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Am I wrong?

I have never claimed to be right about everything, the views here are my opinions and I do make mistakes, but recently I posted a response to what I considered a hack job when someone compared the situation of Kevin Hartman and MLS to being worse than working for Wal-mart.  The author was making a point about free agency and player rights, but to be fair I said that you had to look at the whole of the situation.

There was a paragraph where I said "I have over the past few weeks looked at a number of real issues with the league, but I continue to think that "Free Agency" is the least likely issue to be dealt with as long as the league continues to be the owner of player contracts. I would never try to make a case for the league being the good guy in every situation, but I would suggest that the players making over $150,000 a year stop bitching and moaning about things.  I have a lot more compassion for the many players making under $40,000 a year.  I have a lot more compassion for the players who have gone out and busted their butts for years just trying to make it to be a starter for a team, for many it has meant giving up things and enduring hardships,  I have much less compassion for a guy at the end of his career trying to cash in a few more years to pad his bank accounts."

RSL's Nick Rimando took issue with my suggestion that players stop bitching and moaning about things.  Suggesting that I am wrong on this one, and I may be, but my point is clear.  I get that for some players "free agency" may be the keystone issue to the CBA, but the reality is what the players are really asking for is for the league to give up its legal status as a single entity, something it won in the Fraser v. MLS lawsuit in 2002.  Now for me to think that the lawyers for the players union aren't going after this, is a stretch, and what would be the end result of something like this?  For many they believe it would be the end of the league, it would thrust MLS into the same model as the old NASL where teams spend money they don't have in an attempt to compete.  If you know anything of US soccer history, then you know about the NASL, if you are paying attention to the situation in Portsmouth you can see what can go wrong when spending is unchecked.

More after the jump:

Now I will say that I believe the league is close to being able to begin moving away from the single entity, I believe if the league growth and popularity continue to improve with Philly, Portland, Vancouver, and whatever other city/cities might join the league in the next couple years.  I think for the league to bridge into more team control will require each team to control a larger portion of the overall revenue, while I think the league will need to keep control of that national TV contracts, and league sponsors, things like jersey sponsors and merchandise rights.  Once the teams control more revenue, then they should begin to own the contracts of their players.  This means instead of all the money going into the league and then they pay a bunch of bills and give a piece to the teams for their bills, that the majority of all income from teams and the league would go to the teams, while the league would get a smaller portion.

I have over the last few weeks spelled out 10 things that I would love to see done in the league by 2014, a date that represents the end of the Adidas deal, the end of the ESPN deal, and likely the end of the CBA being negotiated now.  I see that date being a much more realistic date for a topic like "free agency", and while I am sure the players would love to move forward faster, as would most fans.  I remember the NASL, and then I remember the decade plus of no real professional soccer in the US, I refuse to support anything that I believe could lead to that again.  I believe that both MLS and the players union have to understand that change is coming, and that they should build the CBA to include steps that would move forward towards a 2014 goal of a major change in the way MLS operates.  This gives players, teams, and the league time to prepare, time to plan, it sends a message to the fans that we know the best is yet to come, it sends a message to the world that we are coming and that soon MLS will be considered one of the major forces in world soccer.

I still think comparing the MLS to Wal-Mart was a very stupid thing to do and when you look at the 4 main issues believed to be at the heart of a new CBA and compare the two, I think MLS players may not have it great they have it a great deal better.





Average MLS salary in 2009 was $77,000

Average for an hourly worker $9.68 per hour (you would need to work 152 hours a week to earn $77,000)
Average for management $42,000 per year

Guaranteed Contracts

Some but not all

None, not even close

Quality of life issues (insurance, 401K, etc)

Decent, but not great

Decent, but not great

Free Agency- ability to move to another organization for more money, freedom of movement with the organization

None within the league, and outside the league only at end of contract

You can try, but there are no guarantees that another store or department will hire you.  There is total freedom to walk away at anytime

Now I am not claiming this is a fair comparison, I think it sucks.  MLS players are elite athletes with special skills and abilities far beyond an average Wal-Mart worker, but I didn't start this comparison it was someone trying to vilify the league.  If you asked 1000 people if they would prefer to play professional soccer or work at Wal-Mart what do you think the answer would be? 

So I may have been wrong, or a bit harsh to say that MLS players making over $150,000 a year should stop bitching and moaning about things it was meant in direct comparison to the original article that compares MLS to Wal-Mart. 

I for one wish that the players union would have made the focus raising the minimum salary of every player to at least $40-45,000 and to raise the maximum salary higher to allow more high quality players to stay in MLS.  I believe that as the league becomes more stable in both financial issues but also in its place in US sports that greater change will be able, but I think that change is still a few years off.

I hope that cooler heads will prevail, and I welcome any player, current or past who would like to "state their case" to simply let me know, I will be happy to post your thoughts without edit, I will remove your name if you wish.  I am a fan of the sport, and if you read my blog on a regular basis you know I am no fan of "the Don" or how MLS runs the league,  same goes for US Soccer, where I believe both have a much higher obligation to the sport.  I do however know that MLS is a business and that like most businesses very often the workers and the owners have very different ideas about how things should be run.  I think both sides have some very valid points in this dispute, but for me the concept of "free agency" is one that MLS simply isn't ready for with its current structure.