Interview

PSP talks with Danny Cruz about the CBA

Photo: Earl Gardner

With negotiations for a new CBA ongoing between the MLS and the Major League Soccer Players Union, Philly Soccer Page spoke to Union midfielder, Danny Cruz, about his role along with Brian Carroll as the team’s MLSPU representatives.

Philly Soccer Page: How did you come to be a Union representative for the Philadelphia Union?

Danny Cruz: The Union have a very democratic process: the guys in the locker room essentially vote for who the two representatives from the team will be. That occurred last year. BC [Brian Carroll] and I ended up being the two representing the Philadelphia Union, and from there we’ve taken part in all the meetings, conference calls, etc.

PSP: What made you want to run for Union rep?

DC: I went through the process with the last CBA quite a few years ago, and I wanted to be a part of this one, simply because I’ve been through it before and I wanted to have a little bit of a younger voice in this entire process. And it’s been good to see that throughout the entire league there are a lot of veteran younger guys that are representing their clubs, and that is something that I think is extremely important for this process.

PSP: You mentioned being a younger voice. What are some of those younger player issues that you think you can help address?

DC: I think minimum salary is key. I think it’s obviously too low right now. I should say that by younger voice, the younger guys, for whatever reason, in a lot of locker rooms, they feel more comfortable speaking to someone who is closer to them in age. So, with me and BC, it allows us to cover everybody in the locker room, no matter what their reason is or who they want to speak to. I want to make sure the young guys, the 18-year-olds, the 19-year-olds, the guys coming in on a new contract, feel comfortable enough to be able to come to us with any issues with regards to the CBA and any questions. I think we have such a good balance in our locker room that everybody is comfortable with one another, asking whatever questions might arise, and I think that’s something that’s very important.

PSP: Free agency is one of the biggest topics up for debate in this negotiation. Why do you feel that now is the right time for the league to adopt this practice?

DC: The league is thriving. We’re going places. It is continuing to grow and the interest is there. You’re seeing TV deals get done, new franchises come in. These are all things that show us that it is continuing to grow. We understand that the league is continuing to grow and continuing to get better, but free agency is only going to help. It’s going to help allow the market to dictate how much a player is worth, instead of one person in New York. It’s going to give players something to strive for and it’s something that we believe we deserve at this point in time. And the economic side of things cannot be forgotten in this situation. I’ve seen a lot of talk about free agency, but the economic side [e.g. player salaries] is just as important, especially to us as a group. I think a lot of reporters are more focused on free agency, which is fair, but both things are key issues for us. It’s not just one.

PSP: As you go into preseason, how much is this being discussed on and off the field, and do you feel it hanging over your head?

DC: It’s being talked about in the locker room daily, but the good thing about our job is that when we step over that line, everything that goes on off the field kinda goes away. And we’re focused on our job and the job at hand, getting better and getting prepared for the season. And when we get in the locker room and questions are asked, that’s when we have our meetings. But in our locker room, we’ve done a good job of separating on the field and off the field, and I think that’s something that’s very important.

PSP: How much was this discussed during the offseason while you were away from the Union?

DC: Yes, absolutely. A lot of us go in and play three days a week during the offseason, so we were in constant communication with the bulk of the group. And with the [players union] meetings we had, we went and got the necessary information and relayed it to our team. It’s something we’ve been doing for quite a bit of time now, and we’re going to continue to do it throughout this process.

PSP: As you’ve heard comments from both sides in this negotiation, how optimistic are you that this will get done in time for opening day?

DC: Right now we remain far apart, that’s the reality. Neither one of us, not us nor Major League Soccer, wants a work stoppage. That’s not what we’re going for here. I always remain optimistic, we all do, but we are far apart and there’s a lot to get done before the start of the season, and we hope that we’re able to do it. But the players remain unified and prepared for a work stoppage if it is necessary.

PSP: We’ve heard some high-profile players saying that they are prepared to strike if necessary. Do you share that sentiment?

DC: 100 percent.

If you have questions about the MLS CBA negotiations, put them in the comment section or tweet them to PSP using the hashtag #MLSCBA2015. PSP contributor Steve Holroyd, who happens to be a labor lawyer, will answer them in an upcoming post.

In the meanwhile, check out Steve’s primers on pro sports labor law and lockouts, and our look at the NASL players strike in 1979.

29 Comments

  1. I am 100% behind the players in this one. Maybe I lean too Euro sometimes but the process and salaries in the MLS is a joke.

    I just don’t like being fed the “Top league by 2022” line when a large number of players are making less than I make in a year and when the player acquisition rules are straight out of 17th century Massachusetts.

    • Yeah, me too. Raising the league minimum should be a no-brainer right now. If the minimum was raised to $50,000, it would cost the entire league only $900,000. Free agency and higher salaries would bring more talent into this league and force other teams to invest more in order to keep up, or risk being crappy, bottom feeders.

      TBH, I think parity is definitely a good thing to strive for…. The European leagues where it’s the same 4 clubs vying for the championship every year would get old for me. But MLS has to grow up some time.

      • The Black Hand says:

        I see free agency further separating the money clubs from the cash-strapped clubs (Union). I can’t see this leading to a balanced MLS…not right now, at least.
        .
        The league minimum should, absolutely, be raised…but we must understand that that cash will have to come from somewhere.
        .
        Hopefully, both sides are willing to compromise, as a strike/lockout would hurt both of their causes.

      • I don’t see free agency creating problems as far as have and have-nots because teams still need to worry about staying under the salary cap

      • Free Agency isn’t just about the big name teams bringing in big name players. Free agency helps the little teams too by allowing them to scout and identify talent on their own and bring them in … without worrying about discovery lists (if you read the BrotherlyGame article with Ansaldi it said we were about to sign some Pablo player and the claims list got in the way, for example) or drafts or orders and any other crazy rule we don’t know about.

