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My Two Cents

My Two Cents

February 25, 2015
Will Smith is ready to save the 2015 MLS season

Will Smith is a long-time soccer fan who has supported the Red Bulls since they were known as the MetroStars in 1996.

By Will Smith
Special to

As we draw closer to the start of another Major League Soccer season, we also draw closer to the possibility that the 2015 season won't start on time or even start at all.

Negotiations between MLS owners and the players union have stalled at the fork in the road. The issue that causes the rift is free agency. The players want freedom of movement within the league and the owners don't want free agency of any sort as it may call into question the validity of single entity ownership.

As a fan since year one of MLS, I really do see both sides of the story. The players want greater geographical and financial freedom while the owners want stability and growth.

Both sides want what's best for them and that's understandable.

The question is whether either side understands my position as a fan. I don't think they realize that I (and likely other fans) would survive a lockout or strike just fine. I would go see the NASL live and I'd watch the foreign leagues on TV. Frankly, I'd lose no sleep if MLS went away for awhile and this, more than anything, should give both the owners and the players horrific nightmares. If MLS finds my "off" button, there's no guarantee they'll ever find my "on" button again.

That said, I'm going to be a nice guy and offers both sides a solution that will (a) increase player freedom, (b) not bring about EPL-style financial lunacy and (c) manage to keep my interest:

Are you ready?

Step One:

Under my plan, players who have played through their initial four-year deal with the league and agreed to one more year (a fifth) will enter (get this, Don!) a "Stage Two MLS Veteran Re-Entry Player Draft." Players can then be selected by any number of teams in the "draft" and proceed to negotiate with any of the teams that "drafted" them. This is not unlike the way free agency worked in baseball back in the 1970s. And who doesn't love the 70s???

Step Two:

The teams that "draft" the player can offer him no less than his current salary and no more than thrice (yes, "thrice") his current salary. This guarantees the player freedom of movement and, at a minimum, a flat salary with the strong likelihood of an increase. The players new salary will only count again the cap up to the amount of his old salary, giving the team signing the player greater roster flexibility.

Now, you may ask, "Doesn't this count as free agency? Wouldn't Judge Kenesaw Mountain Garber be against that?"

The answer is "No!" and here's why:

Step Three:

The team that signs the player must send 20 percent of the player's new total salary to the player's old team as "compensation" for losing the player. In this way, when all is said and done, it's more of a "trade for/purchase of a player" and not pure free agency.

So, let's review what this plan does:

1) It gives the players greater freedom of movement and higher pay possibilities.

2) It allows teams to sign players without breaking the bank, getting into bidding wars or running into cap issues.

3) It allows the team losing the player to receive compensation for losing that player.

4) It's free agency for the players that won't cause the courts to reconsider the league's single entity status.

5) Calling it a "Stage Two MLS Veteran Re-Entry Player Draft" will make comissioner Don ("I used to work for the NFL") Garber happy. He loves drafts of all kinds. MLS has waiver drafts, allocation drafts, college drafts,etc. Why not a "Stage Two MLS Veteran Re-Entry Player Draft"?

Oh, and before you start thinking that this will lead to widespread player movement, fiscal irresponsibility and complete anarchy, would you care to venture a guess how many players on the Red Bulls would be "free agents" using this plan?

Go ahead. Guess. Two? Five? Eight?

Nope. One. Dax McCarty.

That's right. One. The 2015 season is at risk because about 1/25th of the players are being denied freedom of movement after years of loyal service.

The truth is that most players, by year for are either (a) off to Europe (b) in a lower division league or (c) out of the pro game altogether.

The time has come to get this deal done.

Otherwise, as a fan, I'm moving on. And so will others. And neither the players or owners want that.
"The opinions reflected in the My Two Cents columns do not express the views of the editors or management of BigAppleSoccer. com"
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