The Wins Column: MLS CBA Negotiations are Tanking

February 6 has come and gone, which means we’re now a month away from MLS First Kick 2015. No longer will we have to rely on the old news of other leagues for our footy fix. We all know that Sacramento is making all the right moves down in USL Pro and is essentially a big cheque away from becoming an expansion outfit in Major League Soccer. We all know that the NASL is still kicking and screaming (congrats to Miguel Ibarra by the way for becoming the first NASL player to start for the U.S. National Team since 1985).

And in Europe? Thiago Silva gave his track top up to a cold child, Cristiano Ronaldo just turned 30 but still behaves like a child, and Chelsea are sitting seven points clear at the top of the Premier League and are as giddy as schoolchildren being let out of class early.

The Wins Column: MLS CBA Negotiations are Tanking

But in just a few short weeks, we’ll be able to drop the Eurosnob act and get back to our usual business. Major League Soccer will be back. That means more matches, more commentary (my apologies for lagging this offseason), and more fun to be had for everyone.

Kind of.

The beginning of February also marked the end of the Collective Bargaining Agreement signed between MLS executives and the MLS Players Union back in 2010. The two sides have been discussing a new agreement since the days after the L.A. Galaxy won MLS Cup.

It’s been two months. They’ve made about as much progress as you’ve made on the “Science” category of Trivia Crack.

Players are still training and playing in exhibition matches. Montreal and D.C. are gearing up for quarterfinal tilts in the CONCACAF Champions League. But they’re doing so on expired terms.

The Players Union wants to see the minimum salary rise higher than the interns at MLS’ head offices. They also want free agency, so that they can choose where they play and squeeze more money out of suitors.

MLS will be hard-pressed to find an excuse not to raise the minimum wage. Based on the number of DPs brought in this offseason and the allocation dollars used to un-DP the Diskeruds and Kljestans, the money is definitely there.

As for free agency, MLS isn’t budging. They’ve bringing money in, but they still say they’re over $100 million in the red each year. Agreeing to intra-league bidding wars wouldn’t add another zero to that figure, but it definitely wouldn’t reduce the deficit either.

Most people won’t call it a lockout until matches are missed. I’m very tempted to start calling it a lockout right now.

Both sides have come out and said they’re nowhere close to reaching a deal. They’re considering going playground style now, bringing in a third-party mediator to help reach a compromise.

We all know what compromise is. It’s not as fun as people make it out to be.

At its essence, compromise is supposed to work like a river, running smoothly and creating a link between two points. If you went outside and turned on your garden hose for half an hour you’d probably be able to create more of a river than the current river of compromise between MLS and the Players Union.

Heck, you could sit down and cry for five minutes over the uncertain state of the 2015 MLS season and you’d still have a bigger river than what currently exists.

It seems that with every new interview coming out, regardless of side, the overarching message it that there just isn’t enough time to get something done. Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, Major League Soccer’s fundamental document won’t be written in a month.

Will there be more pressure with each passing day? Absofreakinglutely. The last time the CBA had to be renegotiated, it got signed off just a few days before the start of the 2010 season. If we think the pressure is real now, imagine what it would have been like back then.

But fast forward five years, and pressure might not be enough. Both parties are stronger than they were. The players are collectively improving and being talked about more. The league’s added clubs in Vancouver, Portland, Montreal, New York, and Orlando since the old CBA was agreed upon and continues to make leaps forward. Or at least they tell us that pretty consistently.

A lockout won’t spell the end of Major League Soccer like it might have in the past. It’ll stall progress a fair bit though, which is a lot worse than it sounds.

So how do we keep moving forward?

Ideally, one of the two sides turns the other cheek and decides to revisit their ultimatum. But that probably won’t happen, or at least not to the extent that any fan would like it to. So, playing the third-party mediator, here’s my best shot at a compromise in the non-rant space I have left.

1. Increase the minimum wage from $36,500 to at least $50,000. Anything over $60,000 is probably a stretch for both sides though.

2. Revisit the Re-Entry Draft. I don’t know how, frankly if this stuff drags on I’ll probably look at the issue more in-depth, but do something. It doesn’t seem to be ideal for anybody.

3. Don’t add another DP slot. Aside from not raising their wages, making the superteams even super-er is probably the worst way to get under the skin of MLS’ lower class.

4. Make the “of a certain threshold” reasoning behind avoiding the Allocation Ranking just a little bit clearer. Clint Dempsey was. We presume Michael Bradley was. Jozy Altidore wasn’t. Jermaine Jones was something, by every definition of the word. How about setting the threshold at “if they’re commanding $5 million a season or more”?

There’s what I’ve got, and that’s from a bit of time sitting down at a computer. It makes me wonder if all those closed-door meetings over the last two months were more keep-up competition than boardroom dealing.

But it’s none of my business.


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