MLS responds to Players Union criticisms over labor talks


Just a day after members of the Major League Soccer Players Union publicly criticized MLS officials over their handling of labor negotiations, MLS is defending itself against claims that it is not taking talks over a new Collective Bargaining Agreement seriously.

MLS president Mark Abbott responded on Saturday to criticism from players that MLS hasn't done enough to help make a labor deal happen, telling SBI that the league has done quite a bit to try and get a deal to happen.

"They're mis-characterizing the scope, extent and seriousness of the proposals that the league has made," Abbott said. "We can't compel them to accept those proposals, we can't compel them to appreciate those proposals but I can tell you that they are significant. To say that the league is not serious is a complete mis-characterization of what has happened over the past few weeks, or months for that matter."

"There was some sense that the league hadn't been taking the negotiations seriously, and had not made serious proposals, and nothing could be further from the truth," said Abbott. "In terms of economics, the league has agreed to increase its spending on players by over $60 million.

"Obviously the country is going through some tough economic times, and our teams continue to have a lot of financial challenges and our owners continue to lose significant amounts of money, and we are still able to put a very, very significant economic proposal on the table."

Members of the Players Union ranging from Pat Onstad to Jimmy Conrad to Joe Cannon have stepped forward to criticize the league about not making concessions in negotiations, but according to Abbott, the league has made proposals on every issue being discussed, with the exception being free agency.

"Our proposal isn't just limited to economics," Abbott said. "We've made a proposal to guarantee a significant number of contracts. We've made a proposal to limit the number of options, unilateral options, the league has in player contracts.

"There have been some discussions about what happens to a player whose team no longer wants him and how the right of first refusal works. We've made proposals on those areas too, to address some of those concerns.

What we haven't done is made a proposal on free agency," Abbott said. "We can address some of these right of first refusal concerns without having free agency. Free agency is not something we think is good for the league."

Abbott stated that the league has negotiated openly to discuss several key issues, but insisted that free agency was not an option.

'When we first established the league we spent a lot of time studying other efforts to launch professional soccer leagues in the U.S. and unfortunately those have failed,' Abbott said. "We have studied some of the pitfalls of some other professional leagues, not just soccer leagues, but other leagues in North America, and we came up with a structure we thought gave us the best chance to have a league that is sustainable for the long term.

"We just don't see free agency being a part of that structure or something that would be good for the league. And so that's not something that's in the proposal or something we're prepared to do."

What happens next remains to be seen but the deadline for labor negotiations to continue is Thursday and it doesn't look like a deal will be hammered out in the next five days.

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122 Responses to MLS responds to Players Union criticisms over labor talks

  1. walter says:

    sounds fairly reasonable

  2. BlueWhiteLion says:

    thanks for the reporting, Ives. This is not an area of expertise of mine. My layman’s approach is that I want the players to be compensated as well as they can given the overall ability of our owners to pay. It seems some players are payed in peanuts. But it is also clear that the owners keep shelling out money in a league that really isn’t yet profitable across the board. I am not taking sides in this matter. I just hope something is hammered out and we get MLS in a month.

  3. tz0n3 says:

    Great. So now I can’t watch the Sounders play on Day 1 of the season. I guess I’ll have to get by watching Hull City fight against relegation instead. …Oh, wait…

  4. drock says:

    Joe Cannon and Salt N’ Pepper are complete morons. Take the deal and get on with the season. The game of soccer is more important to the fans of the game than those idiots. That goes for any other players who agree with them. Even if you’re on my team I support.

    I drop over 1,000 $ annually for season at Columbus and don’t appreciate these babies crying about getting guaranteed contract. I don’t have a guaranteed contract at my job and make about 30k a year. I make end meet. Learn to do the same. Get the deal done!

  5. drock says:

    Apparently I was so angry I forgot to add an ‘S’ to multiple words in the above rant. Please accept my apologies.

  6. Camjam says:

    So I know fairness depends on whose side you are viewing the argument from, but maybe the MLS and MR. Abbott should consider a proposal with less “financial considerations” for players (as he insists they have agreed upon) in exchange for this free agnecy thing… because it is absolutely insane. It is shocking to hear a league rep say he does not think it is in the best interests of the league to allow a person out of contract pursue one with another team. Simply astounding.

    If the MLS is so worried about the financial impact of this issue, then reign in spending in other areas…. but this is not the one to do this in.

  7. CrispyST3 says:

    Okay, now tell us WHY you dudes don’t think free agency will be good for the league, its easy to state it, now back it up and let us know why.

  8. mark says:

    Binding arbitration, please pick up the white courtesy phone.

  9. matt says:

    mls reasonable lol funniest thing ive heard in weeks!!

  10. Supsam says:

    Whoa…they increased player spending by $60 million!?!?! Did i read that right????? Does that equate to a significant increase in salary cap? Pardon my ignorance.

  11. fischy says:

    Only if you don’t think about it. The spending increase is a joke. If the league increases by 4 teams — 2 next year, Montreal is assured and they’ll probably add one more for balance — it’s down to $600,000 per team per year. Distribute that over 24 salaries (assuming that rosters don’t expand or contract), and it’s an average increase of less than $30,000 per player. That’s an average. Of course, one-tenth, or even one-fifth of the league’s yearly increase might go to Thierry Henry. Or Raul.

    I don’t even understand why the league thinks it’s better to encourage players to go abroad, rather than moving around MLS. Look at the other pro sports leagues in the USA. Player movement in the offseason actually increases fan interest. We love the hot stove leagues.

    Free agency increases our interest in the players for other clubs — which the league needs badly. Right now, most fans care only about their favorite club and know next-to-nothing about other teams. So, we might get excited about free agents? That’s bad for the league? Is anyone talking about getting rid of a salary cap? No — so league finances really won’t be affected by free agency within the league.

    Plus, allowing veterans to move around the league has the added benefit of ending something that looks more like perpetual indentured servitude than a contract.

  12. einar says:

    ya the that 60 mill should raise eyebros at least. idk to me that should be more than enough on the money. And on the free agency ok i am mad about that but the owners at the seem time are doing somethin about the contracts so I see it fair.

  13. fischy says:

    My math was a little off, too — because I failed to account for the 2009 spending levels for the expansion teams. If the league is considering the spending by the expansion teams in advancing the $60 million figure, then the spending per team per player will hardly tick up at all. 75% of the new spending won’t come from a salary cap increase — it’ll just come from paying salaries for 96 new players. So, the average salary increase would be under S10,000.

