No not the classic movie, it is just 48 hours until the two week extension of the MLS CBA is set to end and in the last two weeks the silence from both sides has been deafening. In the weeks leading up to the January 31st date, you head a lot of talk from players, and a little from the union side but the void of information over the last 10 days has to lead me to believe the sides are very, very close and both sides have finally agreed to keep the discussion in the meeting rooms and not in the headlines.
By the time you read this every MLS team will have started their pre-season, in fact several have already started travelling to training locations away from their home cities, not a move you would expect to see if the teams were thinking lockout, or if the players were thinking strike. The last statements made were that the sides were very close and the remaining issues were not financial issues, which leads me to believe that the core issues left are some type of free agency and guarantees on contracts.
More of my thoughts after the jump:
Free Agency is a tricky one given that the contracts are owned currently by the league and not by the teams. To me this means the clear conflict of interests of the league in negotiating contracts with players on behalf of teams while representing both sides is too much to overcome. So does this mean that the league is actually going to consider the movement of monies gathered back out to the teams so they can control their own payroll and contracts? As much as I would love that, I simply don't see it happening just yet.
I think a good move would be for MLS to make all the details of trades, allocations, and loans public. Without that information nobody really knows what happened that ended up with Michael Orozco being loaned to MLS, then Philly trading allocation money to New York in order to move up get the rights to him. The current system is flawed and needs some reworking, there is no doubt of that as one only has to look at the case of Ian Joy. Ian got hurt in an exhibition match before the start of Real Salt Lake's 2009 season and ended up only seeing 7 minutes of playing time before he left the team to continue his rehab and go back to Europe to deal with some family and personal issues.
Now he is back and wanting to play in MLS again, but RSL still holds his rights and while his relationship with the team is a good one, RSL has drafted a number of outside backs and without changes to the current roster size and/or salary cap may not be able to bring Ian back on the roster. Ian is back in Salt Lake and training with the team, and hoping to get a chance to prove to someone that he is ready to go and get back into the action of MLS.
What about guaranteed contracts, several players made a huge issue that they thought that MLS was violating FIFA standards when it comes to how it deals with players contracts. FIFA has chosen to stay out of the issue, but comparing the contract situation in the US with that of Europe is simply comparing apples to oranges, the labor laws of Europe are very, very different than they are in the US. Expecting a contract to be guaranteed is a bit of a stretch in a league where the salary cap is so very low and where many teams are still operating in the red.
However if the owners see it fit to offer "the Don" a contract that could pay him upwards of 3 million a year, I would say if there is any type of guarantee in that contract then the players have every right to demand the same type of guarantees be included in their contracts. If the league can offer almost 2 million dollars in incentives as part of "the Don's" contract, how can they lowball players with $165,000 bonus for winning the MLS Cup? That amount isn't per player but for the entire team. Now something just doesn't seem fair to me in this situation so again I call for some transparency from both sides, and make the details of what the bonuses are for and what the terms are for an organization to terminate a contract.
I don't know what will happen in 48 hours as far as the CBA goes, but I am holding out hope that both sides understand that nothing good can come from not working together to get a deal done.
OFF MY SOAPBOX