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With free agency holding up CBA talks, Don Garber says federal mediators may be called

Don Garber 1


With one month until the Major League Soccer season is scheduled to begin, it’s clear collective bargaining agreement talks between the league and the players union could be going better.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber admitted to the Orlando Sentinel on Thursday night that there is still plenty of work to do to avoid a work stoppage and said federal mediators may need to be called in.

“The best thing I can say now with four weeks or so before the start of the season is we’ve got a lot of work to do and we’re committed to spending the time needed to reach an agreement,” Garber told reporters on Thursday. “We’ll get help from federal mediation if that’s necessary and we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to solve our differences.”

The current CBA expired last week and if a new one isn’t in place before the season begins, a lockout or player strike seems inevitable — and with the two sides’ very different stances on free agency, it certainly seems possible a CBA won’t be ready next month.

While player compensation has been a key talking point, the major sticking point has remained player free agency. Last week, MLS Players Union executive director Bob Foose put it in very simple terms — if free agency isn’t part of the deal, then “that makes it impossible to get a deal done.”

In his comments Thursday, Garber hinted that free agency is a non-starter because owners invested in MLS as a single-entity system, which means no bidding between clubs for players.

“Our system is one that our owners fought hard to protect, it’s one that they bought into, particularly the new owners who have bought into the league, and that’s that our owners will not bid against each other for player services,” Garber said. “And that’s a key aspect of our entire system. We fully understand the players’ position on this issue. We’re going to try to work hard together to resolve, or to reach an agreement, and we’ve got some time to try to do so.”

Asked about the possibility of a work stoppage, Garber said he was “neither optimistic nor pessimistic,” but added that everyone at the negotiation table wanted what is best for the league.

“These negotiations are never easy, that’s just the nature of CBA negotiations and labor overall, so this doesn’t surprise me in any way,” Garber said of a possible work stoppage delaying the season. “I’m not afraid of it, I know our owners aren’t afraid of it and I don’t believe our players are afraid of it.”


What do you make of Garber’s comments? Should the league hold on to its single-entity system or move toward free agency? Do you see a strike happening?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. wouldn’t single entity make free agency EASIER?

    if you’re a player, and you are actually an employee of the league (not your club), then, wouldn’t “reassigning” you to a different club be just the simplest thing in the world? or am i missing something?

    • Nope you’re not. I formerly worked for a large company and resigned from one facility to take a new position (with higher pay) at a different facility yet my paychecks kept coming from the same large parent company without any interruption. In the corporate world people do it every day!

      • we all know that many mls players today want free agency. (i think they are saying they want some say in which city they will live in. maybe some of them have families or other community ties that are important to them beyond the soccer?) i wonder if something like this can also work in mls?

  2. Freedom is more important than rigging the outcome of billionaire sports investments.

  3. No one, including Garber, has yet explained in a satisfactory way how, with a salary cap, free player movement will lead to bidding wars and financial ruin. This is all about control and marketing. The old system of locking arms to shore up a rickety league, like in the early days of the NBA, has outlived its usefulness. Garber can’t cry financial fragility while at the same time steadily expanding the league. When most of your fans, as well as the media whose attention you so desperately crave, have no idea how players end up where they do, you have a big problem that’s only going to get worse when some “serious,” mainstream media outlet shines a spotlight on it.

    • Every year the cap goes up, ever year more allocation dollars are added, if you add in free agency which would you think would rise faster revenue or costs? Its that simple. Just because there is a cap doesn’t mean anything when the cap is fluid and there are mechanisms to pay down the salary hit. So if you are Columbus and you are flush with allocation money guess what you can hope to pay FA more to get them to come, guess what now another team can try to match or bid that by trading for allocation money, or players and cash or what else, now next year its not just two teams it’s six, that’s all cost , backed by nothing but the hope the player gets you into the playoffs. You already see this with dp’s the only thing is the owner of that team bares the lion share of that risk. The idea that Garber is being ridiculous or Byzantine is crazy, when they have signed a billion dollar TV contract and they still have low salaries and no limited FA type of mechanism then complain about him.

      • You are justifying restrictions by arguing that changing them would gave too many ripple effects on the rest of the increasingly complicated system. But that just begs the question of why it needs to be so complicated in the first place. Why not take away ALL player freedom? Put them all in a big pool every year, and then reassign them to assure parity and hold costs down.

