THE OFF-SEASON PART ONE 2010: THE YEAR WE MAKE CONTRACT It is only fair that we begin this look back at the off-season by addressing the one issue that may just have prolonged it. After a long and sometimes bitter battle the MLS Players Union and the League hashed out the major points of a new five-year Collective Bargaining Agreement, or CBA. The sides were never really close together on this agreement.

The players were constantly reminding us that the Union’s biggest grievance was ‘players rights’ and not a simple rise in pay. Basic freedom of movement and guaranteed contracts were the factors that defined ‘players rights’. The League, for their part insisted that what the players wanted was akin to Free Agency, something MLS regularly insisted was not even on the table for discussion.

The perfect example of the players grumblings was the Kevin Hartman situation. Hartman was essentially waived or cut by the Kansas City Wizards. Unlike other leagues, when Hartman was cast loose he was not free to sign with another team. KC still held his ‘rights’. Another team had to ‘acquire’ his rights in order to sign him. So as the Hartman story unfolded, FC Dallas made a trade for his rights and subsequently signed the MLS standout. The Union stressed that when a player is let go they should have the power to negotiate with other teams. The League feels this is Free Agency, which is something that MLS cannot allow at this stage in its existence.

This process dragged out forcing both sides to set new deadlines and continue negotiations. An in dependent arbitrator stepped in to help both sides avert a work stoppage, but even so the Players had voted to strike on this coming Monday if the issues were not resolved. They eventually were, thankfully as a work stoppage in a year that featured a World Cup, a new franchise, and two new soccer specific stadia would have been horrible for both sides, and of course the fans.

If you followed the CBA battle over the last few months you know how exhausting and frustrating it was to be a fan. Bloggers, journalists and podcasters alike toiled through it getting every scrap of news they could. Kudos to the It’s Called Football, American Soccer Show and MLSTalk podcasts which regularly had on guests that tried to shed a little light on the process, also the invaluable blogs Soccer by Ives and Soccer Insider. More details on this in the coming days as specifics of the deal become available.

Next in the Off-season wrap-up, a look at the changes regarding stadiums around MLS

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