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MLS Players Union: Old CBA is terminated but no strike imminent

The MLS player's union released a statement today regarding the labor negotiations with Major League Soccer, stating that talks have not produced a new collective bargaining agreement and the old CBA will expire at midnight tonight.

The Major League Soccer Players Union (the “Union”)today announced that the collective bargaining agreement between the Union and Major League Soccer (“MLS”) will not be extended past the February 25 deadline previously set by the Union and MLS.

“Effective at midnight tonight, our collective bargaining agreement with MLS will expire,” said Union Executive Director Bob Foose. "We expect that negotiations with MLS will resume at some point, there simply hasn’t been enough progress made in the negotiations to date to warrant an extension of the old agreement. We have advised our players to keep working for the time being, but as of Friday they will be doing so without a CBA. In the meantime, all options are being considered as the process continues. We are completely committed to forging real changes to the way MLS players are treated.”

Major League Soccer provided its own response:

“During the last year, Major League Soccer has been negotiating with the MLS Players Union on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.  The current CBA expires today and the Players Union would not agree to a further extension

“We have told the Players Union that the League does not plan to lock out the players and we are prepared to begin the season under the current CBA while we continue to bargain to reach agreement on a new CBA.

“We have listened to the issues raised by the MLS Players Union and the League has made detailed proposals that have addressed these issues, including in the areas of economics, guaranteed contracts, options and the ability of a player to move to another MLS Club if he is released by his current Club.  These proposals, which represent substantial changes from the current CBA, will significantly increase our spending and provide substantially more rights to the players.”

Good news? Sounds like we won't have a strike just yet, but we shouldn't assume one won't see one before the start of the season.

In the meantime, the Houston Dynamo and New York Red Bulls are preparing to play in the Disney Soccer Classic in Orlando tonight. FC Dallas faces Toronto FC in the second match of tonight's schedule.


  1. I’m on the side of the fans. Both sides should submit to binding arbitration now & thus have a deal fostered upon them. If they are THAT confident in their arguments, they’ll go for the arbitration.

  2. Whose side are you on? –Always a hard question for fans. Since most of us work for a living, decent pay and fair conditions of employment would seem to be goals that we could, and should, support. To my mind, guaranteed contracts and the kind of free agency within the league that the players are advocating seem like no-brainers. Pay gets more complicated, but then again, the players have said repeatedly that this dispute is not about money.
    As fans, I assume that we also want to see professional soccer prosper in the US. One argument is that the MLS owners have done better than any of their predecessors and that, therefore, we ought to agree with their notions about ensuring the success of professional soccer. In this, the single entity concept gets a lot of attention.
    Several facts, however, suggest that mindless support for the owners would be silly. First, all the earlier soccer leagues failed because of decisions by owners, not players. NASL, in particular, was destroyed by the owners’ inability to cooperate. Second, MLS owners have a far from sterling record — witness the designated player rule, the early deviations from FIFA rules and the like. Third, the MLS owners are fixated on the single entity as necessary for the league’s survival, even though here and in Europe most sports leagues operate quite well under other arrangements. The single entity has saved MLS from the greedy and pigheaded behavior that doomed NASL, but other leagues use other methods to achieve the same result.
    Finally, the single entity approach solves the owners’ problems at the expense of the players. Frankly, I suspect that controlling the workforce is at least as important to most MLS owners as protecting themselves from their fellow owners. Nevertheless, is the kind of workforce produced by the current arrangement really in professional soccer’s best long term interest? Are low pay, onerous conditions of employment and general alienation in the league’s best interest? Will young American athletes choose soccer over basketball or football under conditions? Will young players want to stay in MLS? Will other American sports fans take MLS seriously? The owners may currently enjoy their complete control, but is a grumpy workforce really part of a successful future? I think not.

  3. That’s entertainment….

    NBA is playing

    March 25:

    Heat vs Bulls

    Clippers vs Houston

    Mavericks vs Trailblazers

    good discussion…but I am looking for something to watch….If we keep killing the passion out the game…we will lose fans….were already doing this at youth soccer level….

    busted and disgusted fan…..