    • Well, if the cap is too tough and the reserve salaries too low, the minors or foreign leagues will sign people at our expense. That would be the USL CCL burst of the 00s.

      And then if a draft went away for entry level players they could bid up who they start with. Auction basics. I bid $50k you bid $60k and now we’re paying $150k for a guy who would have been $70k. Similar process for marquee free agents.

      You are right that a cap would hold things down (assuming it’s not swiss cheesed by DP rules) but the likely scenario is the middle and bottom players get caught out and start weighing other options. PR Islanders used to live off accumulating people unwilling to play for MLS reserve wages. Scandinavia. B.2. Mexico. etc.

  4. I disagree with Garber that Free Agency can’t exist in some form within the Single Entity system. I also think the teams and MLS knew this argument was coming, and that is why they have raced to forming USL Pro sides or affiliations with existing USL Pro clubs. My guess is they are formulating a plan for how some hybrid can exist within single entity. If the past is a pattern, this is what I think they are up to currently.

    They will first set some threshhold on time in MLS that will allow for free agency to kick in (probably 4 years, because that is the normal length of contract for a first-term player).

    Then they will add a cost control element, i.e. said free agent player can’t receive more than 200% or less than 75% of his current salary from any interested team, and if multiple interested teams are willing to pay highest dollar, go to the allocation order…

    The USL Pro sides are a contingency. An increased salary cap and increased minimum salary does not mean more money for current players, but more money for future players. Yet MLS wants to keep total control, and they want to avoid releasing burgeoning talent to the likes of the NASL (of whom I am a SA Scorpions supporter). So, future quality players come in… Borderline veteran MLS players get pushed out after thinking they got a great deal in the new CBA. They get relegated to USL Pro to play out their contracts with a bunch of young developing talent who hope to make it to the show (MLS).

    Players’ Union think they are getting a win, but the USL Pro is the unforeseen crux.

  5. Yes, I have done a wonderful job and these ungrateful players should be honored to play in a league I oversee.

    I think $36K is a perfectly reasonable salary for our younger players. Think of it as an allowance more than a salary.

  6. To imperative voice…..u won’t get the kind of star talent we continue to bring in by slashing those salary options…..guys like Henry and Kaka aren’t going to come here for a clown salary. Please don’t suggest we slice their salary n give to a 20yo trying to make his mark.

    I hope most of us realize that, despite some of our disagreements with how Garber might handle some issues, overall he has done one hell of a good job at the helm and really deserves some credit.

    • (a) Having two players on the same team, one of whom makes $40k and another $5 million kind of begs the question.

      (b) That some teams can afford expensive players tiers the league.

      (c) There is also economic sustainability lurking in the background. It’s nice to sign big names but can we make a profit doing it now?

      I think the fairest solution is increased minimum salaries, increased cap, but a hard cap without exceptions.

  7. The players have a winnable court case, and the owners know it. Depends on the appetite for a strike that the players have. US court already called the league a “hybrid single entity” and that was before they had so many DPs. This is the best time for the players to have this fight. I predict a looooong strike. Like possibly the whole season and this ends up in court.

    • No, I don’t think they do. This is from a lawsuit the players brought against the league back in 1997. The ruling came in April of 2000. “In April, Judge O’Toole threw out that part of the lawsuit by ruling single-entity ownership does not violate federal anti-trust law. He ruled that MLS is a single corporation operating in multiple cities and that a single corporation cannot enter into an illegal conspiracy with itself. The judge said that it is not unlawful for MLS, and not its individual teams, to own all player contracts and to negotiate collectively.”
      At the same time, if MLSPU’s position is that within the single-entity structure, a certain limited free-agency for players who have already played in the league for say 5 years is completely reasonable, then they have every right to stick to their position and strike if necessary to try to get it. No union wants to go that route but they can if they feel they need to.

      • It was not ruled on when it was appealed, but doubt was cast onto the legitimacy of the structure. Will not hold up at this point.

      • I don’t think you get to re-litigate the issue of single entity in a subsequent lawsuit between the same parties unless the structural facts have changed.

