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Luis Robles: Union still fighting for ‘some form of free agency’ despite MLS owners’ refusal to consider it

Luis Robles New York Red Bulls 96

Photo by Gary Rohman/USA Today Sports


Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen might think that free agency discussions are a waste of time, but the MLS Players Union is far from agreeing on that point.

In the wake of recent comments from Hansen that stated that discussing MLS free agency is pointless given league’s single-entity structure, a players union representative has vowed that it intends to stay the course with what it wants from this round of collective bargaining negotiations.

That means that free agency is still among the chief issues — other forms of player movement and higher finances are others — that needs to be addressed if the MLS season is to start as planned a week from Friday.

“Economics play a big part, don’t get me wrong, but we’re more fighting for the idea that we can choose,” New York Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles told SBI. “Every other job in America has this ability to go out into the market, put in your resume and, if you have a few different job offers, weigh which one is best for you, best for your family, and then you can go out (and make a decision).

“Then there’s also this idea that that leverage exists, that the market dictates your value and all these things don’t exist right now and if we continue the current system then I think players will continue to fall into a situation where the league determines what their value is. Even though they need a guy that plays 27 out of 34 games and is playing 2-3 positions, but because the league doesn’t deem you to be one of their marquee guys, even though other teams are willing to pay a premium for you, you’re always going to be stuck in a situation of what the league says and what the league thinks.

“That’s why we’re so adamant about pursuing free agency and it’s important that the people on the outside — the fans, the media — understand that, there is an economic part, but the bigger issue is that we should be able to go onto a market and let the market dictate what we’re worth.”

MLS and the players union have been at a standstill for weeks with regard to free agency. Both parties will convene in Washington D.C. on Sunday to talk about that and other issues, marking the first time since early December that all the player representatives and key officials will be in the same room together and in an open-table setting to hash out the details for the next CBA.

There is a lot of distance that needs to be covered before a deal is reached, however.

“I feel like it goes both ways and if both parties can continue with the idea that a settlement needs to get done and that needs to be achieved, then in the end it could be a very positive result,” said Robles. “But I think where we stand is the same place where we stood a couple of years ago, and we’ll continue to do whatever it takes to find some form of free agency — it may not be exactly what we thought in the very beginning — but these things have a way of evolving.”

What forms of free agency could work and how they could be implemented is something both MLS and the players will need to try and figure out in the coming days in order to prevent a work stoppage. With it being crunch time in terms of CBA discussions, talks are sure to ramp up and concessions are likely to be made on both sides.

In fact, the players are not opposed to negotiating different terms of how a free agency system in the league could work, but they are adamant and unified about wanting changes to the structure.

“I still believe that we’re open to interpretation, as long as the league is willing to meet closer to the middle,” said Robles. “Right now, it’s still pretty in their position that they’re going to maintain their core values and they’re going to do this. Listen, we’re not trying to disrupt the momentum that’s occurred over the last two decades. Major League Soccer is a fantastic product, and will continue to be a great product, and will continue to be a very prominent league, and I believe when Don Garber says that this could be a top league in 2022. That’s why foreigners keep reiterating this point.

“It’s not like it was 10 years ago where someone comes and says, ‘These guys don’t know what they’re doing,’ and even five years ago these kind of questions about quality or professionalism. Now we’ve got everything that it takes and there is a part in the financial side, but we’re not doing anything to disrupt what’s already become an incredible product. We want to continue the growth and popularity of soccer in this league, but we also have a responsibility and even a privilege in this moment to sit here and evaluate our position and how we can make it better for generations to come.”

For now, the players will continue with their preseason preparations. They are hoping to start the 2015 campaign on time, but that will only happen if free agency becomes a part of the MLS landscape.

“It’s become very real,” said Robles. “That’s exactly how I started my meeting with the [New York Red Bulls players] yesterday or two days ago. I said, ‘Hey, it’s about to get real,’ and everything that we spoke about is preparation for the fact that they’re going to throw whatever it takes at us to break us and make us think that this is impossible and I needed them to be very open and honest in where they think we stand, what we can endure, what is worth fighting for.

“After hearing everyone’s opinion, I still think the general consensus is still the fact that if there is no form of free agency — I don’t know if you want to call it unrestricted, restricted; there’s a lot of confusion with those terms — but if there is no way to see what you’re worth on the open market, then we should strike. Of course, the economics play a part because obviously it’s how much cap space is there for you to get anywhere and that is an important part.