  14. @ einar:

    While the $60 million looks to be a large number. Factor in new expansion teams over the next 2 years and the number becomes smaller:

    Checkout post #467 of this link:

    link to

    It boils down to $100K per team each year for 5 years.

  15. Ali says:

    Well done MLS.
    People are getting carried away by a few successes in the league and now are making demands which run the risk of ruining a league that is only 14 years old.

    Only 14 years old. Don’t run before you can walk.

  16. fischy says:

    No, it doesn’t. If my math is right — assuming the league expands by 4 teams (2 next year, Montreal in 2012 and X soon after), it will be a salary cap increase of less than $300,000. The $60 million breaks down to $12 million per year. At 20 teams, that’s an increase spending of $600,00 per team — except it’s not — because it doesn’t account for the new rosters. In fact, 75% of that yearly “increase” would go to paying the salaries of the 4 new teams…at 2009 levels.

  17. Ed says:

    Amen brother. It looks like the players colluded to make the league look bad and make us fans feel sorry for them. Reading Abbott’s proposals, it seems like a very reasonable compromise with just the specifics to iron out. Too bad the players are too stubborn to realize this is not the time for being hard headed.

  18. fischy says:

    That post doesn’t even consider the likelihood of further expansion within the 5 years — Montreal seems all but certain, and they’ll probably want to add a 20th team for balance.

    Moreover, even if you think of that spending as increase based on a league-wide basis, rather than club-by-club, it’s still not overwhelming. The league will take in more than that in just franchise fees — never mind profits it might generate at the turnstiles, through merchandising and by selling contracts overseas.

  19. afrim says:

    try living in NY for 20g a year (before taxes) and come back to me on how much you want to hi five the owners

  20. Nick says:

    Como on bro. Have you not figured out yet that you cannot compare your job to that of a professional athlete. The same people say the same things when and an NFL player is holding out for more money. Professional sports and their labor agreements, salaries and what not, are not based off of the normal human rational, therefor, you cant compare them to your life. The players have only a finite number of years to make there money, and i dont blame anyone that wants guarantees or an increase in their salary – and yes, they chose this profession, but that still doesn’t mean they cant negotiate a better deal for themselves.

    I dont think the players are asking for too much, atleast from what I have read. I would like to know what part of free agency would hurt the league, other than effecting the owners getting something in return for a player they chose not to re-sign.

  21. Supsam says:

    but the article states “the league had agreed to increase its spending on players “BY” over $60 million” INSTEAD of “the league has agreed to increase its spending on players “TO” over $60 million. There is a key difference between the words “by” and “to”

    Do you understand my confusion?

  22. jaded says:

    dude what is so hard about having a hard cap. If all teams are only allowed to have lets say 3m to spend on players (without counting DPS).. then how is free agency going to kill teams spending? hard cap is a hard cap. spending does not increase or decrease.

  23. nico says:

    My opinion on a subject is based on the last article I read on said subject 😉

    Anyway, not sure what to believe. Impossible to know unless you are in those close door sessions…but speculation is fun I suppose. No matter the party at fault I will be very upset at any delay. I will be one angry season ticket holder.

  24. strider says:

    I’m still not sure where I sit on this yet. It is ridiculous that players like Hartman and vDB, or even more so Serioux, are unable to negotiate with anyone they want. Since there is a salary cap how does free agency hurt the league? Each team still only has so much $$ to give out. I think the other major issue is the minimum salary. Its GOT to be at least $30k so a young player doesn’t have to have a second job and can afford an inexpensive apartment of his own.

  25. fischy says:

    Players can’t “collude”. Only cartels can do that — like the MLS owners. Abbott’s proposals are a smokescreen. More than half of that new spending will actually just come from expansion teams. If Montreal and another club come in, it will be more like 80%. The salary cap would barely be nudge upwards, and the average salary would hardly increase at all. If the league brings in some more high-priced talent, such as Henry, Raul and others after the World Cup, they would eat up the entire increase and then some. The amount of money available for the other 23 players on a roster might even go down.

    That’s without even touching your assertion that it’s reasonable to refuse to allow players to move to another team or city in MLS that might be more to their liking.

  26. strider says:

    Oh, I forgot to say that Abbott’s comments are so vague, excepth the $60MM, that you can’t tell if the league has made any reasonable proposals. Of course, its just as hard to tell if the players have too.

  27. fischy says:

    No. I don’t see how those two words mean anything different. In either case, they’d be proposing an increase slightly above $60 million — the round number they picked to disclose, because it’s easier than saying $60.8 million.

  28. Never First says:

    As others have said previously, that $60 million may or may not mean much. Does that increase include expansion team(s)? Does it mean that money will be spent on a few star players or on increasing the minimum salary or adding additional roster spots? Does it include medical and other benefits? It sounds nice, but until we hear details, it means nothing to me.

    Why is free agency a good thing? It allows multiple teams to bid for a certain player. The market decides how much a player is worth, not some MLS executives. That said, I think there are other issues more important than free agency as long as they are willing to make changes to what happens to a player when his team no longer wants him.

    Both sides need to work out some sort of deal (even if temporary) and get on with the season. Folks who normally don’t care about soccer will be paying attention this summer. A work stoppage would be a nightmare in terms of publicity for the league.

  29. fischy says:

    Exactly. If they have a hard cap, then free agency won’t increase their costs. Frankly, I think it would only help the league, as it might get fans excited about off-season player movement. The real reason the league doesn’t want to give on free agency is they are afraid to pen that door and then be forced to give up or seriously raise (this supposed increase is barely nudging the cap) the hard cap in future negotiations.

  30. fischy says:

    Well said!!!

  31. Aaron in StL says:

    I understand the owner’s not wanting to get too far ahead of themselves. But some major concessions need to be made on player movement and the contract situations. If they don’t look at it from a financial stand point, then what about from a PR view?

    Who wants to play in a league where you’ll be an indentured service AND not be able to guarantee you’ll be getting a pay check next week. A lot of these players are making less than the guys on that post on here…how do you expect them to be a ‘pro’? How can they live off that one job?