  8. The salary cap and limits on free agency make sense in a weird sort of way. Despite our worship of private profit-seeking corporations, we also can see that in the world of sports they manifest serious self-destructive tendencies, in particular a propensity to spend much more than they take in and, in the process, to incur awesome debts. The founders of MLS wanted to protect themselves from these tendencies and thus the salary cap and so on. Of course, it didn’t hurt that these measures also ensured that the owners got a really healthy share of revenues and the players very little at all.
    Now, however, the creation of designated players with their swollen salaries makes the MLS’ claim to frugal, responsible spending seem ridiculous. Why should only a few players, and usually foreign players at that, be able to benefit from the workings of a free market? It is sort of like being a little bit pregnant. And in any case, the massive sums newcomers are willing to spend for new franchises makes the basic rationale — that is, building a business from zero — seem out of date.

  9. its pathetic how MLS clings to their training wheels and makes statements that there will NEVER be things like free agency, promotion/rel, calendar, expansion, transparency etc. These are the guys who have this ever-modifiable rule book..

    its not like the players, fans, USSF, etc are demanding anything ridiculous immediately .. we are all on board with slow, calculated growth with the longevity of this league the main priority; just incorporate everyone in this gradual plan instead of strong arming everything with statements that are basically saying, you will NEVER have a voice in the league makeup, just agree to what we are offering and keep supporting

  10. At some point the training wheels need to come off. The more this is drawn out, mixed with Garber’s bizarre comments, make me feel like Don really doesn’t care about league potential, or being one of the top leagues in the world. He seems to just like his special edition toy he carries around school and only shows his close friends, and secretly hopes no one else gets one because he likes the attention.

    • As much as I dislike The Don, I don’t think it’s fair to characterize him as not caring about the potential of the league (short or long term). I do, however, stand by my opinion the league, its owners and the commissioner absolutely need someone to “push” them forward.

      I understand the mentality of baby steps and recognize the reasoning for it. However, I also think there’s a valid risk that MLS falls victim to complacency. Too many things need to happen still before I can take this league seriously and the double-talk, lack of transparency, and it’s insatiable craving for power turn off fans like me that want to give it a chance, want to support it and want it to be “our” league.

      The Don cares about the league potential, but I don’t think he’s the right man to lead it to it’s full potential.

      • Not only that, but he’s in the middle of a CBA negotiation and his job is to promote the interests and point of view of the owners. Things that get said in negotiations need to be taken with again of salt.

  11. While I have general understood and supported (most of) MLS’ goofy rules over the years Garber is wrong on this. It’s time for full free agency, at least for league veterans (maybe 4+ years). Players should be able to ply their trade wherever they want. It’s the American way.

  12. I hate communism and socialism in sports, well in general. I have to agree with CBA, also Garber has evolve with sports and MLS not to be three or four years too late changes that before then. Reasons while we need an increase about 500k-700k in salary cap, signing and performance bonuses without salary cap issues, increase max to 650k without being DP, and trade bonuses about 3k-5k.

    Note: I am more free market guy.

      • Soccer isn’t NFL or NBA. MLS trying copy NFL loses more fans with it, most MLS fans don’t care Ms. Perry in MLS final. I understand salary cap, sharing revenue TV because MLS isn’t big enough.

        I do wish NFL and NBA stop being tax-exempt.

    • I think that my reference to St Pauli type clubs comes from my view that MLS has succeeded due to subcultural elements which corporate MLS is striving to embrace. Would you agree? Look at the supporters and you’ll find more and more club supporters, but you most definitely hear people defending MLS and American Pro Soccer in general to ESPN, JIm Rome type elements. So yes, I think that the CBA has some right to ask for more players rights, but are we ready to take the free market plunge with the MLS when its roots are in socialism?

      • Reason why we need signing bonuses, performance bonuses, and give the player moving fee when trade it. MLSteams need academy players and local kids part of their team. One many reason why South American clubs have strong attachment with them. Draft I could be OK with. We can’t make it all equal with this salary cap, if a team out sell jersey, get more money from TV revenue, and draw bigger crowds, has better jersey deal than other MLS teams, those teams need spend a bit more like an extra 300k.

  13. Over the years I’ve noticed that I have been more of a fan of MLS than I have of any particular team. Of course I have my preferences. And, I’ve often argued, even on this site that I have even supported the league like some in the world support a club a la politics of “Soccer vs The State, Gabriel Kuhn,”
    Yet, MLS is no St. Pauli, not Napoli, it’s venture capitalism with huge filthy corporate dollars. So, as much as I want player to be paid fairly and owners to suck it I want this league to succeed.