“But right now for us it’s this ability to choose, ability to choose where we want to go instead of the league mandating, ‘Hey, this is where you go,’ or allocating us to a certain club. This is something that exists all throughout America. This is something that most people get to experience or have the ability to experience. Yet this league is the only league in the world that has this system set up so that players are not able to do that.”


  1. this article is called “Many in M.L.S. Playing Largely for Love of the Game” from the New York Times on 2014-10-26. it talks about player salaries in mls last year in 2014.

    Quick hits:
    MLS annual total of salaries: 130 million
    total number of players: 572
    but only the top 7 players account for 1/3 of that 130 million.
    (they are: kaka, dempsey, bradley, defoe, donovan, keane and henry)
    minimum salary for players under 25 is 36,500
    minimum salary for older players is 48,500

    and it goes on to say, “Nearly a third of the league’s total payroll of about $130 million goes to the seven best-paid players, and for each of them there are dozens of others making $50,000 or less.”

    i think luis robles was pretty clear in his statements that freedom of choice is the players’ higher priority than money. but he did say that money was also important to players at this cba.

  2. Question
    Why is Luis Robles the head speaker of the union. Is he some sort of a communications expert or is that his college major.
    I would love to see Bradley as the head speaker. All Robles can do is chew gum and didn’t he ask for bigger money before he came to MLS and he stole the goalkeeper spot from a college dude who made like 50,000 year right.
    He should keep his mouth shut and let a veteran speak.

    • Good god not Monotone Mike.

      I’m all in a favor of guys who “think before they speak”, but he and his dad take the practice to absurd new levels. I imagine Thanksgiving Dinner at the Bradley house takes 9 hours and is conducted in near silence, with conversation restricted to occasional shining.

    • Answer
      Apparently you don’t know anything about Luis Robles. He’s actually an incredibly good communicator. I have no idea what asking for bigger money has to do with anything, and he didn’t steal anything – Meara suffered a long-term injury.

      Maybe he’s not the one who should keep his mouth shut here.

  3. I the soccer god has this to say and it comes from the soccer genesis 🙂
    Just like MLS needs SOME sort of free agency 🙂 since MLS fans and MLS players have catch up to soccer and him, MLS also needs to give teams their chance of getting their own brand for their uniform after the Adidas contract is OVER.
    MLS also needs an MLS2, in order to have some sort of promotion and relegation and I repeat, a unique system that can work with MLS. If MLS expands over 28 teams, promotion and relegation should be easy to work with MLS but we need a real D2 and even better an MLS2.
    If MLS can start with a simple free agency system, then teams should have their identity with their uniforms such as Nike or Umbro and best of all pro/reg.

  4. The way I see it the players should realize that they are not going to get free agency like it exists with the NFL, MLB, NBA because of the way the league is currently structured which is as a single entity. The contract the player has is not with the team but the league. Given this is a player like Herculez Gomez currently with Puebla in Liga MX and I am under the impression would like to return to MLS but currently is only able to return to MLS and play for Kansas City which was the last team he played for in MLS back in 2009. Gomez rightfully feels he should be able to go to MLS and let them know that when his contract in Mexico is finished he would like to entertain offers from teams in MLS. He should have the freedom to choose from the teams in MLS that want him on their team AND can fit him under their salary cap. Bottom line is if a teams says we are cutting you then we are cutting you loose and you the player can offer yourself to any team in the league without the last team getting compensation. In this case Kansas City should get no compensation if Gomez comes back to MLS. This still doesn’t mean that Gomez will get an offer he likes it just means that he has the freedom to choose which team he plays for. On the flip side what I think the league is scared of is that players will willingly take a lesser salary so that they can play for a bigger market team. For example Luis Gil may feel that he would rather play for NYCFC for less money because he is playing in NYC and for a coach he feels better appreciates his abilities. That being a younger player in a bigger market he will get more recognition and perhaps more offers from European leagues down the road playing with NYCFC than if he stays in Utah.

  5. “…the bigger issue is that we should be able to go onto a market and let the market dictate what we’re worth.”

