MLS Players Strike Likely If No Deal by Start of the Season

Wed, 17 Mar 2010 11:32
Major League Soccer (MLS) players have voted 350-2 to support a strike unless a new labor agreement is reached in time for the March 25 start of the new season. Negotiation updates Negotiators for both sides met this week with a federal mediator. However, the players’ goals of more guaranteed contracts and greater free agency opportunities were not met prompting the vote results. Nevertheless, MLS president Mark Abbott declared that the meetings were productive and that they have scheduled additional meetings after. Players’ side The possibility of a strike happening just two weeks before the 2010 season is slated to start is growing, considering the results of the strike vote. In a statement, union executive director Bob Foose said that the results of the strike vote reflects how unified the players are with what they want and that the new season will not begin if a new agreement with the league is not achieved. The MLS is a single-entity structure since it started in 1996. This means that all deals are made with the league instead of with club owners or franchise holders like in other sports. This structure was done to avoid relocation of teams. The five-year deal between the league and the players expired last month after the union didn’t agree to a second extension. Consequences A strike will definitely affect a lot of events that are planned to take place prior to or during the season opening.  Here are some of the events: The Philadelphia Union is set to debut at Seattle in March 25. It is the 16th and newest MLS club. The New York Red Bulls are scheduled to open their new stadium on March 20 with an exhibition game against Santos of Brazil. A week later, they are set to play host to the Chicago Fire, the stadium’s first MLS match. On the other hand, a strike could allow Galaxy’s Landon Donovan to remain on loan at Everton. Galaxy coach Bruce Arena expects that Donovan will be back after the loan ends but a labor shutdown could change plans. Many analysts say that, as with all labor disputes, this strike will not benefit anyone.  Should the MLS decide to go ahead with the strike, its American fan base would suffer, but not in the long run.  After all, there are still so many sports and so many leagues to follow. Strike and the World Cup Having a strike will also damage the US team’s World Cup hopes. The US has already qualified for the World Cup finals in South Africa. The team will be facing England, Algeria, and Slovenia during the first round. It is likely that American fans will be distracted by matches between the world’s best national teams during the World Cup and cheering for their top MLS stars to be following closely the MLS labor dilemma. While Major League Soccer has not been a big mainstream event in America since it started, the league has a steady number of supporters. Having a labor dispute will hurt the league’s chances of expansion.

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