  14. I say if the players don’t get what they want they have every right to make a formal complaint to FIFA thru FIFPro ( the FIFA players assocation). Let the season burn its not right for the owners/franchisors to be taking advantage of players like this. Soccer is not going away in the US anytime soon its time to make a stand on players rights for us to move the league forward.

  15. Those expensive players, i.e. Kaka, Lampard, and Gerrard are not the cause for this strife. Don’t forget that Beckham was a major transformationAL moment for MLS. The system needs an adjustment and now seems a logical time to make some major progress on spreading the wealth to the lower paid half of league players. Let’s raise that minimum salary to something more reasonable, maybe $60k and ensure there’s a true middle class salary for guys who’ve been in the league for more than 4 years.

    • The irony is you propose the sorts of increases I am sure they are asking for while denying one of the drivers for that increase, that if they are paying guys millions they can surely divide that by 25 and parcel it out as increased salary.

    • That’s a great question I’ve yet to see asked by a journalist. Additionally, I can’t find any confirmation online but that could be due to my lack of skill with Google.

      • Essentially no

        They can sign, but if MLS files a grievance with FIFA, they will be banned by any FIFA league if there is a strike. If there is a lockout, I don’t know.

      • generally, the owners lock them out the players should be able to play elsewhere. Players strike, they shouldn’t be playing.

        That said, no idea what is in their contracts and what the league law team has forced on them..

      • I just remember the NHL strike a few years back and a lot of players played in Europe. Europe wouldn’t necessarily be an option for many players but I wonder if NASL, LigaMX or other lesser leagues would be options. If so, I imagine NASL is licking their chops.

      • That wasn’t a strike, it was a lockout. (The league told the players not to play) therefore the players can make a living elsewhere.

  16. Free agency as it’s normally understood is structurally incompatible with MLS. It’s not simply that Don Garber and the investor/operators of the individual “teams” don’t like it; it’s that the corporation would have to be legally dissolved and a new league replace it.

    As a result, even assuming the investor/operators were OK with free agency, the challenge before MLS and its investor/operators would be to come up with something that looks enough like free agency to make the players happy, but is somehow still consistent with the existing structure of MLS.

    • Allow players who have been in the league 5 consecutive years and are out of contract to negotiate with any team.

      That would probably make the players happy & really, how many players actually fall into that category?

      • something like this, just posted it above. perhaps they could create a couple of FA slots per team, like DP slots, or something like that to reward veterans of X number of years in the league, maybe 5

    • If this is true, one has to wonder why us soccer grants this cartel the highly profitable privilege of D1 status?

      A real federation would not be so closely aligned with the owners.

      • US Soccer hasn’t been a real federation since all these NFL guys took over when MLS was created.

    • Not sure i buy that it’s “incompatible with MLS”.

      MLS has shown to be “clever” at inventing stuff; sometimes out of nowhere based on nonsensical reasoning.

      However, I am sure they create “some sort of free agency”.

      Let the teams financially compete against each other within the Salary Cap limits.

      If a team “over-spends” on a player; so be it. Let them deal with at. Most teams operate at full cap nowadays any way. So allowing teams to make better offers than their on field competitor makes sense.

      This whole communistic approach on dealing players,setting market prices, allocating , discovery claim non-sense is all created by MLS “Non-Compete” rules.

      TV contract is now worth 3x more than the prior one. Surely MLS teams can spend a little more now.

  17. Agreed…..this has been most exciting off season ever with huge signings, new teams, expansion news, they need to get this straightened out before the season begins. Attendance this year will almost certainly top 20k average per game, 60k might be in Orlando next month. Give these players a sizable salary increase and a “form” of free agency.

    • But is part of the reason for the eagerly awaited season the very same expensive players who are a cause of the labor kerfuffle.

  18. One of the large ironies here is that the players on the lower end of the pay scale, who need to drive the push for free agency and the better pay scale it will bring, are going to lose their spots in the league on a skill level. The higher wages that free agency will bring, will also bring in better talent, international spot rules obviously dictating how much, but a lot of the lower end college players who fill a roster wont be playing in the league anymore.

    Also – IMO – this league cannot withstand a work stoppage, while its about to step into the last growth phase of owners burning money to join, and launch teams. Would be a disaster.

