An open letter as Major League Soccer teeters on the brink of a work stoppage


Dear MLS,

Don’t do this.

Don’t have a work stoppage. Find real middle ground. Keep your sport’s most anticipated season in a long time alive, not suspended or worse.

I come from a position of experience here, as a longtime hockey fanatic who has watched several unnecessary setbacks work stoppages. I also appreciate both sides of the story to at least some extent. Now as a hockey nut who planned on wearing No. 12 for the Sabres from the time I was a toddler, I stuck around. I know plenty of fans who didn’t.

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I know you can look at this issue and see how it portrays your growing sport. Have you seen the NFL or Premier League missing real, actual games because of a work stoppage at any point in recent history?

No, they had the wisdom to avoid that. You’re not listening, are you?

Guess not.

And yes, I know you’ve forgotten more business expertise in the last year than I’ve put together in my few decades on this Earth, but all I need is my ear to the ground and my eye on my phone to hear America’s many soccer haters issuing these texts, words and emails: “Your league in the only country that doesn’t love soccer about is going to strike? Hilarious!”

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To boot, it’s hard not to get with the players’ side here. Owners are ‘poor’ but the league is spending crazy jack on Designated Players? Player rights that are more closed than any of the “Big 4” leagues had before MLS existed? Ugh. Offering players free agency only after 10 years with a single team and above the age of 32? Wait, wait, now it’s 8 years and 28? Wow.

The soccer world is mere days away from David Villa, Kaka, Sebastian Giovinco and Mix Diskerud are here. Jozy Altidore, Brek Shea and Sacha Kljestan are back. Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard are coming, and the world has perked up its ears a bit. And you want to tell those players and fans that this is how your organization works? There’s momentum to be capitalized on, and you’re ready to tell the casual fan you don’t care.

Even if the strike only lasts a day and cancels a game, it happened. Ticket holders heading for games get nothing. I still run into former baseball fans who stopped paying attention in 1994. Do you want 2015 to be that millstone? Happens more quickly with fans who’ve less time invested in your league.

The Twitter world is abuzz with the way your club Montreal did 3-time CONCACAF Champions League winner Pachuca on Tuesday. At least it was until folks started rolling with the #MLSCBA hashtag. Momentum gone.

We want to watch games this weekend. We’re not interested in the rationale. Find a way to get us your product.