eschew soccer, instead of the other way around!

Posted by: WorldCitizen1 | March 18, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

The discussion of profits is totally misguided. A lot of these teams aren't even really just soccer operations. Soccer was the linchpin to get facilities built. Now, they're operating facilities. The soccer teams may be the main tenant, but not the only one. When you read statements about profitability, be highly skeptical and mindful that they're deliberately giving only a small picture. That said, if the soccer shuts down, the venues will be in trouble.

I don't know what Checketts is talking about -- More aggressive, different? If the league is thinking replacement players, the only way this could work is if they bring in lots of foreign players and get Salvadoreans, etc. to turn out. I, for one, will not.

At this point, I'd like to see the players come forward with a counter-offer that compromises somewhat on free agency...but, if there's a strike, I'm clear on where my loyalties and sympathies lie...and on which side I think is responsible.

Posted by: fischy | March 18, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

I see less irony in the "uber-moneyed" owners (I like that word) sticking to single entity, and more irony in them sticking out their fat-cat paws for government hand-outs for stadia. Because in that case they in a real sense or taking money away from useful socialized projects, like the libraries you mentioned, or public schools, or hospitals, just to name a few.

Part of the issue is defining their market. It is not just MLS versus televised European ball, it's also MLS versus other North American sports competing for the same entertainment dollar.

Man, tough times for fat cats these days. Lotta haters out there.

Posted by: OWNTF | March 18, 2010 2:59 PM | Report abuse

All NASL/USL/PDL rosters on-loan to MLS?

Posted by: VirginiaBlueBlood | March 18, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse

@no-recess -- Expansion is the only trump card the players have to play. The league is counting on an infusion of $80 million form Portland and Vancouver in franchise fees. Plus, they're expecting to announce expansion into Montreal within the next month -- another $35-$40 million -- and hoping to attract foreign investment in a 20th team (another $40 million). The union will never have more leverage than it has right now. My guess is that's why they're picking this time to have it out -- to insist on their maximal demands, rather than dragging it out over several negotiations in the next decade.

Posted by: fischy | March 18, 2010 3:05 PM | Report abuse

"Very aggressive and very different:"

-Scabs playing with non-regulation, 40-foot-wide goals for way more scoring.

-Brand-new outdoor wheelchair rugby league. Wide tires, no problem. (We've all seen Murderball, right?)

Posted by: fallschurch1 | March 18, 2010 3:06 PM | Report abuse

At Craven Cottage, the refs are doing their best to hand the tie to Fulham. They now lead Juventus 3-1 -- tied on aggregate. Cannivaro got a red in the first half -- probably undeserved -- and Fulham just got a PK on a poor handball call. Dempsey on the bench...for now.

Posted by: fischy | March 18, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

fallschurch1: touche.

Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | March 18, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Settle it with the lawyers jousting at RFK.

Posted by: carnack | March 18, 2010 1:42 PM

Unfortunately, the jousting really should take place in Maryland since it's the state sport. But we don't want to give anyone the idea that abandoning RFK for Maryland is a good idea...

Posted by: sec133row5 | March 18, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Let's just have Insider nation here just "deem and pass" the new CBA!

Posted by: VirginiaBlueBlood | March 18, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

DEUCE!!

Posted by: sec133row5 | March 18, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Deuce with the potential series winner!!

Posted by: soccerman | March 18, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

GOLAZO!!! Deuce chips the keeper for the game-winner!!! Between McBride and Dempsey, Americans have scored all the most famous goals in Fulhamerica's history!!

Posted by: fischy | March 18, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

***series-winner. You're right soccerman.

Posted by: fischy | March 18, 2010 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Did Dempsey Score!?!

Posted by: DadRyan | March 18, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

OK -- I was arguing the point last week on SBI, but I might be be willing to concede...it's at least arguable that Dempsey is better than Donovan. Doesn't have Landon's afterburners, but he might be better with the ball.

Posted by: fischy | March 18, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

That's it!! Dempsey's goal puts Fulham through against Juve. This is huge for the Cottagers!!

Posted by: soccerman | March 18, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Dad -- he didn't just score. He scored the proverbial wonder goal. He'd missed a chance for the winner before when he hit a header too close to the keeper. This one came out of nowhere. He got the ball outside the corner of the six-yd box. He put just enough fear in the defender of making a move around him -- enough to keep a little space. Then, he hit the cheekiest chip up over the defense -- floated way up and then back down under the bar in the far corner. No chance for the goalie to reach it.

Posted by: fischy | March 18, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Goff, will you have player ratings when all of this is said and done.

Posted by: TCompton | March 18, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Dempsey wasn't just outside the six -- he was just outside the 18! One of the two best goals I've seen this week. Phenomenal.

And he'd just come on in the middle of that half after an injury spell.

Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | March 18, 2010 4:16 PM | Report abuse

For those who haven't seen it, catch it before it gets removed:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XwOYLa9XD20

Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | March 18, 2010 4:17 PM | Report abuse

@ davemcl its called "Prime Minister's Question" Perhaps the most entertaining stuff on TV. I really wish we'd adopt it.

I pray that someone pulls off a miracle in the room and gets this done today (even progress would help) I feel bad for all the fans who have booked flight and hotel rooms for the upcoming week. Also, are there any current players who are not members of the MLSPU?

Posted by: njndirish | March 18, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

I cannot wait to see that goal. Gave me chills.

Posted by: Reignking | March 18, 2010 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Management will win out in the end. Why? Where would the players go without mls? Or rather, who's going to cut them a check each week? The fact of the matter is that they are at the bottom of the football heap (unless they go to Australia). The epl isn't calling. A strike will end many careers as mls-caliber players are dime a dozen which is why they are being treated the way they are.

Posted by: papple | March 18, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Goal was amazing. Thank goodness for replays. I thought about trying to watch the match on the computer, but got carried away enjoying the outdoors, riding my bike and watching out for Tony Kornheiser's fans who might be looking to run over cyclists....


That's the Dempsey we need to see in SA! One Akamai dude.

Posted by: DadRyan | March 18, 2010 5:41 PM | Report abuse

9 days until United's first match!

Posted by: Curious99 | March 18, 2010 9:00 PM | Report abuse

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