    • MLS is always wavering on roster size because you don’t need 30 first team people and they aren’t great on reserve development. The half hearted desire to have dibs on players who they actually can’t quite develop is one reason the wages are low.

      • True – I guess I was speaking more in a theoretical sense, that the life free agency brings to contracts and the pursuit of skilled players, no matter what their role on the roster, might bring.

        I honestly don’t know what this league looks like 2-3 years post free agency, if it happens now or in the next 2 years. I think with owners buying in at massive expansion costs to a model where they think labor cost will be fixed, the league has to take an ‘over my dead body’ approach at this point, and then hope to pass off some byzantine hybrid of a systems that only a roomful of motivated labor and contract lawyers can conceptualize.

        @Imperative Voice – what do you think head to toe of the situation?

      • I think the DPs beg the salary question for bottom rung players who say, geez, you could pay me $10k more and it’s a drop in the DP well. You obviously have the cash to pay these DPs.

        Which then stokes the mobility question because it’s like if you won’t pay me then why can’t I go to the other team that will.

        And with MLS getting better and better you have top end skilled veterans who can demand coin on the world stage seeing what Bradley etc have gotten, so the top and bottom have common cause in increased compensation and mobility.

        But from MLS’ perspective there is no pressure like what happened in CCL for a few years where PR and Montreal ate their lunch under smaller rosters and low reserve salaries. NASL is not stealing trophies or their thunder. There is no threat so there is no pressure. The sole risk is a mutually destructive labor stoppage killing the golden goose.

        I think MLS will come under pressure to make concessions as a labor stoppage nears, from an economic perspective. I think they will resist big change and we’ll have a lockout for a but until they can hammer out a compromise.

  19. Turn about is fair play.

    “We believe that the league, the future of the sport and our relationship with the federation are inextricably linked.”

    It’s no secret I dislike Don Garber, so I ask the clearly rhetorical question: With so many Nats now within MLS, is Don Garber hurting the national team by risking a potential strike?

    Of course, I thought both entities were supposed to be unflinchingly supportive of one another. A strike is detrimental to the fitness, form and general preparation against Denmark and Switzerland in March.

    “I’m just am demanding that he refrain from making comments which are critical of our players and damaging to our league.”

    Maybe Jurgen should demand MLS avoids a work stoppage as that damages the national team.

      • A very logical solution, and I’m sure a contingency is in place (or would hope). I’m just pointing out the irony of the situation.

      • I’m sure JK would relish the irony of training MLS players during a work stoppage. And we’d see if his ideas on formations, fitness, etc. are a crock or something he can pull off. Right now he can blame MLS because it’s shared responsibility.

      • US Soccer is not the one potentially locking out players — that’s MLS. Why couldn’t US Soccer organize an ad hoc camp for people locked out?

        Back in the pre MLS days the US team used to camp for weeks at a time, since the team was a mix of full pros, semi pros, and amateurs, and there was no MLS season to work around. If a lock out freezes out players why can’t they camp? The whole point is their employer is refusing their services.

        If you think about the NBA strike, some locked out players went and played in Europe or China.

      • This won’t be a lockout, it will be a strike. The league is perfectly happy with the just expired CBA, and will happily play this season under it. The players are the ones seeking concessions, (not a judgement call, just reality) therefore they would call for a work stoppage. When the workers stop, it’s a strike.

    • Sure you can make an arguement for that.

      You can also make an arguement that the lack of parity in England is hurting our national team ( ours and many others )…and you would be 100% correct. Luckily we have an domestic league option, which many players are taking.

      Now, let’s get back to how do they solve the FA/Single Entity balance.

      • How is lack of parity in England hurting other national teams? Or England? Spain won three straight tournaments recently and La Liga is the quintessential example of a league lacking parity. Same thing with Germany. England isn’t at that level because their development system doesn’t produce enough good players. I don’t think that’s a function of non-parity.

      • England has a combination of a more cosmopolitan first division squeezing out domestic talent and our reserve league conundrum. But they have better development. It just has to find its way in a league with expensive players crowding teams.

  20. Single entity system means no bidding against each other. What a joke. Garber, your comments are a joke. You think we are idiots?

    MLS can’t control every facet of the bargain. Let’s just look at the crap you made up to get Jermaine Jones to New England. Hey how about a blind draw between Chicago and New England??? Looks like you just pulled that out of your rear end MLS/Garber. This is just one example of many.

