Clock ticking as MLS and union face crunch talks

Sat Feb 28, 2015 10:17am EST
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By Simon Evans

MIAMI (Reuters) - Major League Soccer and its players face showdown talks on Sunday in a last-ditch bid to avoid a strike and a delay to the start of its 20th season next week.

The MLS Players Union (MLSPU) and the league are negotiating a new Collective Bargaining Agreement after the last five-year deal on pay and conditions ran out at the end of January with no new contract in place.

Players have repeatedly stated they want free agency to be included in the new deal and that they will refuse to play unless they get such a concession from the league.

The new MLS season is scheduled to start on Friday. Currently clubs retain certain rights on players even after their contracts have ended or he has left the league to play abroad.

Sunday’s talks will be held at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services in Washington DC and will involve a mediator from that group.

"We've got a couple of days to bang out an agreement," MLS commissioner Don Garber told a forum at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

"A lot of players, like all players in any union, have issues they want to bring up with management and they have certain rights and the process provides them with the ability to use leverage and negotiate all those points that matter, and we as management understand and accept that.

"The issues ... have been public with free agency; there's a lot of other issues and we'll continue to bang as hard as we can to try to resolve them," said Garber who added he was "hopeful" of avoiding a work stoppage.   Continued...

Dec 3, 2013; New York, NY, USA; MLS commissioner Don Garber speaks about the state of the league at Google Offices. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports