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MLS and players reach agreement
by Paul Kennedy, March 20th, 2010 4:13PM

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TAGS:  mls, soccer business

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[MLS] Major League Soccer and the MLS Players Union reached an agreement in principle on a new five-year collective bargaining agreement, averting a strike scheduled for the start of the 2010 season.

Among the terms of the deal:

-- a re-entry draft for players of a certain age who are out of contract or whose options are not picked up that will have the effect of creating player movement between teams without the inflationary pressure of the teams competing with each other for players;

-- guaranteed contracts for a majority of players based on age and service in the league; and

-- greater compensation for players.

The agreement was announced by MLS Commissioner Don Garber, MLS Players Union Executive Director Bob Foose and Director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service George Cohen.

The parties were not forthcoming with specific details of the agreement that needs to be approved by the MLS Board of Governors and MLS Players Union.

"MLS was founded on the principle that our owners would not be competing against each other for player services," said Garber. "When we think of free agency, it is that concept of internal bidding, and there will not be internal bidding for player services. Players whose options are not exercised, players who are terminated and players at a certain age -- and just respect the fact that we have got to get this out to our own people before we get it to the public -- will have the opportunity with a certain mechanism of also going into this re-entry draft. That process addresses, to a large extent but not to the total extent, the players' wishes and desires. At the same time, it provides the league with something that is crucial to us and will remain crucial to us. In our view, there is no actual free agency."

The settlement was reached following marathon talks over the last two days. The sides met until 2 a.m. on Friday and 8 a.m. on Saturday. There were 25 player representatives who attended the negotiations.

"I've never seen a group of players that have been more focused, more committed, more knowledable about the issues," Garber said.

In recent months, the players complained that MLS did not take their demands seriously, but when the accord was reached both sides praised the others' commitment to get a deal done.

"We on the union side never questioned for a second the commitment of [Garber] and the league to get a deal done," Foose said. "I don't think they did on our side as well, and when you have those two factors in place, deals get done."

Garber acknowledged that the league and players had made up a lot of ground in recent weeks.

"This has been a major victory for the process of collective bargaining," Cohen said.



0 comments
  1. Ted Westervelt
    commented on: March 20, 2010 at 8:47 p.m.
    I think the owners noticed that public opinion came down pretty hard on the players side. Would their first div entitlement, and the mediocracy they impose on their own clubs, have survived a year off? Did they cement their closed single entity control for a few more years? Did they keep that bar of "success" set at mere first div survival? Will they ever open their books? Billionaires love this model. Supporters not so much.

  1. Robert Kiernan
    commented on: March 21, 2010 at 5:27 a.m.
    Until I can see the specifics, and not the "official press release" which is somewhat lacking in specifics... I'll hold back judging this one yet, but there still remains the matter of just how MLS is going to really develop it's younger players if it lacks a real reserve team system or some sort of loan arrangement with the USL/NASL second division. So long as the players who aren't starters see little or no playing time... this league will still be too dependent on picking up the cast offs from other leagues and that, from both a business standpoint and from a labor relations standpoint... is not something that they can feel too comfortable with. I doubt that much of what was agreed to will slow the exodus of our better players away on free transfers to play in European leagues... so as I've said, I'll hold my judgments until I actually see just what the specifics of this deal are.

  1. George Hoyt
    commented on: March 21, 2010 at 10:46 a.m.
    I say kudos on all sides. I disagree about public sentiment. I found it difficult to pick sides on this one and I see myself as a "player's" fan. I was beginning to get a bit nervous about not ironing something out before the season, but I'm glad they did. Despite the lack of details, of which I am sure we will never see all, I'm not too worried. Both sides seem to be content with the terms they've come to; for now, that's what we need. I'm sure this will be revisited in the days to come. For this season, and, in theory, the next four to follow, if MLS is willing to pay and player are willing to play, then it's perfect.

  1. Scott Olson
    commented on: March 22, 2010 at 12:07 p.m.
    When it all comes down to it, we as a nation don't appreciate or value soccer as the rest of the world does. Soccer is truly the sport of the nations being the most widely played sport universely, yet we seem to be having a problem competing with other countries on talent. Probably the only thing saving the USA is that a lot of the other premier leagues are also seeing their top teams being a melting pot of the best players from all over not just their own local countries and cities. You see story after story about the melting pot, but keep hearing all over that there is not the money basis in the USA to keep leagues alive. Look at the reduction in teams and attitudes of the leagues that are supposed to be feeders to the MLS (supposed to be the premier league in the USA) I hear everyday about kids no longer playing high school soccer to go play in club soccer, because the colleges don't even look at high school level players anymore. High school players that won't go play and learn from a recreational coach because their high school coach tells them they can't. We are eating our young by not improving the system as a whole, and in the end we are saying work really hard and practice everyday so that one day you can be offered a year at a small value with an option for several more and if the team is still interested in having you on the bench, then they can keep you from leaving. Good players should make good money, and teams that can't afford the good players need to find good players for less money that will make a name for themselves. The only problem is when they do that nowadays, they don't get rewarded with more money in their salary they get a thank you sir, keep giving your sweat for the same amount next year, I mean where else you going to go, we own you.

  1. Scott Olson
    commented on: March 22, 2010 at 12:15 p.m.
    If you make the system work as a value to the talented player, then the people will want to become those talented players. If you make the system so that it develops the players to succeed, those that really like the sport and even some that don't will succeed. The whole reason of smaller sided games development was to get more touches on the ball to give quicker development. If we don't develop the talent, where will they come from. Used to be Rec fed select and high school, select and high school, fed college, and college fed the semi-pro and pro leagues. Now everybody is putting their kids in academy, select players are being told not to play high school and recreational ball, high school players are told not to play recreational. Meanwhile the referee associations aren't even really concerned that much with assessing their people to keep the players safe. Wow, I seem to be rambling, wish somebody like a higher governing body would actually do something to fix the system, a lot of people pay dues to leagues with no improvements in site.


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