    Not hating against the system as it has brought MLS this far. However, the biggest obstacle to tomorrow’s success is yesterday’s success. It’s time to change MLS.

  21. I just hope they figure something out. This season looks to be the best ever (or at least up there) and I’d hate to lose any of it this way.

  22. I totally understand where the players are coming from and if I was a player I would want free agency too. But the owners bought into the league because it’s a single-entity system, which means as Don said, no bidding between clubs for players. The players knew this when they signed their contracts. If they were against it then, they never should have signed with MLS. It like they’re now biting the hand that feeds them. If it wasn’t for the owners and the single-entity system, there wouldn’t be MLS. Honor your contracts. If at the end of your contract you want out, play somewhere else. Maybe they can all go play for the Cosmos.

    • ‘If it wasn’t for the owners and the single-entity system, there wouldn’t be MLS.”

      Maybe this statement true. I would say people taking losses for year is more so the reason and Hunt funding the league is more so the reason. With that being said yes they had this mechanism in place, so what? the reason it was there was for financial necessity.

      Now, it’s more so a personal burden for players and cause for headache for potential players and fans. Of course the owners love it. Doesn’t mean they should have it going forward nor does it mean it’s an unchangeable thing.

      The sky won’t fall if you remove this put a hard cap and get rid of stupid discovery claims.

      • Also, MLS isn’t exactly scrapping for peanuts now. Don’t let Don fool you. The league makes money.

        “But not all teams make money”

        Yeah, but its single entity. Also,for the teams that aren’t making money at this point– what makes you think they will get their act together without major changes in –stadium, re branding, ownership etc… can’t let these cheap teams hold you down.

      • The reason is because “some teams (all) have been taking losses for years?” Not really. Without single entity there would be no league. You can’t argue that. SE keeps the league competitive so rich teams don’t dominate and poor teams don’t fade away. A higher hard cap would help and ma push a few teams out like ChivasUSA who didn’t care enough two invest. But still, players don’t have to play here if they don’t like it.

      • My Point was Lamar Hunt funded the league when it was in the dumps. Even with Single Entity and no Hunt, MLS fails.

        So that is why I say that. Single Entity allowed this to happen. But remove a generous investor like Hunt and you have failure.

      • Also, teams taking losses is why single entity exists…to fund the teams that struggle financially and survive as a league.

        Salary Caps promote parity, look at NBA, NFL.

        Single Entity is there to drive down cost and to be in the green from a whole entity perspective.

        Stop confusing the two.

    • Come on Micheal, I am all for a strong league and support MLS and love what they have accomplished.

      But when guys say they can just leave, don’t you think they are screwing over the small guy ? The guy who is entertaining me at $50-100k. He isn’t going to go to a secondary league in Europe and see if it works out. He would be an idiot to.

      Kind of proved my point when you said, if you don’t like it, join the Cosmos, 7th place team in a lesser league.

      • Dear Quit,

        Not sure I follow. Seriously, why can’t the 50K player play in USL? Many player in the USL make more than they would in MLS and have fine careers. It seems a bit disingenuous to say I love this team, I’ll sign for this team and after that I’ll sue the league to get my free agency.

  23. Baby steps, this league has survived because of it. We’re still not there with $100 million loss last year and half empty stadiums. Having said that, with so many soccer players to choose from, the owners don’t need to be afraid of free agency. They should say ok but not partake in bidding wars.

      • MLS players union doesn’t have the money to really pursue an anti-trust suit.

        Traffic and Sela Sport on the other hand,…..

      • Off course it’s collusion, but single entity is collusion for the greater good. Until we get masses flocking to the stadiums for regular season games in all markets then we must settle for a product that is sustainable. I for one have no desire to go back to the days of mom-and-pop run sunday “pro leagues” played on high school football fields. Stick to your guns Commish.

    • Most soccer clubs in the world lose money. This is not a profitable business and never will be. It’s really about pleasing fans, and avoiding debt and relegation.

  24. I also saw on that article that was linked a week or 2 ago about $500 for a relocation fee, which is peanuts. If guys are going to have to drop everything they know because another team wants “allocation money” then he shouldn’t have to pay for moving his family across the country.
    I would think $3-5K is more reasonable, and it might give the teams a second thought of all these “trades” if they have to come up with another $15-20k in expenses every year.

