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For MLS and its players the countdown is on

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So there are less than 10 days left until the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) the contract between the league and union that represents the players expires.  It has been an interesting few months of coverage and far too many pundits on both sides have vented their opinions (myself included) and far too often the conversation has been:

Players vs. Owners, in fact that is the headline of a post on American Soccer News and they even have a survey of readers to see what side people are on (63% players, 16% owners, 20% undecided) but the fun isn't the post, it indeed is the comments (even my long winded ones- which got me a offer to write for them).  They then mention a podcast of an interview with the Red Bulls Mike Petke from It's Called Football:(they do good work)

Listen Here

I don't know Mike Petke, but if  you want to read my response it is after the jump

 

My comments were:

I would totally agree that "the Don" is well paid for what he does, I am not sure if his salary as reported is his MLS salary, his SUM salary, or both but I heard in Seattle during MLS Cup that the number is more like $1.5 to $1.75 million, which I still would say is being very, very well paid. I would argue that as much as I may not be a fan of "the Don", he does work long hours and has done a lot to progress a league that when he came on board was heading into the deep end bankruptcy pool.

So yes Petke is right, that some players are only making 5 figures, of course most players put in an hour or two of practice a day and maybe another of fitness. It isn't like they are punching a clock in a 10 hour a day job either. 

Ask yourself this what has Mike Petke done to advance the league, how much did he work on soccer specific stadiums, how has he impacted the TV deals that the league has? Sorry I get that a lot of player need to make more money, and some want to make more, and I totally support a raise of the league minimum and I believe the overall cap should be raised.

But do I think that the players should point to "the Don's" salary as why they deserve more money, that is simply ridiculous. That would be like me walking up to my CEO and saying that I should get paid more because he makes so much. 

After listening to the podcast I would add

Sorry Mike, but making 80,000 a year doesn't qualify you as poor and you have a guy making just as much as the comish in JPA and 10 guys making 6 digits a year. I think guys like Borman, Duffy, Sasssano, and those making under 40K have room to complain most. I would say a minimum of 40K should be established for all players.

Oh and Mike comparing MLS to the EPL, that has been around for over 100 years vs.15 for MLS, or a league that has huge academies to develop talent vs a league where every signing is a crap shoot. Not to mention the revenue difference between the two, or the debt level. I get wanting to grow the league, my god there are so many things that could be done, but when you have a more than half the teams not making money are the players willing to give back money if the team loses money? Of course not, see I love how it is easy to want a share of profits but nobody talks about the losses. Way to quote the NASL model from the 70's as a model for "improvement", right ideas but wow you have no idea how quickly it would bankrupt the teams.

Yes the players are right to want more power to the teams, but removing a salary cap all together would be a disaster for the league. So teams with billionaire owners could spend what they want, oh wait LA already does that and how have the last 4 years gone for them? Let's agree that there are changes that need to take place and a lot of them include moving power away from the league and to the teams, but remember that MLS is a fringe sport in the US and changing that is a process that can happen but it isn't going to happen overnight. Both the league and players need to understand that change is needed and both sides need to understand that only by working together will the sport continue to grow in the US. But the game of pointing fingers, which is done by both sides will accomplish nothing. Most of us are working in jobs that we tolerate in order to support our families, players get a chance to do what they are passionate about and if they find they can earn enough to live the way they want, then they like everyone else should look for a new job.

As some of you may have read from earlier this week I posted my thoughts about the 4 major issues being contested in the CBA discussions.  I have stated a number of times that I am no real fan of unions, just like I have stated I am no fan of "the Don" or the current structure of MLS.

I think it is easy for fans to side with the players, and on some issues I am 100% behind the players, but I think far too many people forget that sports teams are businesses.  Not just a collection of players, millions of dollars are invested by owners just to get the right to own a franchise (10 million for the teams joining in 2005, up to a rumored 50 million for the teams joining next year). Millions more are often risked in building stadiums, and all of it for the hope to one day turn a profit.  The hope is that fans will come to matches, buy jerseys, and spend money and for some teams that risk has paid off, but for most in MLS they still are not making money.  For every success story like Seattle or Toronto, there is a Kansas City, or a San Jose.  As Bill Manning revealed last week in my interview with him, RSL still isn't making a profit but the plan is to break even in 2010 and start making money in 2011.  That is great news because much of the 65 million put up by Dave Checketts to build Rio Tinto Stadium was loans and just like the loans you and I take out, interest has to be paid as well as the loan amount.

I hope like hell that both players, owners, and league officials come to terms in the next 9 days.  I hope both sides understand that there is no guarantee that MLS will survive, just ask the Arena Football League about that.  There are real issues that need to be dealt with and I believe no issue is larger than raising the league minimum to $40,000 a year with that amount going up $5,000 a year for the length of the new CBA.  Now before you start yelling and ranting that nobody should be made to play for 40K, you're right, however they should have a right to chose to play a game for a living, to live a dream of being able to do what they love for a job, to showcase their skills and if they are good enough and work hard enough move up that salary ladder.  It worked for Kyle Beckerman who made under $80,000 in 2006 and last year made over $160,000.  When is the last time your salary more than doubled in 3 years?

So have you picked a side?  Which one?  Why?  For me I think both sides have legit points, but I really wonder if they are more interested in what they can get, than doing what is right for MLS.  If you have an opinion share it.

OFF MY SOAPBOX