    “…if there is no way to see what you’re worth on the open market, then we should strike.”

    okay, these are obviously misleading statements, if not outright false.

    it’s a global market! mls is not the only employer of soccer players. there are companies entirely dedicated to determining exactly how much any player (in- or out-of-contract) is. or if you don’t like that, fulfill the goddamn contract you signed (or better yet, don’t sign it in the first place if you don’t like it) and then you can find out how much you’re worth.

    • How are his statements misleading? If you haven’t been following, the market he’s referring to is the MLS market which is NOT A FREE MARKET! This is the impediment that players are up against in determining their value to prospective employers with in the NIN FREE MARKET SYSTEM. His final assertion is that if the league will not reflect the most AMERICAN of VALUES like Free and Open Markets with out ” money business” to distort the REAL WORTH of things.

      • The players should STRIKE as a result of the leagues refusal to operate within the parameters of a FREE MARKET.

      • So there goes the salary cap. And there goes the league. Good call.

        True free markets barely exist. I am hard pressed to think of one.

        There is always going to be some degree of regulation. It is necessary for the survival of the market.

      • say i worked at ibm. would it make sense for me to say that, since another department in my company won’t bid against my current one, that i can’t determine my value in the open market? hell no! there are plenty of other places where i can work.

        that’s what is misleading about his statements. it’s asinine to declare “NOT A FREE MARKET” when you’re only talking about one corporation among hundreds.

  6. I used to be a huge Major League Baseball fan until that farce in 1994. I rarely watch baseball anymore and I have only been to a couple of MLB games since 1994.

    I watch all the MLS games on TV that I can. I don’t live in an MLS city but I still try to get to a couple of games a season because I enjoy the game even more when I can see the entire field instead of what the camera chooses to show. It is a nearly 450 mile drive but I have fun with it. If there is a strike or a lock-out I will be seriously pissed. The two sides are negotiating against one another and I think that sometimes they wear blinders. The fans may get hurt if there is a strike or lockout. I can easily replace MLS with the other leagues we now have to choose from including the BPL, La Liga, LigaMX, and Serie A. I will walk away from MLS for a good while.

  7. MLS is essentially running a fraud system. How is it single entity when GMs(Garth Lagerway) and coaches are allowed to be “free agents”. Aren’t they also employed by the same employer(MLS)?? And if they didn’t want to bid against each other why were they allowed to do so over Jermaine Jones??? Didn’t New England and Chicago increase Jones’ value by bidding against one another?? Just a huge farce IMO. It’s a convenient single entity. And if a player isn’t allowed to receive more money from another team that essentially stealing in my opinion. Team A has player X at 45K but can get 65K from Team B your essential stealing 20K a year from that player. And the draft process ensures that first come gets to pay that player whatever they want being that there’s no competition for that player’s services. Fraud.

    • And if that 20 year old is drafted, but can not come to terms with the team that selected him he is then FORCED out of the MLS making him a free agent in a world that he may not be ready for due to (language barriers, cultural barriers, support systems and etc.)

    • I don’t necessarily disagree with you– and I do think that a time will come when MLS cannot keep some of these mechanisms in place. They are contrived, to be sure– and players have a right to ask why some of these controls persist at their expense.

      What I would say in defense of the MLS approach is this — there is a danger in believing that free-market systems “work”. In point of fact, they are filled with dysfunctions and potential/emerging dysfunctions. And once these structural opportunities have been identified and been exploited, they are incredibly hard to reverse. Europe has become a case study in the financial and competitive costs of such unregulated dysfunction, and Financial Fair Play is a band-aid that few believe will solve a now-entrenched problem.

      Strong central regulation is an expensive but valuable necessity that differentiates MLS from other leagues and ensures an alignment of interests occurs that would not happen if individual parties operated out of self-interest.

      I don’t agree with everything they do in this regard, but I can see why free agency scares them. It is a complex concept that always has unexpected consequences. For example, introducing free agency now will significantly alter incentives for club-level decision managers (who typically face heavy short-run pressures re performance), while also giving those individuals much more discretion re player valuation. Overbidding for a veteran who can “help now” will become more attractive, particularly since MLS would be relaxing clubs’ current legacy rights to players they have developed internally. So the upward pressure on the salary cap increases, while commitment to development of new long-term senior players is diminished.

      Nice situation for the existing group of established players— but there is a salary cap, and the money has to come from somewhere. Sooner or later cap mismanagement takes a toll that lingers long after the managers responsible have been sacked.