  32. dantheblue says:

    On the one hand, it really bothers me to read about players like Alan Gordon of the Galaxy who used to split from practice on a run to get into his car, navigate the freeways of LA to get to the suburbs to coach a girls’ team for a measly grand a month to supplement his pitiful salary that isn’t guarenteed should he have a car accident and lose two months to injury. THere is something fundamentally wrong with that.

    But, the financial health of the league is equally important as with no league Alan Gordon goes to work at an investment firm and plays soccer for fun with his boyz on Sundays at the park.

    Come on you two groups, knock your heads together and get something done that works for both sides. I TOO will be pissed if my season seats get refunded for missed games.

  33. Supsam says:

    Here, ill give u a situation:

    There are 5 apples on the table. Im about to add 2 more to the table.

    So from that, we can say two things that mean the same using the words “to” and “by”

    -I am going to increase the amount of apples on the table “TO” 7 (since i added 2 more)
    -I am going to increase the amount of apples on the table “BY” 2 (giving us a total of 7)

    Hope that cleared up what i was trying to say.

  34. kyle says:

    Drock I would assume that your job doesnt include playing in front of thousands of fans. And to call the players idiots because you think they want more money is outrageous. Who’s more of an idiot…them for asking more money or you for spending a grand of your 30k salary on watching them??

  35. bob says:

    whose to say that includes the new teams? You are just assuming that thats the case.

  36. fischy says:

    Aah. Well, the current salary cap is $2.4 million. Across 15 teams. That’s $36 million last year. They’re not talking about nearly doubling the spending. They’re talking about an increase spread out over 5 years. The amount being spread is $50 million, or an average of $12 million per year, divided by 16 clubs now and 18 clubs next year…and probably 20 clubs after that. Presumably, the increase will be spread out to increase over time as clubs are added — since their baseline spending will provide much of the increase. So, the salary cap bump won’t be very much.

  37. fischy says:

    Yes, I’m “just assuming”. And, you know darn well that it must be true.

  38. Supsam says:

    Its really hard to be objective about all this but so far, the league has said they have made numerous proposals (thats good) but from what i have read so far, the players have not offered any reasonable proposals of their own. Just demands the players want met. I think it will help the player’s cause if they went a little more in detail about what is being discussed like Abbot has. If only we knew what was going on in those meetings…

  39. JoeW says:

    Here is my theory: I think that the league is deadfast set against free agency for a very simple reason: allowing free agency (which I’ll define as: allowing players to move within the league without the league controlling or approving that decision unless the player is already under contract) would legally violate one of the standards/arguments that the league uses to “prove” that they’re single entity (with investors rather than separate owners in the same league.

    Now, I”m now lawyer. I could be wrong on this. But here’s why I think this:

    1. Effectively, players have almost complete free agency now. If your contract is up, the world is your oyster. Now I totally get that if you’re Mike Petke, going to a 3rd or 2nd division club in England may not work for your family at this stage in his career. So I’m not saying the players are selfish or I’m not sympathetic. They just don’t have free agency within MLS.

    2. There really isn’t any other reason for the league to oppose free agency. Look, players can go overseas now–it’s not like the league has a lot of control on this.

    3. Part of the justification for a single entity structure is that the league (or its investors) allocate the resources. The league decides who gets to join. The league sets the cap. The league decides where new players go (or tells an investor “you may sign anyone outside MLS who hasn’t already been discovered by someone else in the league”). The league awards allocations. But most of all, players under contract to MLS (remember, not the club) only move to another club if MLS releases them from the contract (so they’re completely free–like being waived and then passing through the waiver draft) or the league moves them (which is MLS-speak for a trade between two investors or some other league deal like expansion draft or waiver draft).

    4. Maintaining single entity is critical at this point for the league. Like it or not, the league feels it’s critical for financial viability to operate as single entity. Why? Well, if it wasn’t single entity, could one rich owner (say…LAG) come in and spend $50 million on new players? The cap would prevent this you say? Well, what if you overpaid on the transfer fee (remember, the player gets to keep some of it) so the player made millions on the transfer fee and then signed for $30k for 2 years? Or someone outside looking in (like owners in Montreal) who balk at paying $40 million expansion fee instead sue the league under antitrust (and win). Or a player who wants out of his contract to go to a more lucrative one overseas (say…Beckham or Donovan) sues the league for antitrust.

    I was originally in favor of free agency. I didn’t think (and still don’t) it would drive salaries up much (if at all) b/c the players most likely to benefit from it are likes like Dema Kovalenko or Mike Petke or Devon McTavish who aren’t going overseas and could go to a club where they could get playing time or a better job for their spouse or where they intend to retire. There are a gazillion stories of clubs screwing over a player who was probably just someone’s 12th or 13th or 14th man–not a big revenue guy or MVP. So if the league is willing to cave on other stuff and free agency isn’t going to drive up prices much (if at all), the only reason I can think of why the league would be so dogmatic on this issue is for legal reasons–it would undermine the legal proof of single entity.

  40. fischy says:

    Think about it. If they were going to propose a big increase in the salary cap, they’d say that. They broke out a total spending increase instead. Their is one new team this year. 1 new teams next year. Maybe 2 more after that, but only MLS knows. Does this figure include new teams? Of course it does. The only question is how many new teams is MLS counting on.

  41. Thomas says:

    Does it make me a bad soccer fan if I’m rooting for a work stoppage so Lanny can stay in England?

  42. CM says:

    How exactly does the league view “right of first refusal”? Using Dave Van Den Bergh as a current example. He is out of contract – correct? His soon to be former employer, Dallas, offers him a salary below his demands, thus he rejects their offer. Why should Dallas be in any position to demand compensation from another team for the right to negotiate with DVDB? How can he still be “under contract” when he’s not getting paid to play for your team? Where does right of first refusal come into this?

  43. fischy says:

    Oops — need an editor.

    There is one new team this year — at current levels, that’s $12 million more right there. There will be 2 more new teams next year — over $19 million right there. That’s without a salary cap increase. There will probably be a small one. A 10% increase (less than $250k) means those teams will contribute well over half of the increase — close to $35 million. If 2 more teams join in later years — over $5 million per year. So, we’re at $40, 45, maybe even $50 million. Add in the 10% increase for the 15 teams already in the league, and you get to $60 million. SO, we’re looking at a salary cap increase of about $240k, divided among 24 players per team — an average of $10,000. That’s an average, mind you. Some will get more, and most get substantially less.

