Monday, January 10, 2005


Just get it done!

The labor impasse between the United States Soccer Federation and the United States National Team Players Association continues along with no movement seen from either side. With a month to go until the USNT opens the Hex in Trinidad, and 22 days until the Feb. 1 date the USSF set as a deadline for an agreement without them using replacement players (non-union members who have not participated in a national team camp in the past four years), it is time for fans to begin actively voicing their displeasure over this. The following is based on an IM conversation with the legendary Dr. Chuck, administrator of the blog at, and sorts out my thoughts on the issues and how I think the sides need to proceed to get to an agreement.

The USNTPA have been working without a contract since December 31, 2002 and are seeking a greater portion of the profits which they bring in for the USSF through friendlies and World Cup qualifiers. The USSF is in a tough position here as their concern is with the entire spectrum of soccer in the United States, which includes the Women's National Team, Youth National Teams and amateur/youth soccer. The players refused to participate in a training camp in December, which the Fed took as being notice of a strike. At that point, the Fed locked the union out of this month's scheduled camp and cancelled two high-profile tune-ups, against South Korea and Sweden, in preparation for the beginning of the Hex. With the facts out of the way, let's move on to each side and how they are perceiving this battle.

USNTPA: They feel as though they give up a lot in terms of time and money lost from their club sides to play for the US and thus want their work to be compensated fairly. The fact that they have worked without a new contract since the last one expired at the end of 2002 is quite admirable and therefore they are hoping to get some retroactive pay from the Fed for that. Their concern is with being fairly treated by the USSF and that the Fed bargains in good faith rather than give them a deal and say "take it or leave it".

USSF: The Fed has a $30 million surplus on-hand and could very easily meet the players' demands without hurting the bottom line. Their investment in new soccer-specific stadia is in the best interest of the professional game in this country and is a justifiable expense on their part. The biggest issue for the Fed right now is that they also have to re-negotiate their contract with the Women's National Team union, and that is causing the impasse with the men to spin out of control. The current contract with the WNT calls for them to be paid the same as the men and to be financially supported until a women's professional league proves solvent in this country. With the "Golden Girls" retiring, the Fed wants to make cuts in that contract, but cannot do so if they finish the agreement with the men first.

How to Make a Deal: The best move for both sides here is to get an interim agreement signed, once that would last until after the 2006 World Cup, with promises of retroactive pay over the life of this agreement based on the figures in the new one, and meeting the players somewhere in the middle of what they are requesting. This way, the players get a fair shake and return to camp to prepare for qualifying and the Fed gets something done that will not necessarily impact their negotiations with the WNT. After the 2006 Cup, the USSF can negotiate a four-year contract with the USNTPA that deals with the entire gamut of issues that are on the table now, but outside of the dual negotiations with the WNT and hopefully with the ability to make differential contracts with the two.

In conclusion, the WNT is indirectly to blame for the USSF/USNTPA impasse, although all sides carry some burden for letting things get to this point. I honestly hope that an agreement can be arrived at shortly and that we will have our full complement of players in Port-of-Spain on February 9th for that first match of the round.
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