      Free agency will happen—in some form and and some point. But is it worth risking right now? I guess we’ll see

  8. As long as what happened to Dave Van Der Berg never happens again. One of the worst cases of bureaucracy in the history of the league.

    • On that note, I think about Kevin Hartman.

      Kansas City retained his rights even though he wasn’t under contract, wasn’t with the team, and Kansas City had no intention of him being with the team again. The fact that out of contract players can be held in limbo if they can’t agree to a new deal because the former team that doesn’t want them still holds their rights with the hope of compensation
      is absurd.

      When that situation happened, I think it was in 2010, I almost walked away from MLS entirely out of disgust.

      • Agreed. If a team doesn’t want to employ a player at a mutually-agreed-upon salary after a contract has expired, the player should be free to look for another team to play for, in or out of MLS. Now, the league may want to limit that right somewhat in the case of a drafted or homegrown player for a certain number of years, but teams should not have this much power to prevent out-of-contract players from going to another team in the league.

      • “Kansas City retained his rights even though he wasn’t under contract, wasn’t with the team, and Kansas City had no intention of him being with the team again.”

        they retained his *mls* rights. he was still free to negotiate with 99% of the clubs in the world, including non-mls clubs in this country.

        i do think the ‘player legacy rights’ (or whatever) system is absurd, as you called it, and i’d like it changed; but i guess i just don’t have much sympathy for the players, because they play soccer–it’s not like their options are really that limited.

      • The poor guy had devoted the last 15 years of his life playing in MLS, was one of the best goalies in league history, set all kinds of records, was going into the last 1-2 years of his career, married w/ family and you’d want him to try to go live overseas for 1-2, just hoping some foreign team would even take such a veteran, while at the same time other MLS teams would love to have him if only his rights weren’t being held hostage by the very structure of the league…REALLY?

      • Please, let the conversations remain abstract. Talking about real people makes all too…personal and concrete.

      • first of all, no. if you had read my whole comment, you would’ve seen that i think the current system is absurd.

        secondly, he doesn’t *have* to move his family. there are other soccer leagues (some of which pay pretty close to mls for star players) right here in this country.

        thirdly, i’d like to think he was fine with it–or at the very least, he wasn’t surprised–because he seems like an intelligent guy who wouldn’t play somewhere for 15 years without knowing the terms of his contract.

      • Why would someone be fine being held in professional purgatory when there were suitors for his service in the league he had extensive success, preferred country and desired to play in?

        This wasn’t a situation of someone wanting out of a contract, wanting off a team, wanting to be traded or wanting to be released.

        The Wizards didn’t want his service, made no further attempts to sign him, and intentionally held him in professional limbo for the slim hopes of compensation for property they somehow retained despite the above facts.

        Hartman wasn’t fine with it. He was irate, if I recall correctly and rightfully so.

        I understand your reasoning for “other leagues” but it’s blatantly ignoring a fundamental/unfair flaw in our system. If we want MLS to improve, these are the types of conversations and topics that need to be addressed.

      • yeah, the last part was me kind of being an @sshole. my point was that it’s odd that he would be so caught off guard by the system when he’d signed multiple contracts with the league.

        yes, it’s a flawed system. and if he had such a big problem with it, he didn’t have to sign with mls.

  9. If a players contract is up (they are no longer under contract from MLS) can’t that player go “on the market” to NASL, USL PRO, Mexico, England, France, Turkey, Germany, Russia, etc… Maybe they could play professional golf or tennis. Maybe they could go coach at some University team or the NATS. Maybe get an accounting job somewhere.

    Are they under contract with MLS for life? why would they sign a contract for life?

    • They are under contract with MLS for usually 3-5 years. At the end of that contract when the player has fulfilled his obligations he is free to negotiate with any TEAM/league in the world except MLS. He can certainly resign with MLS and be dealt wherever he is allocated among teams who wish to pay him a value determined by MLS BUT He is not allowed to negotiate DIRECTLY with a suitor in the market for his services w/o the filter of MLS HQ who determines his value and will green light or red light his contract. This does not allow him FREEDOM to test the market in his own country, in his own league which he contributed to the success or failure of. He is RESTRICTED from pursuing his own interest or advancing his career at a higher wage, in a new location or other variables related to his professional career without MLS HQ “allowing” him to do so.