  44. Supsam says:

    For those who have no idea why the league would not allow Free Agency, this is what i think their mentality is. They are afraid of teams bidding for a player that will eventually get paid way above market value compared to the player’s value if free agency never existed. I follow the NHL avidly and MLS exec’s worst fears have come to life in the NHL. Its happended many times but ill give one example. There was a restricted free agent hockey player named Dustin Penner who had a breakout year so when he was available several teams competed with another over him and eventually his salary ended up going from $450,000 a year to $4.25 million all cuz competing teams wanted his signature!!! MLS fears this.

  45. Supsam says:

    basically MLS’s mentality is:

    free agency = bid war

  46. cm says:

    If there is a salary cap, and a team wanted to bid up a player – who cares? They still need to fit the salary cap for their team, and they don’t need to give in on the guaranteed contract. If teams start bidding for the services of DVDM or Hartman, and they are terrible, cut them by July and the contract isn’t guaranteed. Not saying you are defending MLS mentailty, but it seems that a salary cap kind of keeps it all in control.

  47. Barry U says:

    I think both sides are playing with the media. Players talking about having it so bad and things are so unfair. MLS throwing out $60MM but not really saying what $60MM means.

    I think the 5 year and adding the expansion teams calculations you guys are throwing out are legit but I want to hear from MLS and players to make sure what it really means.

    I just want this to be done soon cuase I got Tiks to DC United vs. NE on 4/3 and it will be my first MLS game and my sons first ever soccer game. GET IT DONE!!!!!!

  48. Supsam says:

    haha let me make myself clear. I, Supsam, supports free agency! im just saying why MLS does not. But yea, i know what you mean but MLS is a single entity organization. They want to make sure their teams dont get (what they think)getting ahead of themselves. Remember Lee Nguyen anyone? Dallas wanted his services but its up to MLS to decide how much his contract should be worth. Lee wanted more but MLS said no. It doesnt matter if Dallas had enough room in their cap. So the cap is not a factor if you think about it that perspective.

  49. ETJ says:

    You must live in Manhattan if you think an increase of 30k PER player isn’t significant. That is a huge increase when you consider the average salary is around 100k .

    I do agree with you on free agency however

  50. jdeezy says:

    Great post, very interesting theory.

    I’d definitely agree that, assuming it’s not simply an oscar-worthy yet “typical” collective bargaining tactic (ie-hold tight on something less important in order to “win” something bigger somewhere else), the league’s stance on this just feels over the top. Almost fishy.

    This theory would/could explain the disconnect.

  51. rjcpacker says:

    You cannot just go to europe and play in a professional league if you are an adult. Like any professional worker you have to qualify for a work permit and visa for that country and unless you have some form of dual nationality or residency claim you generally have to qualify based on your level of play that cannot be replicated easily. This is usually accomplished by the number of international caps earned usually at a senior level. In England, they are notoriously picky about issuing work permits for players with limited international experience. If you’re lucky enough to be sponsored by a club as a youth player you can just go over but that is a rare opportunity.

    A journeyman 23 yearold MLS player with no international appearances can not just go to Brentford in London and play for that league two club even though he might experience a salary increase by signing with them because he will not qualify for a work permit.

    Another point. It is not clear if a work stoppage would be good or bad for Landon. If a strike, I would believe MLS would expect him to honor his contract and would pursue legal means to prevent him from playing for another club since a strike is his choice. If a lock-out, then I believe he would be free to work elsewhere due to his employment being curtailed by industrial action. I think the details would be in his contract terms.

  52. Daniel says:

    In a word, yes

  53. ETJ says:

    fischy you have been littering this blog with this assumption… the truth is the 60 million bonus almost certainly only effects current players and teams, and we have no reason not to believe that the 60m includes the spending for the new teams

  54. jkim says:

    Where do transfer fees figure in? That could be a reason they are avoiding free agency.

  55. Jonesta says:

    Nobody knows darn well that anything you are saying is true. You are speculating and have nothing to back your statements.

  56. Soccer_Matt says:

    From what I’ve read the league is against free agency because of the international market, not so much because of the bidding war amongst MLS teams. Supposedly the league is working on a method to allow players who are out of contract but wish to remain in the MLS, move around within the league, but without actually implementing a free agency situation.
    If this is true, with the exception of the top players that have a shot at Europe, it does like a reasonable proposal at first glance.
    Of course for for those who do wish to leave the league, they are still at the mercy of the owners.

  57. Tim F. says:

    I don’t know if the $60 million mentioned in the article above equates to a $3.75 million increase in each team’s salary cap but if so, that sounds reasonable.

    I also agree with Abbott that as long as first refusal concerns are addressed, free agency has no home in a single entity structure. If the player does not like what is being offered they should attempt to play in another country.

    From that standpoint, I think the players should either voice their remaining concerns or get an agreement done. Where I fault Garber and the league is by waiting so long to get this deal done in the first place and to be so secretive about the issues being negotiated.

    The fact that it is past mid-February and no deal is done is unacceptable. They started negotiating the new CBA too late and have not had enough open communication about the issues. A work stoppage or replacement players of any sort serves no one and could reach the point where soccer at this level is not sustainable in the US.

    They should work out some sort of agreement immediately even if it is just for a couple of years and then immediately replace those leading the negotiations on both sides.

  58. Atoms 63 says:

    For those of you who sympathize with the players let me ask a few questions.1) If the owners did not put up the money to subsidize the league for the past 15 years where whould the vast majority of the players be making a living? Some of these players from South or Central America are making more money in the MLS then where they previously played. 2) If the players are so abused by the financial constrants of the league ( the owners are making so much money) then why don’t they invest in an ownership group or as an individual owner. The only player that I am aware of that has the option to do so is David Beckman. Todays players are so concerned about me and mine they can’t see or don’t want to see the other side. If things are that bad have the courage to quit when your contract is up and go overseas to play. As I see it the vast majority could not make a living playing outside the US.

  59. Tim F. says:

    Someone above suggests that the cap impact may only be $600,000 per team…. clearly a much lower figure. They should agree to a slight higher figure… perhaps over the next two years … and then revisit CBA at that time. Get this deal done.

  60. Andy says:

    Yeah, Drock, but if you get fired, you’re free to get another job in your field. These guys are “owned” by the team that fired them TWO YEARS after the act.

