UPDATE (5:00PM CST):
This doesn't mean the players will accept the CBA vote, but it's better than a strike vote.
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At the crack of dawn Tuesday morning, with CBA negotiations underway in the nation's capital, Duane Rollins of Canadian Soccer News sent out a tweet that ignited a fierce day of pessimism, reaction, hyperbole, and obsession:
Received info overnight that's changed my 50/50 strike possibility prediction to 95% likely. That's based on feeling owners won't budge.— Duane Rollins (@24thminute) March 3, 2015
While fans and media alike had been following the CBA negotiations with perhaps weekly updates, Tuesday allowed everyone to dive into up-to-the-minute notifications. Throughout the day, speculation and hearsay ruled the Twittersphere and pieces of a fragmented view of the negotiations began to focus into view. Here's what we know from Tuesday's madness and where we stand at this very moment.
The Power of Posturing
Like the MLS CBA, negotiations that play out publicly often resort to statements and tactics that are meant to give a certain perception of resistance. Both sides go in with what they want and, ideally, that's what they leave with. Since negotiations require some sort of compromise between the parties, it's not uncommon to leak information or give a statement in a way that makes it seem as if one side is still getting what they want, despite the necessary concessions. This is one form of "posturing". It's a way of acting publicly that maybe isn't very transparent but serves a purpose of positioning one side of the bargaining table to get as much as possible from negotiations.
The players have been posturing for months with statements from Michael Bradley, Bobby Boswell, and Brad Evans citing the necessity of a strike if some form of free agency fails to establish. The league, too, has been posturing by throwing out vague financial figures of $100m in annual losses in order to make it seem that the league has little wiggle-room to negotiate.
Months of back-and-forth in the press and behind-closed-doors negotiations came to a head on Tuesday when Washington Post's Steven Goff, citing a "well-placed source", released what was initially interpreted as the owners' only proposal regarding free agency:
Owners' apparent lone proposal: player age 32 with 10 years' experience with same club can become free agent. #mls— Steven Goff (@SoccerInsider) March 3, 2015
That would qualify exactly one player for free agency in 2015: Brad Davis. Nick Rimando would be the only other to enter free agency in 2016. Understandably, fans and media alike were rabid and it seemed, at that point, that the players could walk away from the negotiating table.
What became clearer shortly after was that the information obtained by Goff could be a form of posturing from players, agents, or the Players' Union. Jorge Arangure, senior writer at Vice Sports, spoke with his own sources that confirmed the offer as Goff had reported was "old info". According to that source, the negotiations had moved on and the offer had improved.
If the original offer leak was indeed posturing, the Players' Union would now be in a position to accept a free agency offer and look, at least to the public, as if they had improved their position even though the accepted offer might not be what they sought out initially.
By the evening, ESPN's Jeffrey Carlisle (who has done an incredible job covering the negotiations throughout the offseason) had reported the updated free agency offer on the table was an option for players at least 28 years of age who have been in the league (and not necessarily the same team) for eight years. Considering Goff's "32/10" information from earlier in the day, accepting a "28/8" deal would look like quite an improvement publicly. Ah, the power of posturing.
What's Happening Now
Negotiations ran very late last night. A handful of reporters camped outside of the negotiation headquarters and witnessed league officials (including commissioner Don Garber) leaving around 10:45, briefcases in hand. Players and mediators, however, remained in the building negotiating until close to 6:00am.
Overnight, it appears that a counter proposal had been crafted that would reduce the duration of the owners' CBA proposal from 8 years to 5-6 and raise the salary cap to a higher figure. League officials have rejoined the negotiations this morning and continue to work through the afternoon. The Chicago Fire have boarded planes to Los Angeles for a day of practice ahead of their Friday night season-opener. Other teams continue to plan for travel tomorrow ahead of Saturday fixtures. DC United are still set to take on Alajuelense in Champions League action tonight.
There has not been a strike vote from the players' union and, according to Steven Goff, the earliest we could have a resolution would be in the late afternoon, though that much is hard to predict. ESPN have contingency plans in the event of a work stoppage and fans nervously wring their hands as we edge closer to opening day.
What happens today and, if necessary, tomorrow will undoubtedly shape the future of the league. Everyone involved wants to play this weekend and are working tirelessly at nailing an appropriate compromise. Even so, it's important to remember the amount of posturing that takes place at deal deadlines and knowing when to sort information from the noise. Here's hoping that the individuals in that second-floor room are more focused than everyone on Twitter.