At the beginning of September, Chris Rolfe announced that he would be leaving the Fire in January to join Danish club Aalborg BK. Rolfe, who tried to negotiate an extension with the Fire for two years before signing with Aalborg, said his decision to leave MLS was motivated by a few things - one of which was money.
In other American sports Rolfe might have taken some heat for that admission. He probably would have been labeled as greedy by some in the media and Fire fans wouldn't have given him too kind of a sendoff. But that isn't the nature of MLS. The way the league is set up requires players like Rolfe - who have a good deal of talent but not quite enough to cut it in Europe's bigger leagues - to cross the Atlantic to maximize their earning ability. For most of these players, staying in the MLS is too much of a risk. Not only is there not enough money to be made, but foreign clubs offer other things American teams don't - namely basic FIFA rights. Those rights - [which include free agency, guaranteed contracts and a right to negotiate with other clubs ](http://www.sportsbusinessjournal.com/article/63183)- are currently absent from the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The CBA expires on January 31st and if the Players' Union doesn't see changes in those areas (along with an increase in the salary cap) the league could be headed towards a work stoppage.
Any kind of work stoppage would be a big time disaster for the league. I get that the players want their rights. Everybody wants to get paid. But I'm guessing they'll have to back down on free agency if they want to get on the field next season. And they need to get on the field next season. The league is growing and it has indeed made huge strides since its inception in 1996. But it's not yet big enough that it can afford a work stoppage. There aren't enough fans. There isn't enough interest. And, most importantly, there isn't enough money.
*I'll have much more on this as we head into January. I'm expecting to talk with the Fire's Union representative soon and hopefully he'll be able to clarify a few things for us. For now, we can go off what Seattle keeper Kasey Keller is saying on his blog. [Not exactly encouraging stuff Kasey](http://kaseyslastline.com/the-off-season-continues/)...*