Roth: "They'd Have a Hard Time Waiting Out a Billionaire"

A couple weeks ago, MLS Players Union Honcho Bob Foose apparently thought it would be a swell idea to put more pressure on the owners by letting his members make their case with the media.

So despite what the league says was an agreement to keep things on the down-low (as the kids say), all of a sudden every Nick, Will and Kasey was collaring their local MLS beat reporter and braying away about how all they want is the "same basic rights" that players who are better than them in leagues they aren't good enough to play in get.

The only response we got was from MLS President Mark Abbott , who kept repeating versions of the same exact statement, which we all now know by heart: We're making real progress, we've made substantive offers on a number of fronts, we feel confident that a deal can be made.

Late last week, when the Union finally played the strike card by announcing to great fanfare that the players had voted (reportedly by the highly dubious count of 383-2) to strike if an agreement isn't reached by the 23rd, Abbott's response was more of the same, only with an increased emphasis on how "disappointed" the owners are that the Union took their strike threat public, again reiterating that they had an agreement to keep negotiations behind closed doors.

Foose responded on Monday with a chuckle worthy statement that the union didn't actually intend for the strike threat to influence the negotiations, Which begs the question of just why the hell else you'd bother ringing up Goff and Galarcep and feeding it to them, but no matter.

Unfortunately for Foose, the owners apparently watched the fight on Friday night (maybe fellow owner Oscar De la Hoya got them a deal on the PPV) and decided they were tired of playing Joshua Clottey to the players' Manny Pacquiao, standing around taking a serious public ass kicking while doing nothing whatsoever to defend themselves.

So on Monday we got the LEIWEKE STATEMENT.

Now, some people seem to feel that the Alexi Lalas' "we were rolling in money" statement from 2007 puts the lie to Leiwekes' claim that the Gals won't make money this year, although it would seem patently obvious that 2007 is not 2010 but believe who and what you like. It's a free country.

However, what that argument misses is what some people refer to as "the point" here, namely that AEG feels they've spent one hell of a lot of money keeping MLS afloat in order to provide a league for these guys to play in, it pisses them off to be told they're abusing the players and if anyone thinks they can be bullied into a deal with a strike threat they need to think again:

"Here's our issue, and I'm speaking on behalf of AEG. We have spent to the tune of $300 million on soccer. We have spent money on facilities. We at one point owned six of the 10 teams to keep the league alive.

"when I hear them talk about striking and shutting the league down, I've got to tell you, they're going to lose us when they talk like that."

In case someone missed the point, as a lot of people seemed to, the next day they trotted out none other than Sounders owner Joe Roth.

You have likely seen the SUMMARY from the Seattle Times blogger, but a much more comprehensive and interesting version was posted by THE NEWS TRIBUNE which then followed up with an even BETTER ARTICLE which ought to be required reading for all MLS fans and players alike.

Headlined "A STRIKE COULD KILL MLS" it ends with a shot even a forward who's headed a few too many balls can't fail to grasp:

“What happens when you strike? ...it just becomes both sides waiting somebody out. Well, I’ve been on both sides of this thing. I think they’d have a hard time waiting out a billionaire."

It's doubtful that Leiweke and Roth suddenly decided on their own to pick up the phone and start talking about all of this. In fact, the choices seem very deliberate and intentional.

It's long been a cherished fantasy amongst the "remove the training wheels" set that there was a schism between the newer owners, joined by Los Angeles, against the old line guys. The theory, which is extremely popular amongst many players, BigSoccer posters and the Toronto echo chamber of bloggers, is that the teams that are making money want to drop the single entity structure, double or triple the salary cap and let the chips fall where they may.

According to them, it's only the "small market" old line teams who are opposed to changing the current system, but as more and more new teams come in those guys will gradually lose out.

Sorry guys, but that sound you just heard was your entire theory of MLS crashing to the ground.

Here's Roth:

The league is still a baby, and one that survives because of the single-entity system that allows it to survive.

And this:

The Sounders play the $30 million entry fee based on the existing system.

What a concept. They didn't shell out all that money to buy into a company whose stucture they were opposed to. Go figure.

He added that it's no coincidence that it is the recent franchises -- Toronto and Seattle -- who look most like major league franchises. The earlier franchises, he said, paid their dues in harder times.

What? So the new teams successes were built on the previous decade-plus worth of foundation? What a concept.

He said every franchise needs to try to step up its game, but that there is no division between the haves and have-nots or the big markets and the small.

As for the current CBA negotiations:

To try to solve this dispute through a strike "is misguided, somewhat romantic and a terrible idea" he said.

And:

The idea of a strike is particularly badly timed because the general state of the economy makes this a time when "everyone is taking a haircut."

Huh. So the economic situation has something to do with whether everybody can make more money. Who'da thought?

These statements seem aimed directly at the players, who normally get all of their information directly from the union office. The owners apparently wanted to send a them an unfiltered message.

As for Foose and Co., they've repeatedly tried to turn up the heat on the owners by going public, something which the league has been opposed to all along, but every time the union tries it, they get it stuffed back in their faces.

Their hole card was the strike vote, and they decided to play it. They almost certainly figured it would really crank up the pressure on the owners by shoving a wedge between competing factions.

But now they've been shown that two of the three teams they figured were most likely to be in their corner, LA and Seattle, really aren't after all.

Entertain no illusions, boys. The owners are not negotiating single entity with you. It's a fact, they like it, the court says they can do it and a strike isn't going to change their minds.

Before the players walk they'd do well to spend some time contemplating Joe Roths' warning:

You can't out wait a billionaire.