Do you believe in miracles?

Orange County News - February 21, 2010

Last night, some friends and I watched the U.S. Men's Olympic Hockey Team take on Canada in the round-robin portion of the Olympic tournament. The young American team pulled off the big upset, beating Canada 5-3 to clinch the first overall seed for the knockout phase of the tourney. The game itself was electrifying. It had all the things a casual fan looks for in hockey; big hits, lots of goals, tremendous hustle, incredible athleticism. As a friend who used to play hockey told me as the game wound down, "*this* is how the game is supposed to be played."

Watching that match, it was hard to believe that just five short years ago, the NHL -- the league in which every player on both Team USA and Team Canada plays in -- was in shambles. The league was in the middle of a debilitating lockout that saw the entire 2004-2005 season canceled. It was an absolute nightmare. Media outlets and their so-called experts were teeing off on the league, commissioner Gary Bettman and Union Chief Bob Goodenow. Many thought that the league -- which was, and is, the highest quality hockey league in the world -- would cease to operate. Eventually, the NHL came back for the 2005-06 season and began to progress. Sure, things didn't look so great at first. But the NHL beat the odds (and the predictions of the media experts) and now sits in a better spot than ever before, setting new highs in terms of attendance, sponsorship and television viewers in 2009. Hell, even I've been sucked back into the sport (attending my first Hawks game this December) and currently can't get enough.

But despite the copious amounts of intensity and excitement on display in Vancouver last night, I couldn't help but think about the MLS labor negotiations while watching the hockey game. As I'm sure most of you know by now, [labor talks aren't exactly going so well](http://www.soccerbyives.net/soccer_by_ives/2010/02/mls-labor-talks-stall-as-work-stoppage-looms.html#more) and with Thursday's deadline to agree to a new CBA looming larger by the minute, things are looking relatively bleak. So, while watching the hockey game, I wondered to myself if MLS would be able to "pull a NHL" and survive a potential long-term work stoppage.

Personally, I think MLS would be able to survive a potential strike (a lockout is out of the question, as the league has "[communicated that [they don't] have an intention of commencing a lockout](http://goal.com/en-us/news/1110/major-league-soccer/2010/02/22/1802002/monday-mls-breakdown-pressure-falls-on-players-union-as-cba)"). Sure, things would be tough at first. Inevitably, some fans would grow dissatisfied, players would go abroad, ticket sales would decline and television talking heads would proclaim the league's attempt to bring soccer to the forefront of the American conscience as all but finished.

But MLS wouldn't be anywhere if it hadn't already proven to be a resilient league. I believe that if there is a strike the league will prove it's toughness yet again. It will eventually pull through. The interest is there. The fans are intense. The tide of American soccer is rising. Not even a large scale work stoppage can change that.

Filed under: 2009-10 Offseason, CBA

Tags: CBA, MLS, Players' Union

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  • "Many thought that the league -- which was, and is, the highest quality hockey league in the world -- would cease to operate."

    Thats the difference in the NHL and MLS. If the MLS wasnt here, the casual fan wouldnt notice. All the best players in the world are as far away from here as possible. Where it is the other way in every other league we have. All over the world, baseball players are trying to get to the MLB, hockey players to the NHL, football to the NFL. American soccer players dont even want to stay here. Soccer players dont grow up saying "I want to play for FC Dallas when I grow up." Thats what leads me to believe a strike is death for the MLS.

  • off today for my b-day,,,gonna brew a batch of homebrew....any homebrewers out there?

  • Stop living in 1980. This is not an epic win or a significant hockey tournament. It's an extended all-star break. I don't know what percentage of the other teams are made up of NHL guys but the US and Canada have to be 100% NHL. The reason I can't get fired up over the Olympic tournament is because nobody really cares who wins this thing, they just want their guys not to get injured. It's fun to watch and root for the home team and all. But to describe this as anything but a series of exhibition games is just hyperbole. The Tribune, for one, is leading the cause on this. If the gold medal really was important, the players wouldn't be playing league games on Sunday and then jetting off to Vancouver to start play 2 or 3 days later. Of the 12 teams in the tournament, how many really have a legit shot at a medal? I don't follow the sport but there have been some lopsided results so far. And, for what it's worth, I think basketball and soccer should be dropped from the Olympics as well. These are sports with well-established professional roots and can operate international events outside the Olympic platform. For goodness sake, let the speedskaters and the swimmers have their chance every four years because these other sports already get enough attention. And ditto for golf, tennis and baseball.

  • There are two sides to every story but the MLS wants only there side to be noticed. They would rather pay everyone 20K then trying improving the quality of soccer. MLS operates only to make profit and only that, they choose what players they want and how much they should get paid, which is pretty sad when you think about it. Either you take it or your gone. Not much that can be done there. If the MLSPU agree to another extension then they are losing more and more leverage, the closer it gets to start of season the more players going to fold and just take whatever is on the table maybe just fall back on current CBA and extend for 1 or 2 years...

  • In reply to Adam25:

    What do you want the owners to do? Nobody would jump into ownership of something and not want to make money. You want to pay your employees the least amount of money you can so YOU can make more money. Why do the owners care about the quality of the league? They dont own a team with the thought of making the whole league better. "I want to own the Fire so I can make MLS better." All they care about is making their club better than all the other teams and for the least amount of money. I bet every team in the world would love to pay their players 20k a year. If they dont keep structure to the league then there will be no league. The players never really have the leverage in this situation.

  • In reply to Rubberbandman189:

    There is no short term and get rich in MLS for owners. These teams are an investment that sometimes you need to put in couple times before the owners can make their money back. Expansion teams are willing to pay 40 mil + to join MLS yet 2.3 mil salary cap is too much for them. Give me a break. Why hold the player rights after they done want the anymore? Are they too scared to give them up to another team and find the player is actually a good player? If the MLS is just scared of fail in the US why did they even star the league?

  • In reply to Adam25:

    Leave a comment...

  • In reply to patrickhattrick:

    Whoops. Accidentally posted a comment without text. Here's the thing I don't understand: Why doesn't FIFA have a standard system for all leagues? Something encompassing the CBA, promotion/relegation, playoffs, etc. I understand that every league has a different situation, but exceptions to certain rules and additions of certain rules could be made. Why do they leave these things up to the individuals? These CBA problems, the risk of a strike and an end to the MLS as we know it would not happen, for the main reason that FIFA is just too big for that to happen. Why can't that work?

  • In reply to patrickhattrick:

    I think having FIFA involved in the leagues of member countries (more than they are now) would be a bad idea. For one thing, Blatter is already saying that leagues should have no more than 20 teams. That is untenable for a country the size of the US. And, no, promotion/relegation is not gonna happen so that is not an option

  • In reply to oliotya:

    I was saying promotion/relegation in general. Like I said, different situations means different rules, but still, the same principle. 20 teams isn't really enough, buy I feel like anything more than 25 would be too much. Still, I think they should have a standard system.

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