MLS resumes labor talks, players' strike looms

Wed Mar 4, 2015 12:48pm EST
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By Simon Evans

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Major League Soccer (MLS) and the union representing its players resumed labor talks on Wednesday with hopes of reaching a last-minute deal on a new collective bargaining agreement and avoiding a work stoppage.

With the 20th MLS season scheduled to open on Friday, the negotiations are expected to go down to the wire on Wednesday as the sides seek to craft a new five-year deal to replace the previous agreement which expired on Jan. 31.

The players union (MLSPU) and representatives from the league and its clubs were locked in talks late on Tuesday at the Washington offices of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation but no deal was reached.

The main sticking point in the talks appears to be the players' demand for the introduction of free agency. Players have threatened to strike if their hopes are not met.

"They're locked in a room trying to figure out a new collective bargaining agreement," Eric Shanks, president of Fox Sports Media Group, an MLS broadcast partner, said at the Sports Business Summit in New York City on Wednesday.

"We get updates as frequently as they can get out of the room. I don't think there's any real news except that there's no deal - yet."

ESPN reported that there had been some movement toward an agreement on Tuesday with MLS offering free agency to players who are at least 28-years-old with eight years in the league.

Neither the union nor the league would comment.   Continued...

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