What is the “very aggressive and very different” plan the MLS owners have in store if the players go on strike on Monday?
DOUBLE SECRET PROBATION?
Now, maybe Dave Checketts is just talking to talk again. But, just in case he’s not, what could something “very aggressive and very different” mean?
- Replacement players? That’s surely aggressive, but it’s not “very different.” It’s been done before (in the NASL, the NFL and MLB), and it wasn’t as much fun as you might have been led to believe.
- I’m stuck for a realistic second option.
Don’t play? Suspend the entire season out of spite? Import entire teams from overseas? I’m honestly curious.
So let’s look at the question of replacement players for a moment. Could you find 288 guys who could play next weekend? Probably. They wouldn’t be MLS players (at least not front-line guys). It’s unlikely they’d be USSFD2 players, many of whom have jobs as that season is starting in less than a month. USL-2 (third division) guys might take a flier, I guess. Their league is not exactly the Ritz.
Would it be the “extra” guys MLS teams have been carrying in camp to this point (roster cutdown day was March 1, but they didn’t enforce it while negotiations were going on)? Those guys have at least been in camp, they’re not completely off the street, and they’re fit.
But what happens to them when all is said and done? Would they become pariahs like baseball players who crossed the 1995 picket line did?
Back in the winter of 2004-2005, when the US Soccer Federation was embroiled in a contract dispute with the men’s national team, they brought in some lower-level guys who would have actually played in a World Cup qualifier had a deal not been worked out. Luckily, it was.
But at the time, I asked a professional player I knew, a guy who had played for several years in MLS and other leagues and briefly for the national team, if he’d cross the line if asked. This was a guy who was a solid professional, but not a star by any means, and who was far closer to the end of his career than the beginning.
“No way,” he said. “And I wouldn’t want to be one of the guys who did.”
“Do you think the regular guys would take it out on him in training or a game?” I asked.
“I think he’d get his leg broken,” the player said.
I don’t know what this super-secret aggressive plan is, but I hope we don’t find out.