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The current Collective Bargaining Agreement bites the dust Saturday, leaving Major League Soccer, its owners and players in an expected standoff. It's not a surprise, by any means. It was expected. Talk around the league throughout the 2014 season was that the CBA talks could shape the future of the league going forward — and that it could get contentious.

Several players have spoken out about the wants and needs of the MLS Players Union during the talks, primarily free agency as well as better player compensation and guaranteed contracts. Real Salt Lake's Chris Schuler is representing the team in talks while goalkeeper Nick Rimando is in camp with the U.S. men's national team. Schuler was in Washington D.C. for the last talks on Jan. 21 and again could be part of the discussions, which are expected to resume Tuesday or Wednesday. Schuler spoke regarding the CBA talks on Jan. 26, the day before RSL jet off to Casa Grande, Ariz., for its preseason training camp.

When asked if an agreement isn't reached, would the players be ready to take action and strike, Schuler said, "Absolutely."

"We're definitely ready," he said. "Hopefully it doesn't come to [a work stoppage], but we've made our demands."

Earlier this week the Tribune spoke with former RSL center back Nat Borchers, now with the Portland Timbers after being traded there in early December. Borchers was RSL's union rep for several years and was involved heavily during the 2010 CBA discussions. He remains part of them still in Portland, although he is not the official team rep for the Timbers.

Here is a transcript of Borchers' comments and thoughts of where the CBA talks stand as the current deal is set to expire on Saturday.


Where do you think the talks stand right now?

Borchers: "I would say that we're pretty far apart right now in regards to our latest conversations with the league. We've still got a lot of work to do."

What needs to change in order for a deal to be agreed to?

Borchers: "I think that we've given the league a pretty honest proposal and I think that we need some reciprocation from the league in order to get the ball rolling on some very important issues. Guaranteed contracts, option years and free agency are three very important issues that come to mind."

Do you feel like these issues regarding free agency have been a long time coming for the players and are these discussions different from the 2010 talks?

Borchers: "It was definitely a different environment in 2010. I don't think that the league had as much momentum as it does now; we didn't have as many new teams coming on board as we do now that we've grown to a league with 20 teams. Now we've got some new expansion teams looking forward to in the next couple years."

How do you think free agency would change the landscape of the league going forward?

Borchers: "Free agency is a right that's enjoyed by players in every other league in the entire world. When you finish your contract in the league in the rest of the world, either your team can make you an offer to stay or you can look at options to leave. I think free agency works great for this league for multiple reasons and one is that It keeps the league relevant. I think in the offseason, there's always a lot of talk in the NFL, NBA, about free agents in the offseason and I think that would be a great topic of conversation … I think for guys who've put in multiple years of service here in MLS, it's a right that they deserve to be able to test the market, see what their value is, to see what teams are willing to give to them, to see where they want to play."

Could free agency negatively impact the league? If so, do you fear, like in the NBA, super teams being part of the future?

Borchers: "It's always about the haves and have-nots in professional sports. Some players are going to go where the money is, some players are going to go where the cost of living is cheap, some players are going to where they think the best team is. If we have a form of free agency in this league, it's only going to entice teams to get better with the organizations and the way they run things and the with way they treat players. It's going to put more pressure on our clubs to do better for the players and I think that's a win-win for the league and for the players and definitely for the league who wants to be the league of choice in our mission statement by year 2020."

Is there a target date in terms of hoping to get things done? These things do usually come down to the wire, don't they?

Borchers: "These things usually do come down to the wire and given the way things went last time in 2010, it did go down to the wire. Sometimes parties aren't willing to move until they're forced to move and I think that might be the situation here … Nobody's more motivated by the deadline than both parties in this situation."

Is the primary goal to avoid a work stoppage?

Borchers: "Nobody from the player's side is going into this saying, 'Listen, we want to strike, this is an absolute necessary thing we have to do.' It's not something that we want to do, but it's definitely something that we're prepared and willing to do in the case that MLS isn't reasonable in its negotiations."

Do you think the league could survive a strike?

Borchers: "We just want to make the message clear that we're unified and that we're prepared to strike and we're prepared to weather the storm as long as it takes to get a deal done that's fair for players. As far as a specific timeline, I'm just not sure because I just don't know how long it would last."

If you had to explain the situation in layman's terms, how would you do that?

Borchers: "The CBA and the negotiations are a complex thing. It's just difficult to sum things up in one or two sentences because you've got a single-entity system, you've got players who aren't able to move freely within that system, you've got multiple issues, such as minimum salaries are very big thing for our young players, too. Guaranteed contracts are big things for our players and free agency is one of the biggest issues I think out there. We just want to get to a place where we're comfortable and we need to have some form of free agency to feel comfortable about moving forward."

Do you think there's a chance the players could press on and play without having to agreed to new terms on a CBA deal?

Borchers: "That's a great question and I think it definitely just depends on how well things go in the next month of negotiations, but I wouldn't anticipate if we don't have anything on paper about free agency from the league, I wouldn't anticipate us being able to start on time."


For recent comments from MLS Players Union executive director Bob Foose, read this Q&A from Paul Tenorio of The Orlando Sentinel.

-Chris Kamrani

Twitter: @chriskamrani