MLS Players Vow to Strike if not Granted Free Agency

While soccer has gained popularity in the United States over the last 20 years, it still lags behind the big four American sports of football, basketball, baseball, and hockey. Many people, including MLS soccer fans, may not even realize that Major League soccer players are threatening to strike if a new collective bargaining agreement between owners and players cannot be reached before the 2015 season opener scheduled for March 6. mls

The old contract, which was agreed to five days before the season opener in 2010, expired January 31, 2015.

MLS is celebrating its 20th year of existence this season and has been making great strides over that time.

There was a time during MLS’s first five years of existence where an expansion franchise could be had for $10 million. NYCFC and Orlando City each paid 100 million expansion fees to join the league this season. Plans are in the works for expansion franchises to join the league from Miami, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and a yet to be determined location. Never in a million years did MLS expect to charge cities $100 million to join the league.

During the upcoming season, games will be broadcast in regular time slots on fixed days on ESPN, FOX Sports and Univision. This should increase viewership and bring in even more money.

Many MLS franchises have built soccer specific stadiums beginning with the Columbus Crew Stadium in 1999. While the stadium is just under 20,000 seats, it gives fans and players the feel of a national team game with very few empty seats and team supporters going crazy with painted faces and flags in the stands. columbus crew

For the first few years, MLS tried to make its name on American players and a few older international stars from overseas like Italy’s Roberto Donadoni, Columbia’s Carlos Valderrama, and Mexico’s Jorge Campos. This season, Brazil’s Kaka, England’s Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, Spain’s David Villa, and Italy’s Sebastian Giovinco will be making their MLS debuts.

After bringing back current U.S. National team stars Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley for the 2014 season, Americans returning to MLS this year from overseas include Jozy Altidore, Mix Diskerud, Sacha Kljestan, and Brek Shea. The overall level of play in MLS has never been brighter.

So why would MLS players strike and risk all the positive gains the league has made? Two words. Free agency.

The league structure of MLS does not liken itself to free agency. MLS has always run using a single-entity structure where teams and players are owned by the league. Free agency could ruin the financial stability of the league with clubs bidding for players.

Owners would prefer to spend money bringing in even more international stars, retaining its own players, and continuing to bring back as many U.S. National Team players as possible.

The average league salary is $226,000 with the maximum salary $387,500. However, the league has a designated player rule that allows teams to sign a limited number of players whose contract can exceed the maximum salary. Former Galaxy Star David Beckham was the first designated player signed to MLS. This rule is what brought in Giovinco for 7 million, and Kaka, Lampard, Gerrard, Villa, Bradley, Dempsey, and Altidore for 6 million each. david beckham

While I agree with the players’ desire for free agency, it will eventually ruin the league if the owners give players what they want. MLS has been able to survive for 19 years because of its structure of owning teams and players. If I were at the negotiating table, I would increase the league minimum salary from $36,500 to $50,500, the maximum salary to $450,000, and the salary cap from 3.1 to 4.5 million. Bringing in $200 million in expansion fees this year should be no sweat for MLS’ bank account.

And that’s… as I see it!

Please visit for more of my articles and some by other writers on a variety of trending topics.

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