  4. You think the union would hold off on a strike because there are five or six players in MLS who might(!) get a call-up to the World Cup?


  5. I thik a work stoppage would end the league & then where would half these guys work? Frankly, they are not good enough to play elsewhere.

  6. And again…I agree with the players on several points. I just think they’ve taklen a terrible approach. Telling someone “you’re mean” isn’t really an effective way of getting them to change. Onstead sounds like a 4 year old.

  7. If the players and/or the owners are thoroughly convinced of the righteousness of their arguments & the legality of their positions, they should submit to bindin arbitartion & whatever the outcome, live by it…only the owners aren’t 100% certain & the players KNOW they hacve already lost the single entity lawsuit so instead we get the posturing.

    On the bright side, at least Mike Magee is earning a paycheck.

    If the players strike, the league is done & they knwo it. And THEN where would the likes of Mike Magee work???

  8. I have a feeling the strike got put on hold because of the World Cup. The MLS players would not even be considered if they decided to strike now and the US National team cannot afford that. They don’t have enough depth.

    I hope they work this out. The players have to understand that this is a single entity league for a reason. For survival of the league. This is how they control costs.

    The players need to negotiate within those boundaries. I do think it is wrong if a player plays out his contract that he is not free to talk to any team he wants.

    Everyone needs to do the right thing and not repeat history or what leagues around the world are doing, piling up a lot of debt.

    Everyone also needs to consider what the NHL went through when they went on strike. It has never come back to what it was.

  9. it’s simple, if the union really want changes, then it has to STRIKE or should shut up.

    if they don’t strike, there is no incentive for mls owners to give concessions

    no guts no glory !

  10. I’d say you’re dead wrong. The union never talked about a work stoppage on this date, It wouldn’t make any sense. It’s far more effective once the season is getting underway.

  11. I’d say you’re wrong about that. The contract guarantee demand is probably much more important to younger players who are more likely to be cut. Moreover, things like free agency are much more likely to benefit those who are in the league for more years after the deal is done. They may have multiple opportunities to move around.

  12. A strike is not the answer… both sides are too blame and the league would not have made it this far without the “strangle hold” to their players… this is not the NFL or NBA… It is not popular enough to have full free agency for the players… the cash flow is not there… the owners are not putting up a lot of money right now because america is not making much money… Players salaries go up then ticket prices go up… In most MLS cities, if the price goes up much than they will lose money… ask real salt lake fans… Real salt lake saw their season tickets drop dramatically in two seasons because they thought it was more popular than it was… it was a subpar team that made it to the confrence championship and got a new stadium… The price of season tickets went up each year $25… than the 2008 season it went roughly $75… for the cheap seats started at $200 in 2005… $225 in 2006… $250 in 2007… $275 in 2008 $350 in 2009 and to make it worse they gave a bunch of deals for $275 after two games of the season to sell more season tickets… that pissed off the people who already got their season tickets… then this year its back to $300.

    Most MLS players are good and they can and will go somewhere else… there has to be a middle ground… the rights of the player should be held by the league not the team.. if a player is cut than they should have an option to move through out the league to another team… there are ways around it… look what Ian Joy did… not saying he was working the system but he got out of his contract and is with the portland timbers… there is middle ground and both sides need to think of someone besides themselves… its a business and they both need each other to make a living… COMPROMISE!!!

  13. Too many promising players have already had their careers ruined by the current rules that grant player rights to an MLS team TWO YEARS after they have unilaterally ended the player’s contract. That needs to NEVER happen again.

    If they don’t get Free Agency, I hope they DO strike. As fans, we’ll still have a Division 2 League (with player rights) that is about as good as MLS was 8 years ago. Soccer will survive in this country, but the MLS stranglehold on player rights won’t.

    Yeah, in a strike, a lot of current players will suffer, but they’ll be thanked for generations to come.

  14. It’s too early for the players to threaten a strike. If nothing gets resolved in the next few weeks, I think the union will probably start to seriously bring a strike into the picture to apply pressure on the league.

  15. In a rare moment, I as an RBNY supporter, will, sadly, agree with this Chicago supporter about thelack of interest in this subject among the masses.

