We have all heard the rumors that a potential player strike is drawing near as players and league officials cannot come to an agreement over MLS’ collective bargaining agreement. With the World Cup looming right around the corner, such a move would be suicide for a league that is just starting to gain some ground. The MLS could become the next NHL. If anyone can remember when the NHL went on strike, it essentially killed itself. Television deals went out the window and now you’re lucky if you can find a game on VS. TV. We’re not talking about a fledgling league either. This was professional hockey, which had some standing with American consumers.
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Imagine then if MLS players were to strike. You can forget whatever progress the league made with getting big games on ESPN every now and then. Major League Soccer would become basically non-existent. This is not Major League Baseball or the National Football League, both of which could easily withstand a strike as they are the most mainstream sports in America. This is a sport that can be likened to an annoying little brother that won’t go away so you begin to embrace him. Major League Soccer is an afterthought for most American sport consumers. The diehard fans will remain, but would they be enough to keep a league, which took 14 years to reach the status that it is at, alive? This was the year that would put American soccer on the map. Coming off a tremendous upset of Spain in the Confederations Cup this summer, soccer was on the tip of most people’s tongues going into the up and coming World Cup. A successful showing had the potential to bolster Major League Soccer and make it more relevant. However, striking and not riding the coat tails of the biggest soccer tournament in the world would be disastrous.
Don’t get me wrong, the rate of pay for MLS players is atrocious. Many have offseason jobs in order to support themselves or room with other players to cut costs. The league minimum is an insulting slap in the face and does need to be fixed. However, what needs to be realized is that while striking to create leverage might seem like the best option at the moment, in the long run what good would a salary increase be if there was no league to play in? MLS players need to swallow their pride and protect their league and ultimately their jobs. Hatch out a temporary agreement and get back to negotiations next off season. This league cannot afford to strike no matter how enticing the notion may be. Strike and kiss everything goodbye its as simple as that.