Major League Soccer's CBA negotiations making slow progress
Are you ready for the twentieth edition of MLS First Kick? You are? That’s great, because apparently the league is not.
With the back and forth over the new collective bargaining agreement in Major League Soccer, the league have sent in the big guns in Clark Hunt and Robert Kraft. By big guns, I mean they have guns but refuse to load them for fear of spending money on ammunition and maintenance. If you wanted to meet the players in the middle, the two men renowned for nickel and diming most in MLS would not be your ideal appointments.
Free agency is a major sticking point. The players want to be able to control their destiny, while the teams want to keep costs down and prevent any potential bidding wars, as we see in the other American sports.
I wrote about FC Dallas keeper, Dan Kennedy, and how he was not in a position to even verbally acknowledge being drafted by the Hoops following the demise of Chivas USA. With Chris Seitz, Raul Fernandez and Jesse Gonzales on the books, no-one knew if Kennedy would be traded away, waived, given up in the expansion draft or kept. He was an FC Dallas player but unable to move his family from California to Texas, since he didn’t know if he would ever even get a locker and training kit, let alone a starting spot.
For Adam Moffat, a similar fear was realized. After three years at Columbus, Moffat was picked up by Portland in the 2010 expansion draft. Within eight months, he was traded to Houston. Three years later he would end up at FC Dallas, via a three month stint in Seattle as a makeweight in two trades. The sudden unwanted move back to Texas was a significant blow for the Scot’s young family. After his option was declined in Frisco, Moffat’s next move would be to leave behind MLS and venture to the New York Cosmos. Free at last.
The initial chatter out of the nation’s capital was that the league offered free agency to players that are over 32, with a full decade of service at a single club and a maximum raise of 10%. Brad Davis would be the sole eligible player. Talks progressed to 28 years old with eight years at a club. At least Corey Ashe and Nick Rimando can rest easy at night, now they’ve covered three of the 533 active players on MLS rosters, or 0.56%. They can’t even claim to be the 1% until later in the year, when Javier Morales and Kyle Beckerman qualify!
Fans across the nation stayed up late on Tuesday night, watching and waiting. Tweets came out stating that Graham Zusi drew the curtains of the room the MLS Players Union reps occupied, presumably ready for the dreaded strike vote, long after Don Garber and the league representatives snuck out of a side door.
Doubts were expressed over whether the Chicago Fire players would travel to Los Angeles on Wednesday morning for their opening game on Friday. Also, whether DC United would have a team for their CONCACAF Champions League Quarter Final with LD Alajuelense. Thousands of fans fear their season starting late. Season ticket holders concerned about the value of the packages they have already paid for.
For New York City fans, the wait to make Yankee Stadium a home of their own could go on. For Orlando City, it could prolong the wait that began when they moved from Austin in 2010, and there are 60,000 ticket holders awaiting opening weekend at the Citrus Bowl.
Naturally with that marquee opening fixture in Central Florida, OCSC and NYCFC are rumored to be heavily pressuring the other owners to get a deal done. We all talk about MLS 1.0, 2.0, 95, XP and whatever other tech-related terms we can imagine. This is where you have MLS 1.0 v 3.0, with the old guard holding firm over the methods that grew the league in the past twenty years, and the new breed looking to innovate and develop MLS into a top-5 competition. You have to suspect that the players’ union are using this, in addition to the pressures of the new TV deals, and now Sky Sports, committing large sums of money for a product that is expected to begin this weekend.
For the latest from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service in Washington DC, make sure to follow the Washington Post’s Steven Goff (@SoccerInsider), Brooke Tunstall (@YesThatBrooke) & Aaron Stollar (@aaronstol), who have all given us far more information than the league that fines executives greater sums than most players’ annual salary (that’s one way to rub salt in the wound) for giving fans an update on the talks.
I certainly hope you enjoy opening weekend. Whether or not it involves a ball being kicked, remains to be seen.