    Imagine getting fired and not being able to get another job in your field for two years unless your new company agrees to pay a fee to the company that fired you.

  61. Eurosnob says:

    Ives, could you provide some analysis of whether the proposed $60 mil is significant? How much does it affect the salary cap? I understand that you don’t have the exact proposal in front of you, but is it possible to roughly reverse-engineer what this increase really means?

  62. alexandria says:

    indentured servitude? No offense but no one told these guys to play soccer? indentured servants are paying off a debt they owe by doing work so your analogy is way off. Secondly, if you told me I was going to get 30,000 more dollars to do my same job I would take it in a heart beat. Thirdly, if the players think they deserve so much, if they think they are entitiled to so much then I deserve to watch better players, and I’d rather us pay better players then give more money to marginal ones. You want more money play better, practice harder, everyone wants MLS to put a better product out, and the product is the players and some of them just aren’t good enough, so why throw away your business model for these marginal guys. They don’t need free agency if you change the rules of right of first refusal, if your team doesn’t sign you by a certain time then they lose your rights and you can sign with anybody, thats a good compromise, what more do you want?

  63. Andy says:

    With Landon, I suspect that he’ll be allowed to play at Everton, but might have to do it for free (i.e., as no MLS players are getting paid, he can’t either).

    If there is any threat of Donovan not being able to play, there’ll be a quiet word from Sunil’s mouth to Garber’s ear and a ruling will be made that allows Landon to play.

    The USSF can’t afford to have one of their top players not playing and the MLS can’t afford to have the USSF take the players’ sides in the labor dispute.

  64. alexandria says:

    Ok but these guys are working for the same company.. its like getting fired from comcast in atlanta and then trying to get a job at comcast in baltimore, doesn’t exactly work. They can gget another job, they can go overseas, to mexico, usl, OR they can get picked up by another team if they are deemed valuable enough.

  65. Seriously? says:

    could you please explain your assumptions here, I don’t get where your figures come from. For one thing, I think your counting the salaries for the coming expansion teams as part of the increase, but are you sure you can say that? While I can’t say I’d be shocked if the league was using that kind of word play, I would be a bit surprised, as I’d hope the fact that the new teams’ salaries would be seen as a given.

    Also, I take it you’re not assuming it would be $60 mil a year, what’s the period you using?

    Finally, I’d think that spreading the increase across all players in the league is a bit unrealistic, I don’t see that being how an increase would be used. A better question is will the minimum salary increase, and will the max increase, allowing for more good players to be brought in, or kept.

  66. alexandria says:

    Who on NY team makes 20 g a year? 2 people?

  67. JoeW says:

    rjcpacker–I totally get there are work permit and cap issues in Europe. But it’s the WORLD that is an oyster. You’ve got guys going to Vietnam for chrissakes! Now, I’m not going to argue that playing for a club in El Salvador or Japan or a lower division side in Mexico or Turkey is a great place to go. My point is simply this: it’s not like the NFL or effectively MLB where you take the offer or you sit out a season. You’ve got a lot of other options. Maybe it’s not Liverpool or Betis. But it’s not like these guys don’t have other options.

    And I agree–the “other options” may not work for their family. Believe me, I’ve got some sympathy for guys like Petke or McTavish who aren’t going to draw big money offers and make below six figures and are on the margin every year in MLS–a threat to be cut if the new coach doesn’t like them or a cheaper option comes along. And I used to believe that free agency was the way to go. But I truly, honestly believe that offering free agency would endanger the legal status of single entity for MLS.

    And for those who argued that free agency would drive up salaries and create a bidding war–I totally disagree (which again, makes it so hard to see why the owners–oops, INVESTORS–are so dogmatic on this issue). With hockey–NHL is the only game in town. With sports like NBA and NFL, the vast majority of the big money or the ONLY money is with those leagues.

    But with MLS, supposed Dane Richards was a free agent and held out insisting that he deserved to make $250k (which would be a paltry salary in most decent Euro leagues). Who in MLS would pay $250k for Dane Richards–unless they felt he was the final piece in the puzzle for a championship team–and they had the cap room? Actually, what we’ve seen in MLS (which is part of the reason I think the players fight so hard for free agency) is how “middle-class” veterans get screwed over. Look at Nick Rimando–how RSL and NYRB basically had him in limbo for a couple of months. RSL didn’t want him, NYRB didn’t want him enough and actually preferred Jan Van Beveren. But with a cap, you can’t afford to have a 5-7 year veteran who makes $100k as a reserve.

    And I know Ives writes for more than NYRB but certainly this blog has a higher percentage of NYRB fans given his geographical location and who he has the most access to. NYRB are going to be one of the poster children this year for the extinction of the MLS “middle class” (veterans who make between 70k-175k) if they do end up using their second DP. B/c if you blow $700k of your cap on two players, you want a lot of GenAd and rookies and minimum salary players. You can’t have a team like RSL or Houston that has a lot of middle class (ie: guys making between 70k-175k b/c they’ve proven with their performance in MLS). I think the players are pushing for free agency NOT b/c they think it will lead to increased salaries (which it did with baseball, football, basketball and hockey) but b/c most of the players are either middle class or close to it. And they realize that if the LAG has cap problems it isn’t Beckham or Donovan (or a cheap player like De la Garza) who gets cut. It’s someone like Chris Klein or Clint Mathis or Eddie Lewis to takes the hit.

    Again, you can look at other leagues and assume free agency raises salaries. But none of those leagues are ones in which (a) the world plays that same sport and (b) the US league is a minnow (financially). Look at track and field (where effectively every athlete is a free agent). It’s Europe where American track athletes make the big money, not the US. And what you see with T&F is that the big stars (the sports equivalents of Beckham) make a handsome killing. And athletes who aren’t in cachet track events and aren’t serious candidates to win Euro championships or Olympic medals–well, they take a second job. Or get their nation to support them. I think free agency in soccer wouldn’t lead to higher salaries. Guys like Donovan or Altidore–if they want more money they go overseas and no way can MLS compete with that (and free agency wouldn’t change that). It’s the Kovalenko’s and Jessie Marsch’s and Jeff Parkes and Nick Rimando’s of MLS who benefit from free agency–and that’s through moving to a team that gives them a better fit and thus more security.

