Last week, I made the appeal to Commissioner Don Garber to do right by the players, calling for a limited free agency. What would this look like? I had the opportunity to talk to my good friend, Bo McMillan, Social Media Strategist of World Soccer Talk. Bo and I met in Kentucky while he was in college at Eastern Kentucky University and I was pastor at Boone's Creek Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. He started coming and we developed a friendship. I helped him understand the faith better, and he has helped me understand the beautiful game better. A Chelsea fan and Columbus Crew fan, I'm thankful he took time to give some good insight on the labor struggle.
Burgundy Wave: Bo, thanks so much for taking time to field questions. All of us Colorado Rapids fans wonder if we'll have an MLS season to start on time. What are you sensing with the labor negotiations between MLS and the players? Do you see a work stoppage?
Bo McMillan: Good to be with you, Matt. From what I understand, both sides of the negotiation are very far apart. The latest news is that both sides are grinding out small, legal details, while still making little to no progress on the overall issues. At this point, I think we're definitely looking at a strike. It's just too close to the beginning of the season to be having discussion on topics this large in scale. It's hard to see a settlement that makes both sides even remotely happy come in the next few weeks.
Player compensation and free agency are issues that are foundational to the league. Budging on those, even a little bit, will mean MLS look will operate a lot differently than it does now. On one hand, players deserve larger wages and free agency, on the other hand, MLS executives are looking with nervous eyes at what happened with the NASL of old, and the inflated salaries leading to the league folding. Can that be settled in a few weeks? Sure, but it's doubtful.
BW: So do you prefer a limited free agency? What would that look like?
McMillan: I prefer a free agency, but I understand that moving to that might cause a lot of problems in MLS, some potentially cataclysmic. Limited free agency isn't ideal, but it may be the answer. I think they'll elect to keep the draft looking much like it does now, but maybe allow free agency for players who have served on a club for a long period of time, say five to eight years. Clubs could put bids in for those players and the players could then choose where to go. I know there are leagues out there that do limited free agency, but I view it more as a crutch than a viable long-term option. For that reason I could see it be a good step between the structured format we see now and complete free agency.
Bo and I will continue this conversation next week (if there's still a labor struggle), but maybe you'd like to shoot some questions to him. Tweet him at @garnlink or just leave a comment in the comments section. I'm growing less hopeful by the day, but you never know. Let us know what you're thinking.