Could MLS work stoppage impact season?

MLSWith three weeks before the season opener, a potential MLS work stoppage from the MLS Players Union over a new Collective Bargaining Agreement contract could dampen enthusiasm for the season.

MLS is certainly on the rise, but players — save the designated high-priced stars — aren’t yet partaking in the perceived bounty. With a new CBA needed before the start of the season, players and MLS are negotiating a new agreement that would grant players rights found in other professional leagues.

Chief among them: free agency and higher salaries. That MLS players want more money is a given. Currently, when players are released by their MLS teams, they go through a reentry draft — giving them no say in their next destination. From the Daily Herald:

And that’s part of the reason why players realize now is the time to fight for some significant changes, most notably some sort of free agency. Brad Evans, the Sounders’ players representative, told reporters that a “strike is imminent if we don’t get what we want.” And what they want, first and foremost, is the ability to choose where they play after putting in their time.

As it stands now, even veteran players’ rights are controlled by their current club after their contract expires. If that team doesn’t want to keep them, then they go into a reentry draft, which means another club, not the player, will choose that player’s fate.

“This will be year No. 9, and I feel like if I did want to go somewhere, I’ve earned the right to play where I want to play,” Evans said. “Whether that means playing closer to home at the end of my career for less money, or playing somewhere for a little more money, it should be up to me where I decide to play. And right now it’s not up to me. Even if my contract expires, I needed to be traded somewhere, for a bag of balls or a couple of players, whatever it is.”

A strike is the nuclear option. Right now union reps and MLS negotiators are meeting with a mediator to discuss areas of agreement and a potential deal. Next would come arbitration, which could impose a binding deal on both sides. The process needs to play out before there’s a specific threat of a strike —

Image from this weekend’s Las Vegas Pro Soccer Challenge Cup courtesy Colorado Rapids.

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