  10. Again, will someone explain to me how a degree of freedom for player movement will threaten financial ruin if all of the clubs are subject to a salary cap? DPs aside — and the bizarre rules of “allocation money” and similar issues aside — isn’t this a simple question of resource allocation? If I know I can allocate spend only X dollars to all my players, how can winning a “bidding war” for a specific player or players send me spinning into a financial free-fall? It just means I will have less money to allocate to the rest of my roster. The owners are sounding like monopolists, not like the stewards of the sport they claim to be.

    • See my longer response on this topic above, but the basic question is about spending money on players currently in the league versus spending it on bringing in players not in the league. For current players, free agency is awesome, more money for them and less money to bring in their replacements.

    • I concur with Jason, and would add that MLS clubs are not being unreasonable in expecting some priority rights for players they have developed. Allowing players to move about MLS as they please at contract expiry without compensation only makes development even less appealing for teams at the moment….

      Free agency will make every current MLS player of any ongoing value more expensive. Enough to cause “financial ruin”? Doubtful. But I see the importance of the precedents involved.

      • That would justify, at most, a “service years” requirement before some freedom kicked in. The current restrictions go well beyond that. They cover everybody, regardless of who developed him.

      • I think my idea meets your concerns. With a requirement on time served before achieving some fre agency (the ability to negotiate with other clubs), you protect the teams that have developed p;layers. You can also do like what some of the other sports do. If the player has been with the team a certain time, like 3 years, and go out and negotiate with another club for a new deal, then the original club has the choice of matching that contract or not and keeping the player. After so many years with the club, they lose the ability to match. With a salary cap, there is financial stability for the league and the clubs. Also, it gives an advantage to those GM’s who can more wisely spend their money since it is a level playing field and you can move your allocation around in all sorts of different ways. That’s why I like the idea of being able to use some DP money to add to your salary cap if you choose to do so. One thing that is absolutely necessary, BTW, is that the minimum be raised so that anyone making the 23 or how ever many players MLS teams have on their roster, make enough to live on relatively comfortably, whether they are a rookie or a veteran. I would put that number at $75,000 at least and have it adjust for inflation.

  11. I’ve been saying it for a week or two since I’ve read various statements from the players union, but I don’t think everyone is on the same page and not everyone shares the desire for this to be an end all/be all topic within the player union.

    I foresee them caving in on this subject and a statement like “some form of free agency” leads me to believe I’ll, unfortunately, be right.

    • Old School, you’re absolutely right. MLS is not in the position where it can survive a strike unscathed — and both the owners and players know that. Otherwise, why aren’t we seeing threats of a lockout?

      Just look at how strikes and lockouts alienated fans in baseball and hockey over the past 30-plus years. Both sports took a lot of time to recover, and those are sports that have far greater traction in North America than soccer.

      • While I understand your argument, I think the fans/public would be much more willing to ‘forgive’ the work stoppage, given the average salaries MLS players make.

        The players would be striking to have the opportunity to see if their $95K salary could be improved by being allowed to move to another team after it’s finished. These are much more ‘real world’ problems that fans can relate to than MLB or NHL strike issues.

  12. I wonder if both the players and the league are getting too hung up over the phrase “free agency.” The players want it, because it exists in other sports leagues in North America. The owners say it is impossible, because MLS is a single entity. Meanwhile, what the players want is increased mobility and what the league wants is to keep salaries manageable. Perhaps doing away with one or two rounds of drafts (what happened in this week’s Waiver Draft 3.0, anyway?) and taking away some of the control the teams have over certain players (did the Whitecaps really deserve Garberbucks for “letting” Philly get Vitoria?) would be enough to satisfy the players without panicking the owners too much. To get to that, though, both sides need to step back and maybe stop using the phrase “free agency.”

    • The term “free agency” means nothing in the context of how the players/league are using it. The players should be advocates for a “Free Market” devoid of catch 22’s and obscure rules (Waiver drafts, re entry drafts, discovery claims, allocation money and players rights BS of “contract + 2” policy related to leaving the league after completing your deal).

      The current system is lacking in transparency, honesty and integrity.

      Transparency – no one knows the complete policy on transfers, player allocation and the like. Don admitted himself that things have to be made on the fly.