      • But, but, then the billonares would go bankrupt and American soccer would collapse! Don’t criticize the current regime or the sky will fall!

    • They make the players pay to move? I thought that was one of the perks of a trade, here’s your ticket, we’ll take care of you now. Not an invoice.

      • I’m at a complete loss of the players name (think he is in Scandinavia now), but he writes as well and said that the club is supposed to give players a $500 check/bonus to move, but it is also like pulling teeth to try and actually collect

      • Bobby Warshaw. Does some quality writing. Kid has a future as a soccer writer after his career. Really intelligent and he used to play for FC Dallas before moving to Europe.

    • And then JK expects the players to just go down to Arizona in the off season to stay in shape. Who pays for that JK? Sure the DP’s can afford it, and may even have it included in their contracts. But the up and coming January camp players sure can’t.

      • You do get appearance fees playing for the USMNT and getting called up. A couple thousand dollars or so. But guys like Matt Hedges likely cant afford it.
        Beckerman? Ya no problem.

      • Clint Irwin tweeted about that recently. a long the lines of yes more players should be doing the things that Klinnsman is asking but its not really feasible on 45-50k salaries that can be lost year to year. add in the costs of living, relocating, etc and ya hes got a point.

      • It used to be that the point of January camp was precisely this, gathering offseason players to get a jump on fitness ahead of MLS season so the Nats could play early month games.

        The glitch is now expecting people to show up match fit.

        It might be in the US’ best interests to spend money on pool offseason fitness. However, who gets the call for the fitness camp? Don’t you have to pick winners at some point still?

        Also, all due respect to the money stuff but club is their job and international is a reward for excellence. If you want on the NT you figure out a way to put in the hard work. The NT might do well to fund fitness for a chosen few but this is your career.

  25. also, if there isn’t going to be free agency, then players should be able to veto any trade they are involved in, or re-negotiate their terms when traded for. If one side isn’t afforded free movement, the other side shouldn’t be either.

  26. it would be great if everyone just signed one year deals with no team options (doubt it’s possible though) and sent the league into panic mode.

    • To me that’s a terrible idea- I want players that play for my team to stay year-in and year-out. Of course improving every year as well.
      Why would it be good to reshuffle the players every year?

  27. Free agency with a hard cap, please. In my opinion the most simple to make MLS player acquisition more transparent, logical and fair w/o eliminating competitive balance all together. Not sure we’ll get there during this CBA, however.

    • I agree, I think the hard cap years were the fairest, the DP era has brought some tiering into the system. Some well paid teams (TFC) stil stink and some teams like Houston get by on a shoestring but LA has dominated this era.

    • We don’t want to do anything to make it harder for big name, higher priced players to come here. We need more of those guys. If you can’t pay anyone over say $400k, that’s a talent cap as much as it is a salary cap.

      • But spending more than we make is what can kill a team or league. Look at Pompey, Gretna, Rangers, etc. MLS could decide that stability and measured growth over time is more important than winning player acquisition battles without the fans in the stands, tv deal, etc. to cover the cost.

  28. Why not combine or expand the existing DP rules? When one team wants to pay for a guy, and that player wants to pick his team, then that team compensates the other teams. I could be dreaming though

    • Something like this will probably happen. Typical MLS “solution” that preserves the billionaires’ advantage over labor. And they will probably call it something corny like “Freedom-like Agency” of “Designed Freedom”, lol.

    • i thought the nfl, nba, mlb, and nhl were all single-entity as well, yet they all have free agency. can someone explain to me why those two things would be mutually exclusive for mls?

      • I think there is a difference, never really cared to understand it.

        But I think I am with you, I can’t imagine that they can’t do some sort of FA that the players will be happy with, but still allows MLS to compete with the rest of the world, but not against itself “too much”

      • Doesn’t the salary cap pretty much negate any argument that teams would be competing against each other? If a team is willing to take a cap hit to bring someone in that sets the players worth.

        Really this comes down to the DP rules. Garber doesn’t want teams bid-warring on DP’s. MLS props up the purchase of DP’s (see Dempsey’s transfer fees, etc) – so really this is what needs to be addressed when it comes to free agency.

