(Photo via Flickr)
There are many reasons to be excited for the MLS kickoff on March 6 2015. New franchises in Orlando and New York have helped expand the league, big signings such as that of Brazilian superstar Kaka, English football icons Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, and Spain’s all-time leading scorer David Villa have generated much excitement for a league that is growing. Nonetheless, a strike by the players threatens to put the season on hold.
A potential strike seems to becoming more of a reality since the MLS Players Union and the MLS owners seem to be on a different page. The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, a federal agency which helps mediate labor disputes has even attempted to bridge the gap between players and owners, but the situation hasn’t improved these past weeks. The players are requesting an increase in compensation and the right to explore free agency. While the stars in the league are signing premium contracts, the majority of players are looking up from way down below. The league’s minimum salary is $36,500 per year, and based on data released by the MLS Players Union back in April, the average salary of players is set at $207,000 per year. However, that particular number is misleading since the median is at $91,000 per year. Players have been at a disadvantage when attempting to pen a new contract due to the league’s low salary cap and the Designated Player Rule, restrictions and rules non-existent in the majority of major soccer leagues across the globe.
ESPN FC’s Q&A with Jeff Carlisle sheds much light on the issue and it seems that the growth of the league and the start of a promising season will be on a lifeline these coming weeks. The increase in attendance and the growing popularity of soccer in the U.S. may take a huge blow and it is up to the owners and players to find an immediate solution to the problem.