Jose Romero drops what I consider to be a bomb in regards to the MLS CBA negotiations; citing an unnamed source, he says the league wants a five-year agreement.
I hope that's a negotiable point for MLS. If not, my confidence that a deal will get done in time to start the 2010 season on schedule is teetering on the edge of oblivion. Five years may not seem like a long time, but remember how far the league has come since 2004; besides stadiums and TV contracts, MLS now has packed stadiums in new cities bringing in more money than ever before. Although few individual teams are profitable, the league itself has taken large strides towards a strong collective financial footing. It's hard to imagine the players signing a new CBA that locks them out of negotiating a new deal for five years when things seem to be getting bigger and better at such a rapid clip.
Worse yet when the league is so resistant to guaranteed contracts and free agency. The players have held firm on their demands, which indicate to me that if they can't get those concessions this time, we should expect them to be even higher on the priority list next time around. None of their demands being met plus having them pushed to the background for five years is the worst case scenario. It's difficult to imagine the players would willingly swallow two bitter pills at once, and so I don't see them relenting on both issues.
They may not have to, of course, though I wonder which point will be easiest to reach a compromise on first. The guaranteed contract demand is particularly sticky because of the MLS salary cap; as Dave Clark of Sounder at Heart pointed out, carrying salary commitments beyond a player's usefulness is particularly damaging to team-building with the rules that MLS uses.
So someone, or everyone, is going to have to back down. The players can moan about FIFA rules and guaranteed contracts all they want, but it's the last concession the league is going to make. The league can demand another five-year agreement all they want, but without those aforementioned and unlikely concessions, the players will never go for it.
Keep in mind that what you're going to hear from both sides, at least until mass approaches critical levels, is these extreme and almost unreasonable demands. The game is only in it's opening minutes, and neither has begun to adjust their strategy for the reality of compromise. I'm still not ready to get too concerned, even if things like guaranteed contracts and five-year agreements are outside the bounds of practical expectations.
In the immortal words of Douglas Adams-
Although I think a little nervousness might be in order.