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Major League Soccer strike averted as players, league sign new deal

March 20, 2010 | 12:47 pm

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Rest easy, soccer fans, Major League Soccer's 2010 season will begin on Thursday as planned.

After weeks of wrangling, the league and the MLS Players Union reached agreement today on a new five-year collective bargaining agreement.

Who won? It depends on who is talking.

Bob Foose, head of the union, said it was the 323 MLS players. They got what they were seeking -- guaranteed contracts for the majority of them and extended rights when those contracts end.

"From our perspective, these negotiations were always about players' rights," Foose said of the talks that have been going on since the previous five-year agreement expired on Jan. 31. "We were adamant that these changes were necessary."

Don Garber, the MLS commissioner, called the talks "tiring" but "very productive" and said the owners emerged more or less satisfied.

"Players will have greater rights at the expiration of their agreements but they will not be free agents within the league," Garber said.

Instead, there will be a re-entry draft for players whose contracts expire, whose options are not picked up or who reach a certain age.

Galaxy and U.S. national team forward Landon Donovan said the players were pleased with what had been accomplished.

"Going forward we're going to have a real relationship with the league as opposed to being combative at times," he said.

The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service helped broker the eventual deal, which, according to its director, George H. Cohen, involved getting the league and the union to realize "Western civilization does not hang in the balance."

The league's 15th season opens on Thursday with the expansion Philadelphia Union playing at the Seattle Sounders. Locally, Chivas USA opens on Friday night at the Home Depot Center against the Colorado Rapids and the Galaxy opens on Saturday night against the New England Revolution, also in Carson.

-- Grahame L. Jones

Photo: Galaxy forward Landon Donovan and MLS Commissioner Dan Garber congratulate one after signing a labor deal Saturday. Credit: Luis M. Alvarez / Associated Press

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