Major League Soccer

MLS labor talks stall as work stoppage looms


Despite a pair of extensions to the negotiation period between Major League Soccer and the MLS Players Union, there has been no significant progress regarding the issues central to the two side's differences, leaving the sides far apart in talks for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

According to multiple sources, MLS has yet to budge on issues ranging from free agency to team control in player personnel decisions, making a work stoppage a very real possibility with the 2010 MLS season just a month away.

"We feel the league's not taking us very seriously at all," said Houston goalkeeper Pat Onstad, a member of the player's union executive committee. "We're pretty far apart at this stage.

"Earlier in January there were some indications that some progress was going to be made, but right now, I think the negotiations are really in a bad place," Onstad said. "We're a long way from getting this deal done."

Key among the issues being fought over are player free agency and team autonomy in player transactions. The union is rallying around, among other things, the chance for players who aren't wanted by their former clubs to be able to move freely within the league.

That issue has been magnified by the situations of veterans Kevin Hartman and Dave Van Den Bergh, two players currently out of contract who are in limbo because their respective teams are seeking compensation for their rights despite the fact that both teams declined contract options for the player and neither team intends to sign the player.

Veteran defender Adrian Serioux is in a similar situation, but his status is even more troubling because he played out the full four years of his MLS contract and still remains in limbo because Toronto FC is seeking compensation for his rights.

"We just want the same freedoms that players around the world have," Onstad said. "This isn't a case of us fighting over money, that's not the main issue, it's about how we are treated as players and the current CBA just isn't acceptable."

When contacted about the comments from the player's union, MLS stood by its comments from last week.

"The negotiations are ongoing," said MLS spokesman Will Kuhns. "Meetings are scheduled for next week between the league and the union and the deadline on those negotations is February 25. We're hopeful for a mutuall ybeneficial conclusion."

MLS and the Player's Union agreed on an extension to their CBA talks until Feb. 25, but with the sides still far apart and the season just a month away, a delay to the start of the season is looking more and more likely. MLS commissioner Don Garber has already stated that the league does not want to operate under the current CBA, so a league lockout is possible. A player's strike is also a very real possibility.

"All I can say from our standpoint, from the player's standpoint, is that we're ready for a work stoppage," Onstad said. "We're very unified and the guys are adamant that there needs to be major changes in the CBA and right now it's just not on the table, and as far as we're concerned, we don't want to play under those conditions."

  • davidaubudavid

    The players rights are still held onto by the league so I don’t believe that the players are free to leave the league without a transfer fee. At least this is what i took from it, but you could be right I’m not quite sure.


  • laughable

    right…and you as an employee somewhere I assume probably think your ENTITLED to insurance and a pay scale comparable to the job your doing and have been training for your whole life….but your not


  • Moose

    Nah nah nah nah, nah nah nah nah, hey hey hey…goodbye…..repeat.

    I am surprised the delusional MLS fanatics aren’t happy about this. I mean if MLS is so great that means a good% of the players will find great teams overseas. Let me know how your MLS teams are doing this season hahaha.


  • alexandria

    So, if you walked into your bosses office and told him, I think I have a better idea of how to run the business and that you think he should tear up the business model and start doing things like they do all over the world what do you think he’ll say? The players are stupid, the situations with van dn bergh and hartman, if another team wants them thn their team can trad their rights for a draft pick, or they can resign with their team for less money, its not like they don’t have options, they do! thy just don’t like them.


  • alexandria

    Your entitled to nothing! nothing in this life is guaranteed. I’m pretty sure millions of people who where laid off would take anything right now, Yea, they would hope to find something at the same pay scale but sometimes it doesn’t work that way. I don’t feel for these guys at all. Vanden burgh could easily resign with dallas for less money, same with Hartman, but they don’t want to, so now their agents need to find them a place to play, thats what thos guys get paid for, if either player where worth it then someone would pick them up but they aren’t worth it at their current salaries, I don’t see anything wrong with that.


  • Ed

    He isn’t asking, they gave it to him. Now would you turn down a raise to $3 mil? Didn’t think so.


  • Scottie

    The players aren’t stupid, quite the opposite. Who has more to lose? By far it’s the owners. You think a strike is going to cripple a player making 50k, 80k or 100k a year? How about what a strike will do to essentially the lowest rated major sport in America?

    If the owners want to cling to their single entity system they might find themselves holding onto to it in their own proverbial graves.


  • ian woodville

    Why assume that management has all the answers and that the workers have nothing to contribute? How would what the players want harm the league? The only additional costs would be those caused by guaranteed contracts. Surely holding management to the contracts they signed is something that we all should favor. Otherwise, the salary cap and the limits on roster size are already important concessions on the part of the players — way beyond the working conditions that apply in the rest of the world. With those limits in place, management can readily control salary costs. Allowing for free agency after contracts expire and having contracts negotiated by teams rather than the league costs management nothing and leaves the important controls on cost in place. Various folks have asserted that free agency would negate the single entity concept, but I have yet to read a convincing explanation for this claim. Corporations with multiple subsidiaries allow the subsidiaries to negotiate contracts and to recruit employees from one another without falling apart. How is MLS any different?


  • matt in Detroit

    I see the general trend is to allow players whom don’t get their option years picked up or offered any kind of new contract should be granted either free agency or to go through the waiver draft to allow another team to pick up that contract.

    I agree with this but not unrestricted free agency. Having MLS teams bid against each other for the same talent would only increase the salaries of a few against the cap.

    I don’t agree that most contracts should be guaranteed in the long run (Sergio Galvan Rey anyone?) but making MLS teams guarantee the first year sounds fair.

    IF teams are worried about buying a lemon, they can sign players on temperary contracts like that Ghanan guy Ansah who got cut by Dallas.


  • Derek

    To me the name of the league doesn’t matter, if MLS folds, then NASL/USL will become the top division and those American players that can’t make it in Europe anyway will go down to USL or NASL and it will be fine. Better to let a terrible system implode then to continually bail it out. It’s only MLS that is shooting itself in the head, not Soccer in America.


  • Ron

    Screw MLS and every damn owner. I’m in love with this league but I’m at a point where I don’t give a crap if the league stops. Those freaking owners want to hold those players as SLAVES. That’s exactly what they want… that’s the mentality of Corporate America and the MLS is no different. I’m with the players, screw this damn league and the owners and let’s stop play. I’m so freaking ready to be a full time EPL, La Liga fan anyways.


  • Mike

    So what if everone else would be out of a job? What money are they making anyways right now? Almost nothing. The ones who are making good money are good enough to go to the NASL and USL or abroad. Very few players will lose so F the MLS and the owners.


  • andrew

    The players can’t go to NASL or USL during a work stoppage. Part of the “USSFd2” arrangement that allowed NASL/USL teams to play this year specifically forbids MLS players to be on div2 teams during a stoppage.

    Why yes, Sunil Gulati, head of Kraft soccer (Revs) and a long time person in MLS and SUM, is the head of the USSF.


  • Catamount

    I have not heard anybody mention the possibility that the owners would be willing to fold the league entirely. I think this would be the most likely outcome if the players strike. Kraft and AEG don’t need MLS. There are big corporate sponsors that will most likely pull out forever.

    They are in MLS because they see soccer as potentially viable, and perhaps because they like it. If they and the corporate sponsors pull out of the league, it ceases to exist, simple as that. They won’t even notice it on their balance sheets. They have already cut the development league.

    If the players strike I think they may be saying, “If we can’t have what we want, then we don’t want a top tier league in the United States.” If that is what they want, then they will most likely get it. As always the fans are the ones that suffer.


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