      Honesty – we’ve been told that policies are one thing only to find out that they were not enforced in this circumstance. The rules were about 1 DP…then 2 DP’s…then

      On and on constant rewrites and changes about things once professed that in actuality are not expressed. Dishonesty leads to disloyalty. MLS HQ is loyal to its endgame over the good of all.

      Integrity – GM’s like Garth are allowed to finish the contract and then search for the next desirable step in his career path with no strings attached. Ali left MLS HQ to become GM, and others have changed jobs and locations at their pleasure with no player or money swaps or draft order changes and the like.

      Have an integrated approach for all MLS PERSONEL. This policy that exist for one set of employees that is unavailable fir the other set of employees is an UN-INTEGRATED POLICY. Some would call it work place discrimination by creating an executive class and plebeian class of employees.

  13. This is really interesting. It also makes me more confused though. How would free agency allow players to test their worth on the open market? As long as MLS is single entity, players would continue to negotiate with just the league, right? Under free agency, they’d get the additional freedom to have the option to move to other clubs that want them when their contracts are up, but their contracts would still be with the league, right? I don’t see how free agency would achieve what Robles is talking about. Is there something I’m missing?

    This seems like a weird hill for the players to die on as opposed to a bigger salary cap increase, which would actually put more money in their pockets. Part of me wonders if the bulk of the union is afraid of salary increases pushing them out of the league in favor of higher priced foreign talent.

    • Wouldn’t they be talking to the various teams (coaches, GMs, etc.)? I guess there is a lot we don’t understand about the current process.

      • They would, and so it would give them the freedom to find the best situation, but as far as the contract itself, as long as MLS is single entity, it would still just be with the league. Robles keeps talking about letting the market determine a player’s worth, and I don’t see how free agency achieves that unless it’s coupled with an end to single entity, which is definitely not happening in the near future.

    • The way I understand it, Joamiq, is that the “negotiation” of the contracts (salary number & terms) are actually done by the teams themselves with the player/agent. The agreed terms are then communicated to and (usually) rubber-stamped by MLS, and a contract with the league is drafted and signed based on this request.

      (I had a conversation with a fellow from the MLS finance dept last week about this, so I am fairly confident this is how things are done, generally speaking at least)

      So to Robles’ point, two or more teams could independently make differing offers to a player during the same period, which the player could then use to estimate his “market value”. Unless the player had moved forward and executed a contract, it’s possible he would have had no formal communication with the League, at all… just the individual teams. Of course, these teams would both be working within the context of the same salary cap, so in this sense they are not entirely “independent” offers.

      Hopefully that helps, a bit.

      • Ahh, I see, thanks! I had always been under the impression that teams just indicated their interest to the league and then the league negotiated the salary details with the players.

  14. Exactly. Many MLS players don’t know their true value because of the leagues bizarre artificial rules on such things. For most rank and file players, it takes away too much negotiating freedom from the individual player. We really don’t know their true market, better or worse, because it’s not allowed to exist. And to those who say, “Play abroad if you’re unhappy here and you’re so good.” (It’s not that simple, work permits just one of many examples why) MLS’ artificial marketing scheme valuation system not only devalues players domestically, but it devalues them internationally too.

    It’s refreshing to hear Robles speak professionaly about this, as opposed to Hansen, who came off as petulant and entitled.

  15. I don’t see why the owners should be opposed to some form of free agency as long as there is a salary cap. I’m all in favor of competition, stability and flexibility for the clubs. It seems to me they could do the following–double the salary cap, allow free agency after a player has been at one club a certain length of time(like 3 years) or in the league a certain length of time (like 5 years). Also, in addition to the 3 DP slots, allow teams to take the average cost of a DP and apply that money to their salary cap so that they would then have 2 DP’s, but could pay more to their other players. If, for example, the average DP cost is $2.5 million, then a team could take that money to get 5 players at $500 k each. This improves overall team quality, it seems to me, and give teams flexibility and creativity within a salary cap.

    • Real open roster competition and a free market would mean getting rid of international slot restrictions. I haven’t seen one player advocate that. These guys want to get paid. Bully for them. Just don’t think for a second they give a darn about what’s best for the development of the sport in this country.

      • Do you think getting rid of international slot restrictions would be best for the development of the sport in North America (remembering that there are, after all, two countries represented in MLS)?

