Major League Soccer’s 2015 season is scheduled to open on March 6, but the business of getting a new collective bargaining agreement in place might get in the way of the opening of the season and beyond.
The old collective bargaining agreement ended on January 31 and both sides are going back and forth with March 5 as the real deadline to get a new deal. It seems to be a typical sports labor dispute, the players want free agency and the ability to move around within the league and the owners want cost certainty. The difference between soccer players and NFL players is that soccer is played around the world and players could find another league while NFL players have virtually no choice. In the NHL and the NBA, lockouts players could go elsewhere until the dispute was settled. Other issues like a minimum salary and better travel conditions are much easier to solve.
MLS has gained an awful lot of traction with a new TV deal and expansion that has brought in money, but there are claims that the league is still losing money. Yet the league is looking to increase the MLS brand in the U.S.
The league is up to 20 teams, including three in Canada. Expansion teams in New York City and Orlando start play in March. There is a goal to have 24 teams by 2018. In 2017, Atlanta will join the league and a second Los Angeles-area team will join the circuit. The league has an open spot for Miami and David Beckham, but Beckham and his partners have been unable to convince Miami-area elected officials to give them land for a stadium in a preferred location.
The 24th franchise was expected to go to Las Vegas, but public funding dried up and Las Vegas is out. The league is looking at Sacramento and Minneapolis as possible expansion cities. But before that happens the league and players need to sign a collective bargaining agreement and at the moment the sides are apart.
- Evan Weiner is a sports journalist/commentator known for his columns about the business and politics of sports. He was the winner of the United States Sports Academy’s 2010 Ronald Reagan Media Award.