    Let’s get a DC Supporter in here & we can all sing Kumbayah & talk about how much we hate Toronto.

  16. just to show you how much a strike would effect MLS. Only 22 people before me have left a commment.

    In other words not enough people care about it to miss it.

    I wish it wasnt the case.

  17. Mind you – I don’t even disagree with what the reps are saying in its entirety. As per my last post, I agree on many counts.

    What I’m disagreeing with is the borderline histrionic approach of Onstead & Co. Seriously, would you want to sit down & negotiate with someone who is speaking bad about you in the press, ESPECIALLY when he’s employed by you and YOU’RE the one whose been losing money for 15 years????

    I mean, really. If the MLSPU had been less hysterical and/or asked for arbitration, we’d probably be past this now.

    Histrionics are never a good negotiating technique. Onstead is exahusting.

  18. People who are taking swipes at the MLSPU reps (or the other players who are speaking out) may want to consider this… who do you think is more vulnerable to retaliation for bargaining well or rocking the boat: a second year 22nd-roster spot newbie, or someone who is at the end of a successful career?

  19. Man, I was hoping for a brawl in the streets of NYC between Don Garber in the red corner and Pat Onstad in the blue corner. I guess I’ll have to wait.

  20. The players overplayed their hand. I can just picture what happened last night and this morning:

    The union took a vote and half the players voted “no” on the strike. Those players that voted “no” are the guys who wouldn’t be able to find employment in a Division One league ANYWHERE else in the world. Seriously, what would Mike Magee be doing if there was no MLS??? Other than living in his parents’ basement, I mean. Alan Gordon??? He’d be hanging out with Magee.

    I agree that the owners could do better and they shoulfd have higher developmental salariesand a higher (maybe $4mm) cap & even a system in place where any non-tendered player is considred waived and thus able to cut a deal for hiself.

    However, the MLSPU, their attorneys & the borderline HYSTERICAL Pat “Salt n Pepa” Onstead have got to realize that MLS:

    (a) won the right to be a single entity in court via the lawsuit the players brought & LOST in the 1990s

    (b) the owners have lost untold millions since 1996. Have the players? No. Most of the ones who were goo denough to go to Europe went. Some went & found out they weren’t THAT good (Hi,Freddy!)yet they still made their money.

    So, if Pat Onstead is unhappy, boo-hoo-hoo, at least he has a leaqgue to play in. If it wasn’t for MLS, he’d be in a cubicle at best & hanging out with Magee & Gordon, listening to Phish at worst.

    These two sides have differences, sure, but it’s the players, including overpaid, over the hill, Kasey Keller ,who have made all the noise & been overly dramatic throughgout this process.

    These two sides should bring in a disinterested mediator to wrap this up. This should have been wrapped up months ago. As much as I grew up in a pro-union household, if I were the owners, I wouldn’t want to sit down & negotiate with these hysterical players who suffer from a grossly inflated sense of worth and a lack of knowledge of past US Soccer failures either.

  21. I knew this would happen, all the news of the issues surrounding negotiations over the past several months and this weekend in fact told me this was not going to be swiftly negotiated in time. Soccer in this country has many problems but it can survive….. if the product improves and that would require an up in money the league can compete at an above average level. We do need more creative strategies to develop our players better right now they aren’t with the big boys but with correct management and given time it’ll happen many leagues have gone through the same trouble before they stabilized and reaped the benefits. In America there can be an effective top-notch league I believe there can be.

  22. The fact is these players think that they should have the rights of NFL players or EPL players but they dont. The play for an average league in a niche market. They are going to screw everyone. The owners will be owners.

    Martek go ahead and thank Onstad and his other reps for killing the Dynamo stadium. Thats just what this instability is going to do.

  23. well, we dont really know the details. Other reports suggest the minimum salary was indeed upped. Hopefully the owners are being driven by a desire to make the game more exciting.

