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Labor battle in MLS heats up

Posted by ZA on March 16, 2010

Major League Soccer (MLS) has been an overwhelming success.  Not because it’s a stronger league than its international counterparts nor because it’s been a huge financial success, but simply because it’s still around.  Next year would be the MLS’s 15th year in business, which would bring it one year closer to tying the longevity of the previous most successful U.S. soccer league, the NASL.  The NASL was the league that featured the famous New York Cosmos teams and ran from 1968 to 1984 (16 years).

But the MLS needs to be careful because their current labor deal has the potential to end what has been an otherwise solid run.  MLS players have announced they will strike if they MLS ownership does not renew their contracts prior to the 2010 season starting on March 25th.  Now MLS ownership is delivering some major heat to those players and threatening to even “pull the plug” on the league.

AEG President Tim Leiweke came out firing when he said that a strike could “lose us (AEG)”, which has invested more than $300 million into the MLS and owns the L.A. Galaxy.  Leiweke went on to say that there were points over the past decade that AEG considered ending the league, because it isn’t a money maker, but they’ve stuck with it because they are passionate about the mission.

I’m sure this is a calculated move by AEG and Leiweke to put more pressure on the players.  AEG is deeply invested in the MLS, so I don’t see them pulling the plug any time soon.  That said, the MLS cannot afford an extended blackout from play if they want to keep their sponsors happy.  And the MLS is not in a position where they can afford to lose any sponsors, fans or other.  So let’s hope for the sake of soccer in this country, that the MLS players and ownership can agree on some issues to avoid a lengthy strike.

[Assist: Sports Business Daily]

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