Why I Can’t Get Worked Up About the MLS CBA

The following is an opinion piece from our Senior Editor, Andrew Schmidt. It provides a unique personal perspective on the MLS CBA negotiations that we strive to include in our coverage.
— Josh Guesman (Co-Founder, Corner of the Galaxy)

It’s been quite the week for vitriol. With the first games of the MLS season mere days away and still no agreement with the Players Union, you can bet talks in DC are getting heated. That shouldn’t surprise anyone — the players are fighting for their livelihood, and the MLS owners are fighting for an insane amount of money.

Typing that up, it certainly sounds like a story with an obvious bad guy. Maybe that accounts for the heated arguments I’ve seen on Twitter. But despite the fact I’m as raptly interested as all of you — the stakes are crazy high — I just can’t seem to muster the same emotional intensity.

To be clear: I want the players to “get theirs.”

To be clear: I want the players to “get theirs.” Free agency makes this league a more attractive place to play, for starters. And there are obvious ways to do it without risking anything resembling bankruptcy — the idea that the league’s financial stability is at stake strikes me as nothing more than hot air.

But when it comes down to it, we’re talking about a debate between the privileged and the ultra-privileged. Because make no mistake: if you’re making a living playing soccer, you’re privileged. The low-end of the league’s salary is already more than most of my friends make. And yes, I surround myself with aspiring artists — those very same aspiring artists who work retail and in restaurants, often two (or even three!) jobs at a time, with less security than any given draftee’s first contract.

The truth is it’s impossible to sympathize with the owners. But I feel equally disengaged from the union’s spin.

I don’t want to come down too harshly on the players. The truth is it’s impossible to sympathize with the owners; especially when wading through “source” after “source” feeding utterly unbelievable talking points to over-eager journalists for a cheap PR win. But I feel equally disengaged from the union’s spin. Yes, absolutely, you should negotiate ferociously: for your constituents, for the best possible deal, for your livelihood. But I’m not going to get up-in-arms about it — just like I don’t expect you to stage a Twitter campaign while I’m working out my next consulting gig.

By all accounts, the system is working as intended. As I write this I’m cut off from the world, on a plane some 30,000 ft above Oregon, and there’s a better-than-a-coin-flip’s chance an agreement will be signed before I land. If I can believe Twitter, it will include limited free agency — restricted by both age and years spent in the league.

That sounds great. It’s a big win for the MLSPU. It’s an important step for the future of the league. And it’s exactly what was always going to happen, vitriol or no.

Have questions or a comment for Andrew? Do you feel differently? Let him know: @Scatterfelt