By Kevin Koczwara
Fans of the MLS may have to wait for the next season to start. Player contract negotiations and bargaining agreement talks have stalled.
The owners and players look to be in a deadlock. Their horns locked tight like two male bucks fighting for the classiest deer out there.
The season is approaching and the two sides need Roger Sherman to be resurrected to help the two sides come together, and have another great compromise if they hope to get the season started on time.
The players are looking to renew and restructure their labor agreement and to make their wages more competitive, along with some other major contract guarantee. The owners and the MLS want to keep the same model currently in place, which allowed the league to expand and allowed them to start profiting from their teams. And neither wants to budge because they feel their bargaining agreement is better for the game. But neither system is best for the MLS, a combination of the two would be best.
The owners have to be hoping the season starts on time, they have a lot to worry about this year. The league is expanding and the new Philadelphia Union has to have a big opening week to prove its worth and show the world that this niche league is growing. There is also the new Red Bull stadium and the upcoming World Cup bid the U.S. is hoping to make. If the league flourishes it proves to the rest of the World that Americans are starting to care about soccer, then the bid for a World Cup will be easier to back-up.
For the players, they need to play because this is their league, they don’t want a bunch of unknowns coming and changing the landscape instantly. They also need to play because a few players are outside choices for the World Cup and this is their last chance to display their talents on a professional stage for their national coach.
I propose both sides meet for a long, grueling session, until a resolution is reached. It is in the best interest of both sides.
Here is the compromise I propose. The owner’s won’t go for guaranteed contracts, and why would they? So the next best thing is the free agent market if a player gets released. It needs to happen. Players need to be able to move within the league if they are released by a team. So,if a player is released from a squad then they should become a “free agent” or eligible to look for work somewhere else within the league, if they please. This does not mean that there should be a “free agent” market like basketball or football, that would kill the game. So the two sides need to meet somewhere in between.
If the owner’s don’t want a free agent market, then they must offer guaranteed contracts to their players. If the players are smart they will shorten the length of this bargaining agreement. This will allow the two sides to come together in a few years and do this all over again, but it also gives them an idea to as wheres can make more positive choices for both sides and the league.
I hope all this can be resilved in the coming week because the season is going to begin soon, and no one wants to see a hold-out or a strike. It just isn’t good for the game.
MLS Talk.com has a pretty good looking system for both sides to agree on. Check it out.
Kevin Koczwara can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org