MLS star Michael Bradley is one such player seeking free agency.

Sam Latham reports on a crisis looming ahead of a potentially record-breaking MLS campaign.

The MLS season is fast approaching with the season’s first game kicking off on Friday night, but with the 2015 Collective Bargaining Agreement still being agreed between the Players Union and the MLS Owners the start of the season could be put in jeopardy with strike action from the players if a solution is not found. Neither side however is appearing to back down.

The key issue in the CBA talks is free agency and whether the players should be allowed to choose a domestic club to join after their contract has ended. Currently once a player’s current deal has run its course they have the opportunity to look for a club abroad or if they want to stay in the MLS they are entered into a re-entry draft with each team having a pick per round of the draft and able to choose from a list of players without a club. This draft was implemented back in 2010 as leverage for players who were threatening strike action over free agency, with the draft praised in its early years. Players though now feel that it does not offer the freedom they desire with them not being able to choose a club they want to move to, instead being delegated to a club in the re-draft.

But as the MLS is a single entity and therefore in control of all the clubs and the players, the owners see free agency as unnecessary as it could generate inflated wages for players if clubs were to start bidding wars to get the man they want. The league has always stressed that it has strict wage budgets in place for each team so that it does not over spend and crumble as did the NASL in the 1980’s, and if it were to offer free agency in the same format as European soccer it would be a step in the wrong direction.

With only a few days to go until kick off teams will be travelling across the country – including  Chicago’s journey to L.A. for Friday night’s game – and record crowds are expected at some grounds with an estimated sixty thousand fans travelling to the Citrus Bowl to watch Orlando SC take on NYCFC. Could the league jeopardise the opportunity of what looks set to be a record season and increasing its fan base by a large margin by allowing the players to strike?

Could the players risk missing games and more importantly not getting paid if they were to strike? It may not be a huge loss to the top earning designated players but for the minimum wage earners it could make a massive difference to how long they strike for and how much negotiation power the Players Union has to get what it wants.

If a strike is to happen it could be a huge blow to the league itself with the MLS starting to gain momentum in attracting fans domestically and abroad. They have a huge chance to increase viewing numbers and start to make strides to its goal of being in the top ten leagues in the world but strike action could detriment all of the hard work that has gone into the MLS over the past nineteen seasons and neither players or owners wants to see that impacted in any way. With any luck the differences between the two parties will be resolved before Friday night’s tie and the MLS will have a strike free twentieth year.