With time running out on negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement between MLS and the MLS Players Union, Portland Timbers defender Nat Borchers remains "hopeful" a deal will get done before the start of the season.
The two sides are set to resume talks on Sunday in Washington, D.C., at the offices of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services, and the hope is that a first work stoppage in league history can be avoided.
Free agency remains the most contentious issue. MLS is completely against any form of free agency, while the MLSPU has threatened to strike if the new CBA doesn't at least partially address the issue. Minimum salaries and the size of the salary cap are also among the key issues.
Speaking to ESPNFC.com as he prepared to board a flight to Washington, D.C. for the upcoming meetings, Borchers declined to comment on any of the specifics as it related to the talks, including whether the union had taken a strike vote.
"I think it's important that we keep the specifics of those items behind closed doors," he said. "I want to respect the process and both sides. We're very hopeful in the next two or three days that were going to come up with something that's a win-win solution."
Borchers added he hasn't witnessed any schism between American and foreign players as it relates to the key issues. Questions have been raised over the last few weeks about whether foreign players, some of whom are the biggest earners in MLS, would be as dedicated to the free agency fight as their North American counterparts. Borchers indicated he has full confidence about the unity of the MLSPU members.
"I can only speak for the guys in the Portland locker room," he said. "And I can say without equivocation that those guys are on board with us, and they are every bit as willing to go to the lengths that it's going to take to get a deal done as the American guys."
In terms of the deadline on deciding if the season will start as scheduled, a Chicago Fire spokesperson indicated that the team is scheduled to fly out to Los Angeles on Wednesday morning ahead of Friday's opener against the Galaxy. The spokesperson added that they believe that the club has made contingency plans to fly out Thursday if a deal is not reached until Wednesday.
At this point, there are three possible outcomes. The first is that the union decides to strike, which given the disagreement over free agency seems more likely with each passing day. Without question, there is a chance that a deal can get done, though that will mean major concessions from one side on the free agency issue.
The last possibility is that the two sides open the season without a new CBA, but that would hint strongly that a broad outline of an agreement has been reached on the big issues, and only minor details remain to be hashed out.