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Players Union, This Is Not the Time to Strike

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How much resolve do the players really have? In thinking through this over the past two weeks, I'm now convinced this is a bad time for the players to posture. The league needs more time to take root.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

As the MLS 2015 season draws closer (and the Colorado Rapids get on the pitch for real against Philadelphia on Saturday, March 7), look for a new labor deal to take place within the week.  What that deal will look like is anyone's guess.  The Washington Post reinforces the notion that the players are "adamant they will not play without the league embracing some form of free agency"--but how much resolve do these players really have?  We'll find out.

As you know, I've written about the possible work stoppage for the last few weeks.  You may have read about my appeal to Commissioner Garber to do right by the players-- and I still hold to what I wrote.

Now to the Players Union, I question whether this is really the time to strike.  I don't believe it is.

American soccer is gaining significant momentum.  I fear an MLS work stoppage, no matter how noble the cause is for the players, will prove to many of the unsustainability of the game on the American sports scene and will lose the momentum it's gained with the mainstream sports fan. The players' posturing and the arguments they make will likely provide helpful inroads to their position down the road. But not now. For a number of reasons:

  1. The television contracts extended to MLS makes this a bad time.  With ESPN and other networks on board with fairly lucrative contracts, is this really the best time to move forward with this?  Should this strike become a reality, will this lend itself to future contracts from these networks?  If the momentum from the league wasn't on an upward trend, ESPN wouldn't have jumped on board.
  2. Expansion makes this a tough time. Orlando City SC had 65,000 fans come out for training camp--training! While they certainly have been impressive with how they've followed their USL team prior to their move to Louisville, how much of a letdown would that be for the league to lose momentum in Orlando and New York so quickly in the season?   Yes, this is about owners/MLS v. players, but what will this do to the fans in these important expansion markets?
  3. The numerous other leagues fans have to watch. No MLS?  For us MLS homers, a strike is a devastating thought.  Going to see the Rapids play 17 times a year is now a part of my family's DNA.  We're in--as are a number of others. But to begin No problem. NBC has the EPL. Rumors are that FOX may carry Bundesliga.  UniMas and Azteca carry LigaMX.  Other outlets carry La Liga, Serie A, and other leagues from across the world.  Plus, USL and NASL provide teams to follow, especially for us in Denver with the Switchbacks (and I'll go see my adopted team, Louisville City FC, when I head back to Kentucky for vacation this summer, as well as the Charlotte Independence when I go see my parents).
So, yes, I agree it would benefit the players to have a limited free agency for those who have been in the league for more than five years.  No, I do not know how sustainable that would be.  My concern now is the timing of it all.  While the league, yes, does have solid support by a fair amount of fans, if it has an aim to grow, I question whether this is the time.

Again, my guess is that a deal gets in place before the season start because, deep down, they realize that the league has to start on time.  The Rapids have to be in Philadelphia on Saturday, March 7 to beat the Union and start off well. The cause by the players is noble.  One day, free agency will be a reality.

But now's not the time.