Monday, January 18, 2010

The MLS Labor Countdown Clock is Ticking

Now that the MLS Draft is complete, now the that USSF has resolved the Division 2 debacle, there remains one major hurdle for American soccer in 2010--the MLS/ Player's Union need to coem to a resolution regarding the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Not much has been heard of late regarding the negotiations, which to be honest I see as a good sign. Parties that aren't talking tend to spend their time blaming each other in the media. But if neither side is yapping at the media, then they are probably talking to each other.

Soccer America's had an interesting story that the MLS announced last week regarding future labor relations within MLS. Longtime MLS executive Todd Durbin has a new portfolio, labeled the Executive Vice President of Player Relations and Competition, where he will oversee player contracts and serve as the contact point for the Player's Union. Durbin will also oversee the development youth programs and relations with the lower divisions of soccer in America, academy programs and other player development initiatives as they come up.

I think this is a good sign from the MLS. Many of the issues the Player's Union has are related to player development and rights. The personnel move also demonstrates that MLS is taking seriously the need to spend time on player development and relationships with the lower divisions of soccer in America. Some people may look at this and think that MLS is laying the groundwork for a promotion/relegation system. I simply don't see that happening, as much as I would like to see it happen. Rather, I would think we would see the development, at least initially, of an informal farm system similar to Major League Baseball, but that too could be years down the road.

Finally, having a single point of contact will also allow the Union Leadership to communicate effectively with the League offices. I don't know the quality of Durbin's relationship with the players or Union leadership, but I see the move as a positive one by the MLS. Whether it has any effect on the CBA negotiations is another matter, but at least some groundwork is being laid by the league.

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