      • Absolutely. It’s foolish to think paying the same guys more money will result in a better product. If MLS is going to pay more they should be able to buy better players w/o restrictions. Then the ingrates who now threaten to damage MLS can go play kick ball in D3 where their talents belong.

      • Saw Minnesota Kicks games live. Then Nats playing in APSL & had urine thrown on me at the LA Coliseum. I’ve seen plenty of US Soccer. And you?

      • Went to see the Toronto Blizzard at Varsity Stadium and Canada playing at the same place and also at Swangard. Whitecaps STH since before they were the Whitecaps. So, no, no US Soccer. But I remember the NASL and what happened to it.

      • I think if you are talking about what I think you are–removing the limit number of non citizen/green card holders–it is a terrible idea that will only hurt the future of soccer in the Central and Northern parts of North America.

        Come to think of it, I know several Mexian league fans who think that they have too many foreign players in LigaMX and that league is pretty solid…

        Maybe I misunderstood the question…

      • The foreign player limits inflate value of US players. They’re just not enough quality American players to make a world class league. Better idea to fill out the pyramid and let them play kick ball at their true skill level in D3. We’re a nation of 300 million. Plenty of room for all.

      • I’m happier raising the level of US players than bringing in foreign talent to provide entertaining soccer. England has stated many times that they have an issue with their national team precisely because they have too many foreign players in the Premier League and not enough of their players in the top league.

        If you believe that the US talent pool is not rising get your head out of the sand. More and more MLS teams are creating academies, and youth soccer itself is becoming much more organized than it has ever been.

    • The combination of free agency and the salary cap in MLS is different than that in the NFL, NBA, or NHL. In those leagues, the player pool is largely set. There are a limited number of players in the world capable of entering these leagues and increasing their quality; therefore, increases and related decreases in salary are felt by the existing player pool. Pay your quarterback a little more, release a pricy linebacker and go find a cheaper one.
      In MLS, the economic calculus is different. There are thousands of soccer players around the world whose quality would increase the quality of the league. In this scenario, an increase for one player already in the league does not necessarily mean a decrease for another player already in the league. It more likely means less money to bring in talent from outside the league that would improve the league.
      From the owners’ prospective, the calculus of free agency is this: would the team rather 1) pay more to a player already in MLS, who, because he is not leaving the league after his contract expires, likely has few, if any, options outside of the league or 2) use that same money to increase the budget for bringing in a player from outside of MLS?
      Which one of these options makes the league better is an open debate. The players say that the ability to play where you want will 1) increase the competition between teams to provide for players making the league as a whole more attractive to players outside the league and 2) be more familiar to foreign players and decrease their hesitancy in joining the league. The owners’ position is that the extra cash is more attractive to players currently outside the league than the benefits supplied by free agency are. The owners’ opposition to free agency is a statement that they would rather keep the current players’ salaries down and use future salary cap increases to increase the budget to bring in non-DP foreign talent (Ciman, Ishizaki, Wright-Philipps, etc.) and bring back non-DP level MLSers who had other options (i.e. Feilhaber, Parkhurst, Goodson, Shea, Kamara, etc.).

    • They just need a system (for now at least) where they sign the players, and teams put their name in if they want the player, and the player gets to pick. Sort of like the JJones deal with a coinflip, except let the player choose. Hey guy, these four teams want you, we’ll sign you to this deal with the league and you can pick your team. Everyone wins.

    • I think the problem is not in the fact that players want free agency and owners don’t want to get it, but legally, the way that the league is set up as a single-entity, free agency cannot exist the same way it does elsewhere. There aren’t 20 different employers… there is only one. What the players should fight for is the right to choose which team they will play for after x years of service in the league. It would undoubtedly be a way to maintain balance in the league while giving the players some freedom of choice. The major focus should be to increase the salary caps overall, raise league minimum wages, and try to put in minimum spending floors forcing owners to really invest in their teams. Players benefit because they will get their money and freedom of choice with regards to where they play, owners will benefit because the quality of soccer will increase making it more engaging to fans which will bring in more revenue for the team, and fans will benefit because the league will grow stronger. Here is the one thing that cannot happen… a work stoppage. The players better get it out of their minds that they will strike… they strike the league takes a hit… the league takes a hit, the players are blamed… we revert back 5-10 years in the development of the league. Yes, the league owners need to pony up more to the players, but an effective plan to move toward free agency should be hatched, developed, and put in place for the next CBA.


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