  68. Galaxy scrub says:

    lol – Alan Gordon at an investment firm. Unless Grant Wahl was being really unfair in his description of him in Backham Experiment, let’s just say that Gordo might be able to get an admin job.

  69. alexandria says:

    I totally agree, I mean if MLS was making furniture and everyone tried their product and it sucked, they would lose customers until they put more money into that product, but you wouldn’t keep using the same raw materials, you’d upgrade, the only players we keep hearing from are either on their last leg and can comfortably retire or are people like james riley, who in my opinion aren’t as good as they think, these guys aren’t going overseas.

  70. alexandria says:

    good post

  71. Steven says:

    Remember, ETJ, the 30k figure is an average. Meaning that the top earners will see most of that, and the lowest earners (who currently make only 36k) will see much less.

    Also, notice that fischy amended his math. After expansion, the new average will be closer to 10k per player. So a lesser player may only get a 1k bump. This is not insignificant, but when you remember the fact that some good players who could make a ton more $ at lesser leagues in Europe are struggling to make ends meet here…well, it’s a shame – economically necessary or not.

  72. Steven says:

    Fishy’s math is right. Reports are that the cap will raise from 2.3mil to 2.6mil.

    IE. 300k per team or 13k per player.

    link to

  73. Andy says:

    Not really. Alexandria. Think of it more as being a telephone tech working for Ma Bell; you get fired, but can’t work at another Ma Bell location without them paying the location/department that fired you and your only other job possibilities are:
    1. working at a local phone company, for usually less pay and far less growth opportunity (i.e., exposure, etc.)
    2. trying to work overseas, which requires getting a job permit (far from easy to obtain).

    MLS isn’t AT&T or Verizon, MLS is Ma Bell of 50 years ago; they are the ONLY 1st Division league in the country, basically a monopoly.

  74. Steven says:

    Fischy’s math is right. Reports are that the cap will raise from 2.3mil to 2.6mil.

    IE. 300k per team or 13k per player.

    link to

    Everything is a speculation as long as the new CBA hasn’t been signed. But with reports coming out like this, the speculation becomes quite educated.

    Great job Fischy!

  75. Gazza says:

    Great post Supsam. You however forgot to mention that Dustin Penner is crap and is actually worth the $425,000 he was getting before his breakout year.

    I feel for some of the players but have no time for the likes of Chad Barrett or Alan Gordon. Nice guys but they don’t belong in any professional league.

  76. Camjam says:

    It’s too bad that this post is so far down (in terms of scrolling distance) because it is very well written. Seriously Joe, Wow! Very good points and things to think about. HIRE HIM IVES!!

  77. Matt says:

    Obviously if the guy is spending a grand of his money a year he is dedicated fan. Its people like him that made the league what it is today. and your calling him an idiot? him like thousand of fans have put there hard earn money and time into this league, and now it might all come to an end because the players cant get exactly what they want! I understand where the players are coming from, but if they strike they will kill the league! The league is only 14 years old! they need to get what they can out of the deal and come back for more in a couple of years. and if they strike yes they are idiots and they do not care about the fans. they wouldnt even be in the position that they are in without the fans and people like Drock.

  78. alexandria says:

    yea, but the market is world wide… just like you can transfer within the company say from atlanta to LA in the same department or to a different one, or you can quit working for MLS and work in denmark, or italy or norway. Besides, if you get cut from dallas but LA wants you, dallas says ok we want draft picks and allocation money if you are worth it then you get picked up. If your not worth it then your only bet is to take a pay cut and try to sign with dallas or wait and see. The idea of paying for a player is something that happens the world over, look at pavleyachenko he sits on the bench at tottenham, because no one else wants to pay the transfer price for him, if he was worth his price someone would come in and pay for him, but he’s not, not at the price tottenham wants, so he’s stuck on the bench. He’s surplus tottenham don’t want him, but they won’t relinguish his rights unless someone meets their demands, same idea. So what happens to him, he either buys out his contract and goes back to russia, or he takes a pay cut and plays for someonelse or he stays at tottenham.

  79. JCC says:

    I’m siding with the players on this one. Stick to your guns boys!

  80. Turgid Jacobian says:

    Except how do you incentivize for better players? By paying better. That is neither complicated nor controversial. If you’d like the better Americans (or really whoever) to come improve the product, it’ll cost.

  81. Turgid Jacobian says:

    300k or 600k, both numbers I’ve seen reported elsewhere.

  82. alexandria says:

    True, but the players said it wasn’t about the money remember? Thats what they’ve been claiming all this time. Besides all of this is conjecture the 60 mill is so vague we don’t know what he means, plus the last cba had a salary cap escalator whose to say this one won’t too, besides the owners had already planned to increase the cap significantly i don’t consider an extra 300,000 significant so I’ll wait and see before I make an opinion on the salary cap. The point I was trying to make is why should we pay bad players more? that makes no sense.

  83. The league may claim that free agency would undermine a single entity approach, but it’s probably a bogus claim. Many corporations operate subsidiaries that are free to hire staff from each other without reference to headquarters. In the case of MLS, the salary cap serves as the mechanism to allocate resources. To qualify as a single entity, the league doesn’t have to make all decisions about resources.

  84. fischy says:

    An extra $300,000 divided by 24 players and then divided again by Thierry Henry, Raul, Clarence Seedorf, Patrick Viera and anyone else who wants to come over and sign for 6 or 7 figure salaries. Maybe a $10k average increase, but a lot less for the bottom feeders.

  85. fischy says:

    Other than common sense. except for that, you’re point would be well taken.

  86. fischy says:

    I threw out 600k as a maximum — but I forgot to account for the addition of Philadelphia — the overall increase would include their entire salary roster over the 5 years. Plus, the league is probably going to expand to Montreal in ’12 and another city in ’12 or ’13. So, the cap is only going to increase $250k or $300k.

  87. fischy says:

    JoeW — you’re talking sense. Good sense. You’re scaring me. On the other hand, it gives me some optimism to know we can see the world in the same way, when we stick to facts and their natural consequences.

    Great post. I hope everyone reads and gets it.

  88. fischy says:

    The only conjecture I’m making is that the league will expand from 18 teams to 20 teams, in ’12 or ’13. Of course, only MLS know for sure if they’re going to expand, but the Montreal owner claims he’s already got a deal. So, the increased spending will be spread out among either 18 teams, 19, or teams.