        Basically, freedom of player movement applies to the bottom as well as the top. While the big name teams are free to waste money on big players we would be free to sign the diamonds in the rough we find in South America or Eastern Europe just as easily.

      • Is there any league in the world that is truly balanced? I know the Bundesliga boasts that it always has a different top 4……besides Bayern and BVB ( except this year!).

  2. The Black Hand says:

    I don’t care for the idea of a strike. I agree that the league minimum salary should be raised, but the free agency would be damaging to the league IMHO. In the future, I could see revisiting the FA topic but, as of now, I hope to see the players and owners compromise for the benefit of the league…and it’s fans.
    .
    As for Cruz’ statement about the league “thriving”; didn’t this “thriving” league just fold a club??

    • I wouldn’t say that Chivas folding is a bad mark on the current state of the league. It is the inevitable rectifying of a mistake that was made ten years ago when that dumb idea was hatched

    • B agent of S.I.E.V.E says:

      The league has salary caps and a limited amount of DP slots so there are already inhibitors in place to curb runaway spending. Players just want some control as to when and where they end up playing without arcane allocation processes and the whim of the league.

      • The Black Hand says:

        The players want money

      • No doubt but that is almost a separate issue from free agency.

      • The Black Hand says:

        I don’t think, granted this is pure speculation on my part, hat either side has a realixpstic FA plan to bring to he table. It is an issue that should be hashed out and prepared for, but I don’t think that right now is that time. Both sides should come to terms and agree to ongoing FA negotiations.
        .
        Again, league minimum needs to be increased.

  3. Danny- make. make. be your future. Love Ty.

  4. Raise in minimum salary should be a no brainer. If the league isn’t offering at least something there, it’s not negotiating in good faith.
    .
    I would say that there could be some sort of limited free agency, maybe for players who are 30+ and have at least 8 years in the league. It would reward the players who’ve stayed here rather than spent most of their careers in Europe.

    • Raise the minimum and install a limited free agency. With an age restriction and time put-in. I’m thinking something like mid-20s and 3-5 years in the league.

      • Agreed. This doesn’t seems all that complicated to me, frankly. There can even be “kickers” in the contract that allow free agency sooner (or later) if certain conditions are met – average attendance, TV ratings, etc.
        .
        Raise the salary cap, increase the minimum, institute free agency (even if only for a limited group, such as 26 or older with 4 years in the league), upgrade travel accommodations (allowing charter flights, for example), and call it a day. Frankly, free agency will solve most of the other problems on its own by forcing teams to offer players better deals.
        .
        Here, I’ll do it for the league. When a player’s contract is up or his option declined, he still goes into the re-entry draft as he did previously. However, the player is still free to negotiate with any other team in the league. The team that drafts the player, however, gains a sort of “right of first refusal” – the ability to match the deal the player negotiated with the other team. Not drafted? Complete free agent. Teams are allowed to draft their own players, allowing them to gain the right to match an offer for their own player if they want.
        .
        You’re welcome, MLS. You can thank me by picking up the tab for my season tickets.

  5. I’ve known guys who have been drafted and broke it off because they were offered jobs in the private sector where they made a whole lot more money. They loved the game……but needed to earn a living.

    • can you imagine? I don’t expect cash windfall. the league is young but could you imagine choosing a private sector job over being a professional. seems almost unbelievable to me.

      • I was going to say…..its the only professional sport I’ve seen where the starting salary really isn’t a livable wage. I guess if your in your early 20’s it is………but what if a Wall St. firm is offering you six figures?……like one guy I played with. It was the Revs or Wall St………he chose Wall St. What I don’t think people get is, when you play a pro sport…..you have a window to make max profit……even our footballers.

      • You and I are footy nutters dude, we would play for nickels!

      • Cup of coffee and a biscotti

      • I guess the silver lining for this guy was………..he walked into his office one morning in 2000 and his managing partner said to him ” get your stuff together……we’re going to Rotterdam today”. Flew to Holland with his boss and watched the Euro final between France and Italy! Sat behind the French teams wives……which were all Victoria Secret models….got back on a plane after the match for NY. He said it was epic……

      • The Black Hand says:

        I’ll pay to play

      • +1

  6. Thinking long-term, the league would grow from a lockout; a monumental step in the MLS gods realizing the players have a say in their game.

    • The Black Hand says:

      Possible…but so is the other side of that coin. The MLS is really not as popular as we want to believe. A strike/lockout could turn off a lot of people and, more importantly, steer them to spend their money elsewhere.

  7. #1 – Raise the minimum (really this has to be done).
    #2 – Allow free agency for players with a combined 6 years in the league (after either their contract expires or they are cut by their current team).
    #3 – Everyone else still goes into the re-entry / allocation process.

    See how it goes for the next five years and then next CBA really push for free agency for all players.

  8. I’m not sure how MLS can look someone making under $100,000 in the face and say “sorry, giving you a raise will kill us financially,” while writing Kaka a $7,000,000 check. There has to be a league minimum raise. Has to be.
    .
    I also don’t see the problem in letting the players have some form of participation in where they play as a bad thing. Maybe Farfan wants to come back to the Union, but won’t re-sign with the league because there are teams he doesn’t want to play for ahead of the U in the order. The re-entry draft is a joke, anyway. And when it comes to players like Kaka or Dempsey, well, to quote Captain Barbosa, “And thirdly, the code is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules.”
    .
    I’m not worried yet, but this could get messy.

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