In a year when Major League Soccer has an opportunity to potentially capitalize on World Cup, the American football league is instead teetering on the brink of a work stoppage that could put the 2010 season in jeopardy. [ad#as2]
The league and players union has set a deadline of Friday, Feb. 12 to reach a new agreement. A previous deadline of Feb. 1 was extended to the end of this week, but the progress in the days since appears minimal.
The league and union have been struggling to come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement. On January 31, the five-year deal between the two parties expired, but the sides felt enough progress had been made to warrant an extension.
However, a new obstacle has appeared. A snow storm is expected to hit Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, threatening the next negotiating session scheduled for the two sides.
When they do get back to work on an agreement, the biggest issues that need to be settled are related to the league’s stance on players’ free agency and guaranteed contracts.
Free agency was not a viable part of MLS for the players in the old agreement because the league negotiates contracts with players, not teams.
The league also deviates from FIFA guidelines by not guaranteeing the contracts of players, meaning someone cut early in the year is potentially unpaid and out of work for the remainder of the season.
FIFA’s regulations state, “A contract cannot be unilaterally terminated during the course of a season.” However, the global governing body of the sport has declined to get involved in the dispute between the union and the league in the US.
Players have reported to training camp in anticipation of a deal getting done in time to start the 2010 season as scheduled on March 25.
Neither side wants to concede on what each views as an important stance, but they also know the peril the league will find itself in if there is a work stoppage of any kind.
While it may be considered slow in the grand scheme of things, there’s no arguing that the MLS presence in the US sports landscape has been growing steadily.
Any work stoppage at this point in the league’s development would likely be fatal, and in a World Cup year, would be most unfortunate when they league has a chance to capitalize on the sport playing on its grandest stage.