  24. Look if the issues are that sensitive then a compromise could be made, if the league is willing to give guys with 5+ yrs of service waived players rights or even say their team has ten days from when the contract exxpired to sign them to a new contract or the players rights are waived, and then they can go into a waiver draft or, they can ust go on trial with other teams I think thats the fairest way to do it without calling it free agency. But the thing that bothers me is what about the development of players, what about more money for academies, this is where MLS in my opinion should be putting its money, we don’t need to pay marginal veterans more money. We need a functioning reserve league,we need to have reserve teams field a squad in the usf div 2 league nows the time for creativity and innovation, thats what the players where saying they where attempting to do but to me this just sounds like the same thing from every other league in this country, veterans don’t like that the young guys make more than them and that they seem to have more leverage than them, but the truth of the matter is the league is evolving and these veterans aren’t going to cut it anymore.

  25. I agree, the players points are all for older players, there has been no talk on raising the minimum salary or even shortening the contracts for younger players. I don’t understand everyone who thinks the players are 100% right all they’ve done is make sure the union representatives will be set, the rank and file guys got screwed.

  26. ugh… i just want soccer in my country. and im loyal to MLS through and through, but if we are just pushing the problem to next year or the year after im not entirely cool wit that.

    Well here’s to a great season ahead and hopefully no drama or pitfalls anywhere but on the pitch


  27. Even though the CBA is expired, under federal labor law, the terms and conditions of the old contract continue to apply with two exceptions: the no strike provision and binding arbitration to resolve grievances.

    They can continue under those terms and conditions forever, if they choose to. More likely is at some point there will be a “last and final” offer which, if not agreed to, will lead management to declare an “impasse.” An impasse exists when additional negotiation would be futile. The import of an impasse is that it permits management to implement its last and final offer over the objection of the union. At that point, the union needs to (1) try to mount a strike to get management to make concessions, (2) live with the dead that was implemented or (3) get a finding that the declared impasse was premature and should be reversed. Whether a true impasse exists is usually hotly debated and in the eyes of the beholder — the union will try to show that there is still movement and that management therefore unlawfully implemented its last and final offer. Eventually, it’s decided by the National Labor Relations Board (very slow) or mooted by an agreement.

    Speculation, but the union probably is aware that it’s easier to stage a short strike and it can do so more effectively closer to, or in, season.

  28. Martek said “That would mean that after the contracts are over, then they are free agents. As free agents, if they all demand in their contracts that they will not sign deals that contain MLS’ allocation, non-guaranteed and reserve rights language…”

    So then none of those players will be signing MLS contracts. Hope they have fun in Denmark.

    The MLS owners have billions of dollars in the ownership groups – the players can strike until the cows come home. They are never going to give in on the Free Agency issue.

  29. And I agree with you also about the players not having the necessary votes for a strike. I think what happened today proves it.

  30. And on other point, I did not consider the possibility that the MLSPU may not have the near-unanimous vote tally that a strike would require to be successful. If that’s true, then the players are truly screwed. Anyone have any thoughts on that?

  31. How does a no lockout, no strike, no work stoppage, no deal actually help get a deal done?

    Listen, I want the players to earn more and I want the talent level to improve in MLS. But, I also don’t want MLS to go so far in debt that it kills the league or ownership. I am troubled by what the world’s most wealthy league, the EPL, is facing with their financial woes.

    I’d rather have an average league the way it has been than no league at all. Guess I’d just like to know more about what the details are of the proposals and the demands.

  32. Pardon me, but I do not trust the owners’ statement in any way. They’re not a bunch of lying liars, but neither are they on the whole up and up here.

    The players have far more powerful weapons than a strike at their command, legal ones. But the fact is that if they don’t follow these paths during the season at some point, then they lose them. I wonder if they’ll strike the All-Star Game. Too bad, since it’s here in Houston this year.

    My personal feeling is that without a CBA, the players are essentially playing according to whatever contracts they have. That would mean that after the contracts are over, then they are free agents. As free agents, if they all demand in their contracts that they will not sign deals that contain MLS’ allocation, non-guaranteed and reserve rights language, then by 1,000 cuts, they could accomplish these same ends, free agency and guaranteed contracts, especially if they can get the nascent NASL to agree to the same contract terms. And all of this can be done with concerted action, but no strike.


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