  89. Chicago Mike says:

    Very easy. Free agency will drive up player salaries. That’s can be seen by observing any professional league in the United States. How many teams in MLB, NFL, NBA overpay for free agents. Which isn’t a problem if you have a much higher cap or in the case of MLB no cap. but with a cap of only 2.3 or 2.6, over paying for one player who crush a team for years. Especially if that.s a guaranteed.

  90. fischy says:

    Oops — that should be “18 teams, 19, or 20 teams.”

  91. jamesington says:

    Isn’t that what the salary cap is for?

  92. Nic D "The Texas 2 Stepper" says:

    You are assuming that the player is making a cash grab. AND that the team’s front office is just doling out cash. When it is obvious that the team’s are not interested in paying.

    I think that we should have a Restricted Free agency system. Teams should be able to bid on a players services similar to the NFL system. The team holding the rights of a player should be given 30 days to match the offer or release the player.

    If such an offer is made for a player with an “option” year on a player’s contract, the inquiring team should give up their 1st or 2nd draft pick depending on the players status within the team. I would probably determine that by Appearances (50 – 74%; second round, 75% and above; 1st round)

  93. Reece says:

    Kraft and Hunt can each suck one of my nuts.

  94. ThaDeuce says:

    yeah…but a 10k raise anytime, much less now, is a damn fine raise…. cheers to the league for that!

    Now, about free agency and players rights and all that jazz, i’m with the players.

  95. ThaDeuce says:

    well, he makes a point… indentured servitude it is not…and i would like a better product…

  96. Northzax says:

    Well sure. But there’s no team in New York, is there? The average individual income in Harrison, NJ is $29,996. (google it) so even the low end $30k+ are making more than the local average.

  97. Andy says:

    There are some BIG misconceptions in your post.

    1. It’s not “team takes the deal or you get a paycut”, it’s “team takes the deal or you continue to be OUT OF WORK” as in “No Paycheck”.

    2. Pavlochenko is a PERFECT example of what is wrong with the MLS. Yeah, Spurs would like to get rid of him but want something for him. Until some team ponies up or until his contract is up, he continues to get paid by Spurs. Once they stop paying him, he is free to go to whoever will take him. MLS players are still “owned” by their former MLS team (for MLS purposes) for TWO YEARS after they STOP getting paid.

    You are under the gross misconception that soccer players can just “take a paycut” and change their situation. That’s not how it works. Outside the MLS, while under contract, their registration is owned by their team – they can’t play anywhere else. A team is free to sign a player for a 5-year deal and never even put him on the Subs bench – but, they have to continue to pay him. In the MLS, in most cases, your contract can be canceled at any time by the team, which means you stop getting paychecks and means you can’t play for another MLS team for two years unless the teams agree terms – how much the player is willing to make is not even part of this equation.

  98. Andy says:

    A good post on why free agency is needed in the MLS.

  99. Ron says:

    Unions ARE cartels. They are labor cartels.

  100. cj says:

    The players and owners need to compromise during this time. MLS has seen some success over its 14 years but it is still a fledgling league that is not in the mindset of the American sports culture. Until they get stadiums in place in every city, TV ratings start to go up, and they sell out most games, the players should not demand free agency.

    This league is not a profitable league and it will die with free agency. We are in very difficult economic times and the good times cannot be seen in the near future.

    I totally understand where the players are and they feel like they should be treated like every other professional sports league in the US but MLS is not like MLB, NFL or the NBA.

    The players do not need to do anything stupid. The veterans that are representing the players are at the end of their careers and don’t have a lot at stake anymore. Onstad and Klein are probably trying to make up for the time where they were not making a lot of money.

    I just hope they get a deal done because if a work stoppage occurs this could end up just like the NHL but I don’t know if the league could even come back if a work stoppage happens.

    I think most fans will just go watch and do something else. MLS is not ingrained in our culture and to be honest will not even be missed.


  101. Gazza says:

    Lamar Hunt is dead.

  102. KJ says:

    Everyone involved needs to compromise a little bit; they’re only hurting themselves, especially if they don’t reach an agreement and there has to be a work stoppage. The stoppage is going to do more damage to the league than anything else, especially if the season is to start in a month. Also, with the world cup this year, MLS has a chance to capitalize on the interest if the USMNT does well. A work stoppage needs to be avoided at all cost.

  103. davidaubudavid says:

    I don’t understand this whole better product thing. What is so bad about the mls? Is everyone angry because it isn’t the best league on earth? Yes, the mls could be better, but it has gotten quite a bit better in just the last few years. Honestly it is probably better than most leagues you could possibly see. Just because it isn’t as good as the top handful of European leagues doesn’t mean it is that bad.

    Considering how little we pay players in the mls, we should be extremely excited about the product on the field. I guarantee you the average mls player is making half of market value of his foreign counterpart. Seriously when a player is making 15,000 (not to say this is average, but there are players who make very little like this) a year living in LA’s pricy economy and he comes on and is capable of playing I am extremely impressed. I live in missouri and at my waiting income of about 10,000 plus rooming with 3 people I find it difficult to afford even basic necessities. So yes I am impressed when a player making that much can come on the field and not look malnourished let alone actually play the game with any ability.

  104. Manny F says:

    Everyone knows that MLS is just trying to break even at this point right? Sports isn’t a supposed to be run like a business. That is why so many European teams are so close to going into administration over there. You can’t make money off of a sport really. Breaking even and or gaining profit to reinvest into it is the point of the game.

    MLS is just trying not to go under. But they really need to pay these guys better. How can a player concentrate on being a professional when they need to concern themselves with an “education” or a “job”? As well as get rid of these rights issue. How can you keep someone chained to a franchise when you don’t even want them and still demand compensation for them to sign with another team. Last time I checked, that was why we had the Bosman ruling in Europe.

    And these are both products of American sport leagues. You can run a league that deals with an International sport that competes with other leagues the the way you would run a league where it is only played in a few countries like baseball.

    I’m siding with the players on this one. For starters I buy the tickets to see them play. And the league came up with all the rules that piss me off like the allocations, drafts and lottery bullcrap that they come up with.

    If the League really wanted parity, they would never have let Landon and David play on a team if they both weren’t DPs even after Landon signed a new contract. While teams like Dallas can’t sign Nguyen just because they don’t think he commands whatever Dallas and Lee were okay with.

