Major League Soccer’s collective bargaining agreement expired Saturday night as the league and the player’s union were unable to come to an agreement before the expiration of the previous deal. The two issues being dealt with are salary and free agency, with free agency considered by many to be the biggest issue on both sides.
While some club owners reject the competition that free agency would create, Orlando City SC would likely welcome an open market.
MLS argues that free agency would create an open, competitive market between MLS clubs, which would cause salaries to rise to an uncontrollable height. They claim the rise would kill the current single-entity structure, which has helped MLS to a level unforeseen in past American soccer leagues, and would bring back the problems that killed leagues such as the original NASL.
The players argue that the league is now stable enough to handle free agency. They also claim that MLS needs to become a "league of choice," and that it is only fair, since every other sports league in the world has some form of free agency.
Another issue is how club owners would treat free agency. There are some club owners who refuse to spend the money it takes to win in a closed system and they certainly don’t want to have the competition of an open market.
Then there are the clubs whose owners consider winning in MLS a top priority. These owners would likely enjoy the freedom free agency gives them to sign who they wish.
For Orlando City, it seems the club would flourish in free agency. Majority owner Flávio Augusto da Silva, and President Phil Rawlins have proven in the past that winning is of the utmost importance. Unlike several other clubs in the league, none of the club’s board members own any other teams in any other sports.
So, while other owners may have more valuable teams where their commitment lies, Orlando City is the top priority to those running the club.
Over the past four years, Orlando City ownership has proven it is willing to spend the money. During their short USL Pro stint, the Lions consistently outspent their competition to bring in the best talent they could. That effort and dedication led to the club winning five trophies in four years and an impressive quarterfinal run in the 2013 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
Once in MLS, the commitment didn’t stop. Orlando City signed international superstar Kaka, convincing the Brazilian to opt out of his deal with Italian giant AC Milan. Then, during the club’s first official MLS offseason, the club made ambitious trades to bring in goalkeeper Tally Hall, defender Aurélien Collin, and midfielder Amobi Okugo.
If free agency was introduced into MLS, Orlando City would be one of the clubs to take advantage of the system. They’ve proven their willingness to outspend opponents in the lower divisions and now have proven their commitment to making moves in MLS. That willingness to spend and commitment to winning wouldn’t stop if the league introduced free agency.
The biggest issue causing a rift between the league and its players is free agency. MLS refuses to give players the opportunity to move freely around the league and the players, seemingly more united than ever, refuse to accept the current system of drafts and allocation orders.
While some clubs would struggle with free agency due to an unwillingness to spend the money to compete, and others might fall behind or fold from trying, Orlando City would thrive in an open market because the commitment to fielding a competitive (read: winning) team runs strong here.