MLS preseason is just getting warmed up as players get ready for first kick in March. But while teams are signing players - or in the Union's case not signing players - and coaches get their teams prepared for the season, MLS and the MLS Players Union (MLSPU) are behind the scenes trying to agree on a new CBA.
Bob Foose, Executive Director of the MLSPU sat down for an interview with the Orlando Sentinel's Paul Tenorio to give talk about where the CBA negotiations are at this stage.
On the possibility of a strike:
We’re a long way apart. I don’t know that I want to handicap it, but it’s certainly a very, very real possibility. The players have made it clear that they can’t continue to play under the current system.
When asked about where things stand in regard to free agency:
...I wouldn’t want to leave the impression they ignored or hid from it, but their position is that they will not make an offer. There is no negotiation going on at this point with regard to free agency.
About free agency driving up player wages, causing bidding wars and how the salary cap could stop that issue:
With every single player, other than a designated player, for every player whose salary is on-budget that argument is just false. Any extra dollar spent on Player A is going to come out of the pocket of Player B. With regard to DPs, where that doesn’t apply, it’s simply not relevant.
For every other player in the league, well technically [international free agency is] true, but you and I know it is not practically true for a majority and probably a significant majority of our players...The economic argument just doesn't hold up to any kind of scrutiny.
On negotiations for player compensation
Again, the issue there from our standpoint is one of fairness. Of making sure guys who deserve it and are building the league are getting adequately compensated. … From our perspective, it is as much about how money gets spent as it is about how much money gets spent.
You have to address salaries all across the roster. The massive inequality we have top to bottom is a substantial detriment to the league. We are holding ourselves back with that massive inequality and it has to be corrected.
On the frequency of negotiations:
We’re meeting all the time on a weekly basis. That’s going to continue. We will be meeting pretty much consistently here through the end of the preseason, I would expect.
So as you can see there appears to be a pretty large gap remaining between the two parties. This isn't particularly surprising news, but it is worrying nonetheless. If you look at previous sports lockouts or strikes, this is the time when it appears that both sides are miles apart and will never find common ground. However, it is promising that the two sides are meeting on a weekly basis as this will allow for more time to find common ground between the two sides.
It would be very easy to read Foose's comments and immediately think that a strike is inevitable. But it's important to keep in mind that labor negotiations are a tricky business and things will get ugly in the press before real ground is made in these meetings.
You can read the the Orlando Sentinel's full interview with Bob Foose here.