MLS players consider strike for free agency as CBA negotiations stall

TUKWILA, Wash. -- Seattle Sounders players' union representative Brad Evans said Monday he is pessimistic about the current state of negotiations between Major League Soccer and its players on a new collective bargaining agreement.

Evans acknowledged that the talks over the new CBA would likely come down to the last minute and push up against the start of the MLS regular season on March 6. He said if movement isn't made, especially on the possibility of players getting some form of free agency, a strike would be the likely outcome.

"I think at this point a strike is imminent if we don't get what we want. And that's kind of where we stand," Evans said. "If that's what it takes, that's what it takes. But we all have to be smart about it and we've all got to look at the repercussions, but we've got to know that a lot of players have built this league and feel they should be rewarded with some sort of movement where they play."

The labor contract with players expired Jan. 31 and the sides needed assistance from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service in 2010, when they reached an agreement five days before the season opener.

Evans said the players understand that as the season opener draws closer that's when any movement is likely to come from the league on its offers.

"Right now we're far off from where we want to be," he said. "It's going to take some fighting. It's going to take some grittiness. It's going to take everyone staying together, but at the end of the day I hope we can get something resolved."

MLS issued a statement saying, "Although there are a number of open issues, both the league and the union are working hard to reach agreement."

The main sticking point for players is the hope to gain a form of free agency. Evans said that is important for older players who have put in their time playing in MLS and helping build the league.

Five years ago when the league last negotiated its CBA, there were too many other issues to solve to really address the idea of free agency, Evans said. Now, it's a foremost concern.

"We feel we deserve it now. We feel we've put in another five years of growing this league and especially those that have played in the league for 10 years. We think we should be able to choose where we go," Evans said. "We don't want astronomical prices. We understand the economics of it. We've had a phenomenal economics team look at where the league stands, where we stand as players, and we want what is fair for everybody."