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MLS Players Union exec: Agreement 'impossible' without free agency

Don Garber 1001

By CAITLIN MURRAY

What MLS players want and what the league is willing to offer isn’t yet close enough to prevent a work stoppage — and the sticking point may be free agency.

That’s the overall message from MLS Players Union executive director Bob Foose, who spoke to the Orlando Sentinel about the status of negotiations in a Q&A published Thursday.

While player compensation has been a prominent issue in collective bargaining agreement talks, free agency could be where things will hit a snag. MLS has not put forth a proposal to add free agency or change the way player rights work, which makes an agreement unlikely, Foose said.

“There is no negotiation going on at this point with regard to free agency,” he told the Sentinel. “That makes it impossible to get a deal done. If that’s going to stay the same, I certainly don’t see a deal getting done.”

MLS has argued that the single-entity system of the league controlling player rights makes MLS more competitive in the global market, but the union disagrees and argues that increased competition from multiple scouts and brokers would work better.

With the league’s salary cap in place, moving to player free agency would prevent driving up costs, Foose argued.

“It’s about control for the league,” Foose said of MLS’ single-entity system. “Secondly, the system is designed to squeeze every single dollar they can possible squeeze out of the guys who are in the league so that they can then go use those dollars to speculate on players who are not in the league. And that simply isn’t fair.”

The union’s CBA with the league is set to expire at the end of the month and both sides of negotiations are meeting on a weekly basis, Foose said.

Compensation is also a key factor in the discussions. Talks there are making more progress, but the union still has concerns about finding a place to agree, Foose said.

The latest league salary data from 2014 showed an average salary of $207,831 in MLS, but that appears to be skewed heavily by high-priced Designated Players as the the median was just $91,827.

“We’re a long way apart. I don’t know that I want to handicap it, but it’s certainly a very, very real possibility,” Foose said of a strike. “The players have made it clear that they can’t continue to play under the current system.”

——

What do you make of Foose’s comments? Think the league would be better off with free agency or is it beneficial to have the league hold player rights? Do you see a strike happening?

Share your thoughts below.

50 comments
  • John

    “Secondly, the system is designed to squeeze every single dollar they can possible squeeze out of the guys who are in the league so that they can then go use those dollars to speculate on players who are not in the league. And that simply isn’t fair.”

    That is the simplest and best explanation ever given on this subject.

    Like

  • John

    “Secondly, the system is designed to squeeze every single dollar they can possible squeeze out of the guys who are in the league so that they can then go use those dollars to speculate on players who are not in the league. And that simply isn’t fair.”

    Perfect Explanation.

    Like

  • Dustin

    Whatever happens, this league needs to avoid what Spain and England and Germany do. I’m sick of the same ridiculously money laden teams win the league over and over and over again. Sick and tired of that, we need to have a system like the NFL where teams can come up and get better over time and maybe become a dynasty and then move back down while another team does well.

    This whole buying up all the best players is going to stop soon anyways when populations finally say they won’t allow it anymore. You can’t waste money on football players after getting tons of tax breaks and our economy is dying. Spain is a perfect example of this, Real Madrid and Barcelona spending millions while people go jobless. Time for a revolt, time to drag them into the street.

    Like

    • imkis

      People need to widen their gaze a bit and really take a look at what Mexico does. Their split calendar system, their relegation system, etc. etc.

      There are a lot of things that may appear funky but work quite well. As their recent attempts (not approved by FIFA) to award 0 points to 0-0 draws show, they’re not afraid to think outside the box.

      There are a lot of flaws too (the gentlemen’s agreement among them) but their system works. It’s refreshing. And they’ve got a competitive, solvent league.

      Like

    • slowleftarm

      Another fake tough guy, wannabe revolutionary pounding his keyboard. If Barca didn’t spend so much, lots of people in Spain would therefore have jobs right? Yeah that’s how it works.

      Like

    • DudeBro

      I think you’re being a bit unfair to Germany.
      No club gets to be promoted to any division without meeting pain-in-the-ass financial requirements.

      They also need to have a certain level of stadium, and a certain level of academy.
      In addition no club can be owned by a wealthy sugar daddy – the people need to own more than 50%

      (Okay, Leverkusen & Wolfsburg got grandfathered in)

      Like

  • JJ

    Free agency makes sense to me. Any downsides to it?

