Won't initiate lockout: MLS

STEVEN SANDOR, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:51 PM ET

The MLS is assuring fans it will not initiate a lockout this week — or anytime this season.

The league is offering to play the season under the current CBA, as it and the union continue to negotiate a new deal.

“We don't need an extension,” said MLS president Mark Abbott Sunday. “We can continue to play under the current CBA as we continue to negotiate.”

While the MLS season doesn't begin until the last weekend of March, the first key date is March 9, when the Columbus Crew is scheduled to meet Mexican giant Toluca in the CONCACAF Champions League quarter-finals. Abbott said the league expects the Crew will be able to honour its international commitments.

“I think they (CONCACAF) are aware of the CBA negotiations, but they don't have any reason yet to be concerned about this,” said Abbott. “I think the expectations are that the games will move forward.”

Over the weekend, Major League Soccer veteran defender Jimmy Conrad and Canadian netminder Pat Onstad blasted the league for ignoring the demands of the players' union. They argued that the league had not budged on free agency or right of first refusal. They cited Adrian Serioux's situation with Toronto FC — even though the club has stated he won't be back, it controls his rights even though his contract is done — as a prime example of why some sort of player movement rights are necessary. And both said that a strike could be initiated after the Feb. 25 negotiating deadline.

TFC is set to begin its season with a March 27 visit to Columbus.

While Onstad and Conrad's comments put fire into a negotiating process that both sides had worked hard to keep out of the press, their concerns haven't caused a cavalcade of angry quotes from players throughout the league. Training camps continue as scheduled.

Abbott countered that the MLS has offered to guarantee a number of contracts, and is working to improve the situation with right of first refusal — even though he could not go into specifics as those items are still on the negotiating table. And, the league is offering US$60 million in additional money to the player pool over the five-year term of the contract.

Talks are set to resume Monday. Abbott said while the league is not preparing to table another proposal, it will “continue to negotiate.”


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