By RONALD BLUM
AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK — FIFA will not intervene in a labor dispute
involving Major League Soccer that could be headed for a work
stoppage next month.
A day after soccer’s international union accused MLS of
violating the regulations of the sport’s governing body, FIFA
said it has been told the league is within its rules.
“FIFA can confirm it has received correspondence regarding a
current issue involving the MLS and the MLS Players’ Union and
their ongoing negotiations,” Zurich-based FIFA said in a
statement Wednesday to The Associated Press.
“FIFA understands that this domestic issue is being resolved in
accordance with U.S. labor laws and does not involve the U.S.
Soccer Federation. FIFA will not interfere in the process. We
have been assured that FIFA’s regulations have been and will be
respected,” the statement said.
FIFPro, the international soccer union based in the Netherlands,
said Tuesday that MLS management is threatening to lock out
players after the league’s five-year labor contract expires Jan.
MLS president Mark Abbott had disputed much of what FIFPro
alleged, including the charge the league’s single-entity
structure violates FIFA’s regulations.
“At the present moment, we’re being threatened with a lockout,”
Kansas City Wizards player representative Jimmy Conrad said at
U.S. national team practice in Carson, Calif. “Obviously,
they’re putting pressure on us to agree to some terms we don’t
want to agree to.”
U.S. coach Bob Bradley, preparing for the World Cup in June,
said he has developed contingency plans with the U.S. Soccer
Federation. The MLS season is slated to start March 25.
“There have been discussions and from there, it’s based upon the
timing of the thing,” Bradley said. “We’ll just have to see as
time goes on.”
For U.S.-based players, a lockout could be disruptive.
“It’s disconcerting. To talk about a work stoppage or a strike
is a little bit presumptive,” Wizards goalkeeper Kevin Hartman
said. “We’re all hoping it doesn’t come to that. At the same
time, we want to see things happen so that further growth can
Conrad doesn’t expect the dispute will reach the point of
players going on strike.
“I don’t think they’ll let us play that card; I think they’ll
beat us to the punch,” Conrad said. “From what I understand, a
lockout would be in their best interests if we can’t come to
terms. That way, they don’t have to pay us.”
AP freelance Writer Joseph D’Hippolito in Carson, Calif.,
contributed to this report.