    Really don’t want a strike. VERY excited for this season.

    Like

    • Drew11

      Downside is free agency as proposed is only a free market for the players. Their value is artificially inflated due the international slot roster restrictions.

      I’d have no problem with F/A if the clubs could go out and sign intl players w/o restrictions.

      Problem is for the MLSPA guys is in a real free market MLS teams wouldn’t want the majority of them. They’d be playing kick ball in USL for 30k or whatever a year.

      Be careful what you ask for guys.

      Like

  • Fredericksburg

    Mls is still not profitable. If the players don’t like it, go play somewhere else or get a different job. No one is forcing them to be soccer players.

    Like

  • Flagermunsen

    An extended work stoppage is this country’s only hope of derailing the momentum soccer is gaining.

    Like

  • Flagermunsen

    An extended work stoppage is this country’s only hope of derailing the momentum of MLS and domestic soccer here.

    Like

    • Increasenull

      The MLS cant afford to that the hit. They only recently started being Respectible in the general populations eyes. I dont mean popular just not actively derided.
      Thats actually quite a large change.

      Like

      • Joe Soccer

        That is not actually true. Pretty much all strikes happen after the contract has expired. Of course most lockouts happen then too. But the determination of whether it’s a strike or a lockout is based on who takes the action, not on whether or not the contract has expired.

        Basically, if the owners tell the players that they cannot come to work even if they want to then it’s a lockout. If the owners are willing to allow the players to continue to play while negotiations continue but the players decide that they are withholding their services until a new contract is signed then it’s a strike.

        Like

    • Quit Whining About People Who Critique American Soccer

      Bob Foose must hate American soccer and want it to collapse.

      Like

  • Vic

    Comprimise, get rid of free agency and raise the foreigner limit to 10. Free agency doesn’t have to mean higher payrolls for the owners.

    Like

  • reignman

    I wonder at what point we should start to get concerned, I have serious doubts about if Garber is going to just allow free agency to happen.

    Like

  • Del Griffin

    I’ll be shocked if they don’t strike. The planets are aligned for the players: new TV deal, new teams coming in, lots of new DPs being signed, new fans from WC 14. Free agency will take a lot to get, and they have the best position to get it this time. I wouldn’t expect any games until the summer.

    Like

  • Del Griffin

    I’ll be shocked if they don’t strike. The planets are aligned for the players: new TV deal, new teams coming in, lots of new DPs being signed, new fans from WC 14. Free agency will take a lot to get, and they have the best position to get it this time. I wouldn’t expect any games until the summer.

    Like

  • Del Griffin

    I’ll be shocked if they don’t strike. The planets are aligned for the players: new TV deal, new teams coming in, lots of new DPs being signed, new fans from WC 14. Free agency will take a lot to get, and they have the best position to get it this time. I wouldn’t expect any games until the summer.

    Like

  • joe k

    hope they strike, it’s the only way we can get our season ticket money back from red bull…

    Like

  • US fan

    I’ll be shocked if they don’t strike. The planets are aligned for the players: new TV deal, new teams coming in, lots of new DPs being signed, new fans from WC 14. Free agency will take a lot to get, and they have the best position to get it this time. I wouldn’t expect any games until the summer.

    Like

  • Quit Whining About Soccer in the US

    I don’t disagree with anything the players are saying and I am not a billionare, trying to avoid paying others as much as I possibly can….so I should side with the players.

    But the players need to realize one thing. There are two big factors involved in the fact that MLS is one of the most desired leagues. One, it is profitable. That means they CAN pay money. That comes from a well thought out, planned league plan. Some don’t like that.. Fine, but it worked out well, so far. Two, the competitiveness of MLS has a HUGE draw for players because it is such a big advantage over the leagues worldwide.

    MLS is doing great, I am rooting for the players, but the players can’t blow it up while trying to get as much as they can…or the players themselves will regret it. Management should send to the players union videos of Defoe struggling through the rest of this season, which has been over for his team for about 2 months now.

    Like

  • MLS_Soccer_Talker

    I’ve heard a lot of poster on this is site say “MLS can’t give free agency without changing entities.”

    However, after reading this; I don’ t think that’s case. Why would the MLSPU be after this if it were impossible?

    It’s seems like the pressing issue is cost control.

    Which I would agree w/ Foose that the Cap prevents “over-spending”.

