MLS players vote to strike if deal isn’t reached – LA Times

By Kevin Baxter
Los Angeles Times

Major League Soccer players have voted overwhelmingly to go on strike if a new bargaining agreement with the league is not reached by the season opener March 25.

The labor contract expired in January but was extended twice as negotiations for a new deal continued. However, three days of meetings between league and union officials this week in Washington failed to break the impasse, leading to the strike vote.

“We were disappointed to see comments from a number of players characterizing the status of the negotiations and the possibility of a strike,” league President Mark Abbott said in a statement released Thursday. “The meetings this week were productive and we have scheduled a number of additional meetings.”

League owners pledged not to lock players out and have offered to start the season under the old labor contract. But the players want expanded free agency and a higher percentage of guaranteed deals.

If a strike happens, it would mark the first labor stoppage in MLS’ 14-year history.

An official for Chivas USA declined to comment on the situation other than to say the team is “conducting business as usual” in preparation for its season opener March 26 at the Home Depot Center. The Galaxy, which is scheduled to open its season at the Home Depot Center a night later, also declined to comment.

Updated March 11, 2010