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The SBI Show: Episode 193 (CONCACAF Champions League, MLS labor talks, and more)



The CONCACAF Champions League has long been a source of disappointment for Major League Soccer teams, and that same familiar storyline played out again on Thursday in Costa Rica with D.C. United’s destruction at the hands of Alajuelense.

Episode 193 of The SBI Show takes a look back at D.C. United’s 5-2 loss to the Costa Rican side, and digs into the continued issues MLS has with succeeding in CCL play. We also discuss Montreal’s impressive 2-2 tie with Pachuca.

Co-host Garrett Cleverly and I also discuss the MLS labor talks, and the likelihood of a strike, which is growing by the day as the two sides reach an apparent stalemate over free agency.

Give Episode 193 of The SBI Show a listen after the jump:

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What did you think of the show? Think the MLS players should strike? See the season starting on time?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. I think the best argument for free agency that the players could present to the owners is that in the long run it will end up making them money. Internal free agency would allow players to increase their value so they could fetch more for the owners on the international transfer market. There are teams in South America and Europe that stay afloat based on their ability to develop and sell players. If the owners were more forward thinking they would realize that they could use free agency to help them recoup the investment that they put into development.

  2. I don’t buy the owner’s arguments and feel they are being dishonest. Again, I don’t completely disagree with the previous comments, but like it has been said there is a salary cap. What the owner’s are afraid of and what they are simply trying to do is enslave players to their team who they feel they have developed. Yes, there is the USL and NASL option, but let’s get serious that other than for the very early stage young players, this is not a realistic option. The only real option is going overseas. The UK has the work rules which prevent most players and leaves the other leagues where English is the not the primary language and many players are hesitant to explore as a result.

    This is not a fear of the loss of the single entity structure of fear of salaries spiraling out of control. This is plain and simple owners preventing individual players from seeking their best deal within the confines of the single entity structure. The comments of the RSL owner are ridiculous in that their can’t be free agency because it is “one entity” because then why are they even competing against each other in winning the league, winning the MLS cup, etc…..and their are ways for individual clubs to be more profitable than the next in the structure of the league so this is pack of lies by the owners.

      • BrianK,

        Maybe you should read it again. Aside from a few grammatical errors, he makes a coherent argument. I do not agree with everything he said, but he is basically coherent.

        The argument the player costs will spiral out of control is disingenuous. There is a hard cap on all player salaries outside DPs which prevents that situation from occurring. If anything, the situation would be like the medical industry where the salaries for professionals are lower in more desirable places (NY/LA) and higher in less desirable places (Kansas – not a judgment). As such, I could see salaries for similarly skilled players being lower in places like Seattle, Portland, LA etc and higher in places like Columbus because there would be increased supply for those desirable locations.

        However, I agree full free agency is not great for the owners because what incentive is there for them to develop young professionals between 18-23. Have a restricted free agency for 6 years after becoming a pro where the team retains the rights. A kid signs pro at 18, the team would retain the rights until 24. That way they can offer the kid a lot of money or sell his rights and a real return on their investment.

      • I agree that there is a risk of players who they develop from leaving their club, but every club in the world has this risk. Those clubs sign their players to long term contracts and have until those contracts expire to re-negotiate and extend or sell the player via a transfer or a trade. While the same risk exists in MLS, it would be lessened in that every club is under a salary cap, but would stay within the single ownership structure of the MLS. This is a no-brainer for the players to keep pressing the issue. This is not an issue that will create a financial risk for MLS, but may only just bother some individual owners as some players may want to move to more successful clubs.

  3. Superficially, it is correct that a salary cap (or “budget” in MLS parlance) assures cost certainty and that the NASL experience of the ’70s won’t be repeated. However, there are only two ways in which a salary cap can exist. One is if the league is a single entity and the other is if a players association (union) says that the league can have one (because, otherwise, this would be considered illegal collusion amongst the owners of competing entities). The league wants the certainty of a salary cap and sees single entity as the only way to guarantee that (w/o single entity, the next labor dispute would be over the cap, and even whether a cap could exist).

    In order for the league to be legally ruled a single entity, it has to behave like one. There was even some question about that in the labor dispute that consumed millions of dollars and occupied the first 5 years of MLS’s existence. In the end, the courts basically said that, although it is a hybrid, it is enough like a single entity that it should be legally considered to be one (at least at that time). Every action that makes the teams into competitors off the field (including free agency) makes it more likely that they will be determined to not be a single entity when next challenged in court (btw, the union can’t sue to eliminate free agency, it would have to disband and then players would have to sue).

    The MLS view is that the league needs single entity to assure a cap and that free agency legally threatens single entity. I am not a lawyer, so I don’t know the validity of that concern, but I think it is legitimate.

    • Rand,

      Not going to disagree with any of your points. I will add something though. Dell Loy Hansen’s comments were insightful. What he simply said was,….the reason the owners invested in MLS in the first place was because of the appeal of the single entity structure. That is why they are willing to commit capital to operating the league and building stadiums. From their point of view,…the notion that free-agency is even being discussed flies in the face of what they bought into.

      Folks like us can go on and on as to what we believe is fair or not,…but the fact is these owners invested in the league because of the single entity model/structure. The players union has to come to terms with that. MLS can’t ‘bait and switch’ on the owners. It can’t attract owners who like the business model and then say,…”by the way,…we are getting away from the very business model that attracted you to the league.” It’s like investing in a mutual fund because it has a certain risk profile,…and then having the fund manager tell you that the risk profile is fundamentally changing. I would say,…OK,…fine…but I am withdrawing my investment.

      My advice to the players union is this,…if free agency means that much to you,…walk away and take your membership to the NASL or USL and see how you can do there. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. You can’t have a league where owners are willing to invest in a specific business model, create a stable professional structure and then tell that the model has to change. The players union should ask some of these players from Africa and South America about the stability of the leagues in those countries. Ask some of these guys from Argentina, Mexico even. “Hey,…I playing first division in Argentina,…but I haven’t been paid it two months!” Sounds great!

      • i get what you are saying but the owners had to know that free agency was always going to be a possibility and that players are going to continuously seek it during collective bargaining until they get it. they aren’t innocent rubes being duped by a bait and switch. they are wealthy businessmen that bought into this situation with their eyes open and they were certainly aware of the possibility that the rules in the league can change

  4. i kind of question the discussion of free agency as it pertains to money and how much mls is making. having some form of free agency will not cause the wages to spiral out of control because of the simple fact of the salary cap. teams still have to manage their rosters within the cap so it isn’t really possible for the pay to balloon out of control. the primary motivation for the players wanting free agency is that they want to have some control over where they play and they don’t want teams to be able to hold onto their rights in perpetuity. i think when the discussion centers on that overinflated concern about pay accelerating out of control it absolutely benefits the owners over the players as far as public sentiment is concerned

  5. My favorite parts of every show are when Garrett talks about some opinion he read from internet trolls somewhere, then gets all mad about it. I can hear Ives shaking his head through the speakers.


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