    IMO,MLS should just let the teams determine the market price for MLS players.

    Ultimately, this is why MLS doesn’t want to give free agency. They want to determine the price and where the player goes. Not fair for someone NOT under contract.

    Like

  • MLS_Soccer_Talker

    I’ve heard a lot of poster on this is site say “MLS can’t give free agency without changing entities.”

    However, after reading this; I don’ t think that’s case. Why would the MLSPU be after this if it were impossible?

    It’s seems like the pressing issue is cost control.

    Which I would agree w/ Foose that the Cap prevents “over-spending”.

    IMO,MLS should just let the teams determine the market price for MLS players.

    Ultimately, this is why MLS doesn’t want to give free agency. They want to determine the price and where the player goes. Not fair for someone NOT under contract.

    Like

    • kevino

      “I don’ t think that’s case. Why would the MLSPU be after this if it were impossible?”

      Because they are a bunch of unsophisticated players with perhaps one antitrus lawyes paid to provide a rosy prediction.

      The league on the other hand is a sophisticated entity with in-house counsel and outside firms on retainer that likely has a better grasp on the law, even if that understanding is also self-serving.

      Like

      • Joe Soccer

        While it is certainly possible that is the case, it is extremely unlikely.

        For instance Major League Baseball is a sophisticated entity with in-house counsel and outside firms on retainer, and yet for literally the last several decades the players association beats them almost every single time when it comes to legal issues. And the players have more or less “won” just about every single contract negotiation with the owners since the 70s. If all it takes is for the league to be sophisticated and have in-house council and outside firms on retainer then that wouldn’t be true. But it is, because competence and the law matter too.

        Like

  • Aguinaga

    The players will never get everything they want. Feels like most of the owners would prefer to shut up shop completely than be dictated terrms by their own employees. Hope the players give Garber hell either way.

    Like

  • norman

    MLS players have the least amount of rights when compared to any other soccer league in the world. It is absolutely pathetic.

    Like

    • Quit Whining About Soccer in the US

      Maybe, but maybe the “price” ( in this case cost of more rights ) is lower because so many want to play here.

      Like

    • Quit Whining About Soccer in the US

      You are making a HUGE assumption that Lampard will be here in July…and I mean permanent, not just a two month loan.

      Like

  • Manny F

    A salary cap can not allow for a team to go out and outspend another team on a player. The fake allocation money is what allows teams to balloon their salary cap. Free agency can work if you get rid of all the stupid rules that Ali Curtis wrote. Just having a hard salary cap would prevent over spending.

    Like

  • Joamiq

    Ives’ solution (free agency after a certain number of years in the league) is the obvious compromise. Let’s hope they get there before the season starts.

    Like

  • Dan

    Can’t wait to see all the progress of MLS derailed due to a strike and the season not starting… However the players deserve better and I hope they get it, MLS is plain greedy

    Like

  • Pele-

    MLSPU had to cave big time 5 years ago and settle for all this re-entry draft mumbo-jumbo. This time the players are in a stronger position to collectively bargain and seems like they will strike if they have to; I hope they don’t have to. The owners would be *really* smart to start having the free agency conversation now to prevent a work stoppage. I don’t know if I represent all fans but I definitely believe the players deserve free agency (or at least to be rewarded with it after 5 years of plying their trade in MLS)…after all, they’ve helped build the league too. Many have sacrificed bigger salaries in Europe to come back and help grow MLS: Keller, Lalas, so many guys. So, let’s hope a deal can be reached SOON to preserve a full 2015 season!!!

    Like

  • Pele-

    MLSPU had to cave big time 5 years ago and settle for all this re-entry draft mumbo-jumbo. This time the players are in a stronger position to collectively bargain and seems like they will strike if they have to; I hope they don’t have to. The owners would be *really* smart to start having the free agency conversation now to prevent a work stoppage. I don’t know if I represent all fans but I definitely believe the players deserve free agency (or at least to be rewarded with it after 5 years of plying their trade in MLS)…after all, they’ve helped build the league too. Many have sacrificed bigger salaries in Europe to come back and help grow MLS: Keller, Lalas, so many guys. So, let’s hope a deal can be reached SOON to preserve a full 2015 season!!!

    Like

  • MLS Fan

    I support the players. If a strike or lock out happens, so be it. Soccer and the league will survive.

    Like

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