MLS Commissioner Don Garber has a big battle ahead of him regarding free agency. He does not want it, while the MLSPU Executive Director Bob Foose has said it is “impossible to get a deal done” without it. Now Garber is pulling out the big guns.
In a recent interview with the Orlando Sentinel, Garber said that he would have federal mediators intervene if the MLSPU does not budge on free agency. The next step would be arbitration. Think of it as Garber’s version of a double-dog dare.
Legally, the MLS does not have to offer free agency, as they are a single-entity LLC, so federal mediators would certainly side with the MLS.
However, the MLSPU may be able to challenge the MLS as a single-entity LLC in court, as there seems to be some legal precedent for the challenge. That would take months to sort out, and would certainly resort to a work stoppage while it goes through the court system, something both sides want to avoid. It would also potentially end MLS’s legal ability to prevent free agency, something the MLS definitely wants to avoid.
It will be interesting to see if the MLS offers substantially higher salary caps and higher minimum player compensations in agreement for the MLSPU not challenging the MLS single-entity LLC status, hence why this latest salvo from Garber may not be an empty threat. He needs the deal to get done, and the possibility of losing single-entity LLC status is an ace he does not want the MLSPU to play.