  105. Moose says:

    I know it is hard to realize, but they do get paid more than just their salary for playing. Alot of players I know get paid for appearences and what not. Even my friend LaBrocca was living the good life in Colorado and he only made 13k a year.

  106. Moose says:

    Not at all. You prefer him to play against quality players. Something which MLS cannot provide.

  107. Moose says:

    This is crazy to me, because MLS owns the player’s contracts not the teams. Thus, the playres should be allowed to move from team to team when they are out of contract.

  108. Moose says:

    Good 2nd part, but on the first part you have to realize that 90% of the players in MLS are not good enough to go around the world and play. MLS accepts mediocre players and that is why they only get paid 20k/year. PEtke cannot go off to another league, not because of family constraints, but because he is not good enough. So, the world may be an oyster, but not for most MLS players.

  109. Arkie says:

    Why is no one bringing up issues of fairness? owners and everyone make so much more money off these players than what they pay them. That’s a fact, so why shouldn’t players (and people like coaches/trainers etc.) demand a bigger share of the pie since it is their labor that is bringing in money? They aren’t trying to bankrupt the league, just get more of what is arguably largely theirs. Personally, I’m not worried about these guys who are DP and making good money, although the same arguments apply, but I think we really need to see pay increases for the bottom of the barrel. They are integral to a team: no team can not have the benchwarmers, and they are still putting in their labor as much as everyone else (well, minus the games…) It’s just not that fair for some guys to make absolute piddance, making what someone like David Backham makes in a week in a year. Every player is important. I don’t understand really how the mls has a cohesive union at all, you’d think the benchwarmers would be pissed off enough to get things changed.

  110. Jm says:

    Speculation on the variables in this equation are largely false.

    The $60-million in increased player investments come by way of a new league minimum salary for senior players, and a new minimum salary for developmental players. The $60-million is the aggregate total for the term of the proposed CBA, and has an impact on very few contracts.

    The rumored $300,000 increase in the salary cap would be incremental to this $60-million investment. Although, there is a strong possibility the salary cap will remain flat, and the DP salary cap figure will change (reduced) in an effort to incentivize more clubs to use their DP allocation. More DPs = more marketable players, which media partners have asked for.

    Given the duration of the current negotiations, the DP salary cap figure will likely not change until the 2011 season. The core of MLS will remain the Americans out of the college system, but an increase on foreign players is expected as expansion clubs join the league.

    The lockout/strike is going to be all about intra-league free agency. The union want players to be able to move freely within the league; the league maintains its staunch stance against clubs bidding against one another for talent.

  111. Joamiq says:

    I’d be OK with a cap increase of $300k only AFTER accounting for significant increases in minimum salaries, which are an utter insult.

  112. Joamiq says:

    This is, frankly, a stupid argument. That’s like saying sweatshop owners don’t owe their employees a fair wage because they wouldn’t be employed otherwise. The owners didn’t “subsidize” the league in order to do charity for the players. They made an investment with the expectation of making bank down the road. Without the players, there are no profits to be made. The fact is that each side needs the other, but the owners now have the power, and they shouldn’t be allowed to abuse it.

  113. Average-Joe says:

    One thing you all seem to be overlooking is the fact that the 60 million Dollar proposal is all but certain to take place over the entire term of any new CBA. It would be fool hardy to think the league would agree to a new 5 or 6 year CBA and then put all their financial eggs into the first year.

    Today’s players would see hardly any money at all out of this proposal, most of it would be eaten by new teams and players and the players who are still around at the ends of a new CBA.

    This proposal is nothing more than a PR stunt by the league and yet more suckers fell for it hook line and sinker. Why hasn’t anybody here asked how long of a term this “increase” would take place over?

  114. Scottie says:

    You need to learn what a cartel is.

  115. Scottie says:

    How can it drive up player salaries with a hard cap? Teams would still be limited in what they can pay out.

  116. Scottie says:

    Why would free agency kill the league when they have a salary cap of $2.3 million?

    NHL didn’t have a salary cap.

  117. Turgid Jacobian says:

    Well that just makes it more humiliating.

  118. As it stands MLS offers players vastly inferior opportunity and I would advise any young player to do whatever it takes to play overseas anywhere and stay out of the MLS. This would not be the case if the MLS revised how it contracts with its players in which case it could be an ultra valuable stepping stone the way lower league clubs are around the world; then MLS could be *the* key to a players career.

    As it stands playing for the MLS has got to be a option of last resort for a player and accordingly the MLS neither attracts better players nor benefits the growth of the game here in the US as it would if it were part of the connected, fluid soccer world. It is insular, a soccer ghetto with no hope of escape.

    Frankly the way the MLS contracts players is something I find unconscionable. This is no way to win fans over, it turns my stomach.

  119. triplet1 says:

    Sure, it’s about $25 million for each of the current 15 teams over the next five years — more specifically about $115,000 per team per year, and $35 million to provide players for the three new expansion teams, counting each of their entire respective payrolls as “new dollars”.

    Essentially, it’s increasing the salary budget for teams each year at about the same rate as now with with three new teams thrown in the mix.

  120. Josh D says:

    Not when you realize some are playing for 30k or 50k a year with no prospect outside of soccer so if they’re injured, they’re on the streets.

    Fact of the matter is MLS is playing politics. They address all the issues but don’t explain them.

    “We’ve studied past leagues and other leagues and we don’t think it’s right to have free agents.” Umm that’s fine but state why it isn’t when other leagues seem perfectly fine with it and when it benefits your players (i.e. your employees).

    MLS is run like communism and they aren’t letting go. If anyone has a group or petition floating around in support of the players I will happily contribute.

  121. Josh D says:

    This is what the league gets for waiting until the last minute… “We’ve been working on it for weeks, even months!” Well you’ve had YEARS to figure things out…

  122. Felix says:

    a 10k raise is fine for working stiffs like us, but if you can move fairly easily to Denmark, Sweden or Norway and make 10x the amount that you make right now……..

    Then we see why we continually lose players to Scandinavian leagues.

    I can appreciate the position the league is in, it is growing due in part to its strict financial structure, but now that same structure might cause a work stoppage which would set the league back by 5 to 10 years. It and the players better figure something out that will work for everyone. If there is a lockout or a strike, this league which struggles for acceptance even among soccer fans in the US, will have a major crisis on its hands.