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Some more MLS CBA comments and thoughts

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Well after a couple owners fired some shots earlier this week, I am sure a number of players are more than a little PO'ed when he said:

Leiweke is the chief executive of AEG, which owns the Galaxy and has long been a major supporter of soccer in the U.S. In his view, the players and their representatives in the MLS Players Union are being "disrespectful" of what MLS owners have put into the sport.

"Here's our issue, and I'm speaking on behalf of AEG," Leiweke said in an interview with The Times on Monday. "We have spent to the tune of $300 million on soccer. We have spent money on facilities. We at one point owned six of the 10 teams to keep the league alive.

See I think Time has a point, but I also think there are things that the league/owners should do to make the league a better place for players.  

Number one on my list is to raise the minimum salary to $40,000, while nobody is going to get rich making the minimum, it would mean that they can live, pay rent, buy a car, and live a normal lifestyle.  I also think the top end should be raised up to allow teams to continue bringing in and keeping more top level players, I support a raise in the salary cap to 3 million this year and a yearly bump of $500,000 for the length of the new CBA.  

I understand a players desire to have some job security, but guaranteed contracts can be tricky and in a league with a low salary cap they could cripple a team.  So if LA gets charged their DP slot and full $400,000 K for Beckham this year, despite his inability to play until the final months of the season, it will hurt them. He will still sell jerseys, but as far as the salary cap he hurts LA a lot this year.  It is tough, but very few people in the real world have a guarantee of getting paid, or keeping their job and for MLS players I simply think this one may be a tough one for the league to swallow.  One only has to look at the situation with TFC's Ali Gerba, who showed up this preseason out of shape and was sent home from Carolina where TFC is taking part in the CCC.  He holds one of the rare guaranteed contracts and will make over $177,000 this year, one has to wonder if he wasn't guaranteed to make almost 200K this year, if he would have shown up in shape and ready to play?

I do think players do deserve more control over their futures, I don't dislike "free agency" but with MLS having all the contracts at a league level, I simply don't think it can happen the way the players like.  I would offer this to both sides as a compromise, if a players contract expires then the team controls his rights for 12 months if the player wants to remain in MLS.  This allows the league to see if another team is willing to offer a level of compensation for their time and expense in developing the player.  If the player leaves MLS to play in another league, then the team would retain his MLS rights for 24 months.  I also think MLS needs a set standard on allowing MLS players to be sold to teams in Europe, the days of holding back players has to end.

More after the jump:

I compare this to the typical corporate "non-compete" clause in many contracts of management or skilled positions.  I think this would work for the length of this CBA, and offer more freedom than the players currently have.  I do believe that the league, owners, and players need to agree that a goal of this CBA should be to advance the league to a point where it can begin to function like other major sports leagues in the US, with teams taking ownership of contracts and the league being less involved in the daily team operations but more focused on the growth of the sport and league.

I think trying to change too much(structure of the league), too soon(one big year in Seattle doesn't mean every team has that level of success yet) is very risky.

Listen most people around MLS will tell you that one of the best writers about the league is Steve Davis, he leads the SB nation soccer effort, and posts to his Daily Soccer Fix often.  He has written for MLS, ESPN, and others, and recently he moved from ESPN to Sports Illustrated.  His first offering for SI is a good overall look at things from someone who has been around the league from the start.  He offers up this:

Being a soccer fan in this country was never easy. Supporters and advocates have always put up with a lot.
Their sport was a punch line on so many media platforms through the years. Until recently, watching matches was a crapshoot, a scavenger hunt of cable systems, pay-per-view options and supporters' bars.

Even when Major League Soccer provided a top-tier professional association domestic fans could call their own, the national footprint was thin and clubs fumbled frequently in customer service as they found their footing.

Now, just as their days of being marginalized seem mercifully past, will loyal MLS supporters be asked to put up with a players' strike? Such a notion falls squarely into the province of "You can't be serious?"

I am sure that I will take more heat from some people over this posting, but the reality is that for every MLS player there are a 1,000 season ticket holders, and probably 2-3,000 serious fans and double that number of casual MLS fans.  People who have supported the league and its players for years, they not only buy tickets, they buy merchandise, they purchase the sports tier to watch the sport, they pay for direct kick, it is in fact the fans who pay the salaries of the players and the league.  

It is those people who will suffer the most, and while I love that Kasey Keller can talk about "the dreams" of players, those dreams would be nothing without fans in the stands.  When the league was starting players like Keller went overseas to cash in on their talent, which is their right, others like McBride stayed and put in their time to grow the league and then went overseas.  Each player gets to make those choices, I think MLS players should be encouraged to try to play in Europe, it only helps the exposure of the league and helps the league attract younger and more talented players who want to get the attention of European teams.  

So who will win if the players strike?  They may gain some things that impact some players, but the majority of players never find themselves in the situation of Kevin Hartman, few will get the chance to move to the EPL like Stuart Holden, but when players take the you are either for us all the time or against us type of attitude towards fans who may not agree with all their demands and thoughts, it is the one thing that makes MLS so attractive to many fans that will be lost.  There are few sports where fans can name more than the stars of their favorite team, MLS is one where almost every fan I know can not only name the 11 starters for Real Salt Lake, they can name the entire 24 man roster.  It is that kind of relationship that is at risk, so if the players strike will they still expect to see fans making signs to support them hanging in the stands?  

It is clear that if the players decide to strike, the league will suffer, the fans will suffer, and in the end that will only cause the players to suffer in the long term.  That is my opinion as a sports fan who has seen strikes in the MLB and NHL, sports I used to support but no longer do.  Many fans of both leagues have simply stopped caring since the strikes, and while both league is surviving their reputations will never be the same.

OFF MY SOAPBOX