Let the Festivities Begin

On several occasions over the past few months I've commented that there was simply no reason to pay all that much attention to the MLS CBA negotiations until we got much closer to the midnight, January 31 expiration date.

Now that the due date is less than a week away, it's incumbent upon me to stop being a killjoy and join in the hysteria. I'm nothing if not a slave to my readers.

So consider this the kickoff event of the long-awaited BigSoccer-MLS Work Stoppage Week Parade and Jamboree:

You'll want to check in with the BigSoccer shop later in the week when they'll begin offering your choice of t-shirts saying either "No Justice, No Torpid, Unwatchable, Third Rate Kickball Games" or "If You Don't Like it Here, Go Play in Sweden. Fine With Us. See if We Give a Crap. You'll Come Crawling Back Soon Enough You Ungrateful Wretches". $19.95 plus shipping. Order early, supplies are limited.

I thought I'd do some serious research (what were the odds, right?), survey the entire body of knowledge available on the internet and elsewhere and distill down all the hundreds of articles and millions of words that have been lavished on this topic and provide a detailed report on every solid fact we have on the subject in terms of where the two parties now stand, what progress has been made, how far apart they are on key issues and how each side views the likelihood of avoiding a stoppage.

The result: nothing.

Not a word, not a wink, not a shrug. We don't even know where the two sides are eating lunch or whether everyone is getting free Aquafina and Red Bull or if the Union reps have to bring their own, in which case I'm betting they show up with a cooler full of Dasani and Monster, just to spite Don Garber.

Hey, nobody said this was going to be pretty.

Oh sure, we've still got the clowns at FIFPro saying that Major League Soccer "is threatening a lockout" but, like pretty much everything else they've said on the topic, it's simply not true. As far as anyone can tell, MLS has made no such threat at any time.

Indeed, the only public comments the league has provided have specifically said that they expect an agreement to be reached and that the talks are going splendidly.

On the union side, I suppose we should be thankful that Bob Foose has finally stopped shooting his mouth off about how FIFA was going to punish the USSF, since that was just embarassingly untrue, but since that outburst and the universal derision it engendered the guy's been as accessible and quotable as Amelia Ehrhart.

The only piece of actual information we have is the statement the union released last Thursday:

"We have advised our players to report to camp as planned. In the meantime, we will continue to meet with the league to determine if an agreement can be reached. As of this date, however, we have no agreement on a new CBA."

This is being touted as meaning something, but in reality it would seem to shed little if any light.

It's being touted as a promise not to strike, but I'm afraid I don't see that anyplace. Of course they are "advising" their players to report. The only alternative would have been for them to advise them NOT to report, which is tantamount to calling a strike.

That would represent an incredible breach of the "good faith" upon which all labor negotiations are founded.

When the union issues a "no strike" pledge, let me know. Until then, this is nothing but SOP. The members need to either start packing and making travel arrangements or not. The union is telling them to go ahead. That's not exactly the same as promising not to tell them to unpack and go home again.

The management equivalent would be for the league to issue a public order to the teams to open their training camps. Nice for show, and definitely a boon for BigSoccers' traffic numbers, but has there been some intimation that they're NOT going to open them?

In short, it's not news when someone says they're going to do what they were going to do anyway.

Still, as the first non-stupid PR move the union has made, I suppose we should applaud it.

As the heat builds this week, we may very well see more of these non-announcements. What's most encouraging though is that nobody is suggesting or threatening or looking like they expect anything other than business as usual.

Beyond that, welcome to Countdown Week. Should be great entertainment.