      • The issue, from Garber’s point of view, is that free agency would drive up the value of players (something that the players want). But with higher wages, the league is less financially sustainable, and susceptible to collapse. One must remember that the collapse of the NASL under massive debt still looms large for Garber and MLS. I don’t know what the solution is, since I certainly understand the POV of the players, too.

      • With all contracts having to be approved by the league anyway, I don’t understand that argument. They either have a number-cruncher who can tell them whether X designated player contract is good or bad for the financial health of the league or else they just wing it and hope it all pans out. Something tells me it’s the former!

      • It’s not so much that it would “drive up the value of players” as that it would more accurately reflect the current value of players within the global market. MLS’s current structure artificially drives down the price of players, which is good for franchise owners, and bad for players. It is also bad for American soccer as it is a contributing factor in our loss of talent to foreign sides who are more willing and able to pay players in accordance with their actual value.

      • nice post. perhaps players with a certain number of years in the league can gain some kind of FA, and there are salary slots available on teams to pay those players more. I don’t know the answer either but some give from both sides needs to happen. a lockout or strike would be the worst possible conclusion for both sides seems to me

      • For legal purposes they claim they are one entity that can’t compete within itself, as opposed to many teams signing players individually, who can be seen as “working together to surpress wages.” They then hold up USL or NASL as competition. True or untrue, that’s the argument, is they can’t collude with themselves.

        It was more justifiable when they were weaker economically. It’s going to come under increasing pressure as the pie expands.

      • Is there any actual proof that the league is stronger financially? It’s hard for the public to know what’s actually going on.

      • Got any proof they aren’t. When millionaires like Sheike MC and the owner of the Atlanta Falcons pony up big bucks for a franchise, they do so expecting to make a tidy profit. Noone would be in line to get a team if the financials didn’t check out

      • The difference is part legal semantics, part a question of ultimate ownership. The NLF, MLB, etc., are more like a cartel – fully independent owners working in a cooperative arrangement, sharing revenue, agreeing to a set of rules and conditions, etc., but nonetheless the full owners of their teams. MLS doesn’t have owners – it has “operators”. It’s more like a franchise where you are supplied by the central company, have to sell what they sell, etc. It’s like a bunch of guys who own steak houses pooling together some resources to get better prices on meat (the NFL) and guys who buy a Subway franchise who have to sell foot longs.

        I’m glossing over a lot, but there are important legal differences, But in reality, the single entity structure is specifically designed to make player management easier and, to a lessor extent, keep potentially disruptive owners in line. From a legalistic point of view, there can’t be free agency because there is only one entity – the league. (There is in a sense free agency for all MLS players right now – they can sell their services to any league in the world, if the foreign leagues will have them. In that sense, the have far more freedom of movement than NFL players, and pretty much MLB and NBA players too.)

        I think what most people miss is that genuine free agency – say by declaring all players free agents every year – would drive down salaries for most players. Middle of the pack guys, who are essentially equivalent to dozens of other players, have no bargaining power. In MLB, it’s salary arbitration, not free agency, that makes salaries so high. MLS’s soft cap and allocation money (aside from DP money) helps teams pay more and it helps individual players earn more. It’s not a bad system in many ways.

        I think the compromise here would be to create a much larger role for players to buy into moves. It’s a half way house to free agency if players out of contract can go to other teams and negotiate within the salary cap restrictions who they want to play for.

        I mean, it’s patently ridiculous that a guy can go to Europe for two or three years and still be restricted to a club that hasn’t paid him in years. So are “discovery” claims that restrict a guy to a team he never had a connection with. There is a clear path to creating more freedom of movement without having clubs bargain against each other on salary

      • Good points-
        I would add you only have so many non domestic player slots, so domestic players still hold a higher value here than players who would take up an international slot (in a practical sense).

      • MLS is the only major league that is single entity, NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB are all considered separate individual companies when is comes to player’s contracts. They have at points tried to claim they are “single entity but it has never held up in court when it comes to competing to sign players. However some of those leagues are considered single entity when dealing with apparel liscensing and TV broadcasts, this has be questioned recently and there are pending lawsuits against the leagues regarding single entity under those circumstances.

    • I am 100% for free agency, I meant that work stoppages should be avoided if at all possible. Maybe not possible in this case though. I still think this results in a deal at the last minute which gets closer to free agency but doesn’t quite provide everything the players want.


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