MLS players seek choice from 'league of choice'

On a scale of 1-10 in terms of free agency, the free-agency rights MLS players enjoy are about a .1. A player out of contract meeting certain thresholds has the right to enter the Re-Entry Draft, where another team -- not necessarily of his choice -- can pick him up.

The players want to change that. They are not seeking something less than 10 -- the restricted free agency bargained by other American sports unions -- but 10 -- the unrestricted free agency enjoyed by pro soccer players elsewhere.

To achieve that, they are using MLS commissioner Don Garber's words against him in the p.r. battle that kicked off last week.

Washington Post. Meetings between league and player representatives in Washington last week were supposed to last two days but they ended on Tuesday following the presentation of the league's counterproposal to the MLS Players Union.

“We remain very far apart on important issues,” Bob Foose, executive director of the MLSPU, told the Insider on Thursday morning. “We will continue at it but it’s difficult to see a path to an agreement at this point.”

Some dates to remember: The current collective bargaining agreement expires on Jan. 31, but the 2015 regular season doesn't start until March 5. D.C. United and Montreal Impact begin competitive play, however, in the last week of February when they play the first leg of the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals. Perspective: A deal was reached on the current five-year CBA on March 20, 2010, only five days before the start of the season.

“There is a ton of time,” said D.C. United defender Bobby Boswell. “I remember the last one, a similar message came out of the early meetings. We’ll see. We’ll have more [meetings]. I am optimistic. We all are."

ESPN FC. The talks in Washington were attended by league and player representatives and their attorneys. They included Garber, deputy commissioner Mark Abbott and executive vice president Todd Durbin representing MLS and player reps Todd Dunivant (LA Galaxy), Kofi Sarkodie (Houston), Chris Schuler (Real Salt Lake) and Boswell. The frustration of the players was that free agency was not addressed in the counterproposal.

"We told them we'd be open to talking about exactly what free agency means, and what makes the most sense for players and the league, which is what we want ultimately," Dunivant said. "But their proposal had nothing to do with free agency, not a mention." FC Dallas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, a member of the MLSPU's executive board, takes the world view on soccer and labor rights.

“You can see the landscape of other professional leagues in the United States, in which free agency comes in many different forms," he said. "Soccer’s different. Throughout the world, soccer has unrestricted free agency. It is there. It’s the norm. Certainly we’re working toward that. We feel like if we’re going to be a league that’s one of the best in the world, I think it makes sense to abide by those rules.”

Orlando Sentinel. Orlando City goalkeeper Tally Hall says the players don't feel they are being greedy.

"We want the league to grow," he says. "The league growth, when the commissioner talks, I believe in his message of the league being a ‘league of choice.’ All the players are behind that. We have some very good ideas of how to get players to choose to stay, to come to the league."

Reuters. Michael Bradley, who returned to MLS in 2014 with one of the biggest contracts in league history, told reporters at the national team training camp last week that the goal was to avoid a work stoppage but the players were united and prepared to strike, if necessary. Nonetheless, Abbott said the league was committed to continued negotiations.

"It is premature at this stage of the discussions to speculate about the possibility of a work stoppage," he said in a statement released to the media. "Although there are a number of issues that still need to be resolved, that is true of every CBA negotiation and we are committed to continued negotiations."
4 comments about "MLS players seek choice from 'league of choice'".
  1. R2 Dad, January 26, 2015 at 11:39 a.m.

    Free agency is the concern of the top 10% of players. The single entity structure cannot support free agency at this time, better to focus on getting those guys at the bottom, who are making $36K, up to $50K so they are at least making a living wage. Still, not much of a life for those working in clubs in the big cities.

  2. Daniel Clifton, January 26, 2015 at 4:12 p.m.

    I have to agree with R2 Dad. They have got to get a minimum of something like $60K. You've got guys making millions and then guys making a little more than minimum wage at $36K. The league will not improve quality wise without some step up in the lower end of the scale. That is the reason why the quality of play is so erratic in MLS.

  3. Clayton Davis, January 26, 2015 at 4:17 p.m.

    I think the idea is that there will be a compromise on free agency, R2 Dad. Like in some US sports leagues players can get free agency, but only after a certain number of games or a certain length of time. While we aren't quite ready to get up to the international standard of free agency and need a salary cap for sure, the time for significant changes to the CBA has arrived. The players' insistence on free agency like in the rest of the world is a negotiating tactic, just as much as the owners' claims of poverty is.

  4. Frank Cardone, January 27, 2015 at 12:26 p.m.

    The MLS minimum wage is an embarrassment and must be raised to at least $50,000. Everyone laments how our best athletes gravitate towards other sports. There are numerous reasons they do so, and $$ is certainly one of them.
    Shame on MLS. This comes from an original MLS fan.

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