Does Anyone Have Leverage In The Threatened MLS Lockout?

It's true that MLS players work under conditions that would be intolerable in any other sport. But it's also undeniable that MLS is a niche league that might not survive a prolonged lockout.

A 5-year CBA expires at the end of the month, and owners are threatening to shut things down unless the terms of a new contract stay about the same. This doesn't sit well with the players, and FIFPro, which represents players around the world. And no wonder:

•Players have contracts with the league, rather than with their teams.
•The contracts almost always have multiple, one-year team options.
•The contracts are rarely guaranteed.
•Even after being terminated, the player's rights still belong to that team.

That's obscene, right? This would never fly in a top-tier league. But that's the thing: MLS isn't a top-tier league, and the owners know it. And while the extent to which anyone "needs" MLS is debatable, the players definitely need the league more than the owners do. They need the steady paycheck, while the owners are probably set in that regard.

So there won't be a lockout. Both sides are posturing, but both will eventually give ground. It's just that the players will have to give a little more.

International union says MLS lockout possible [AP]