Battle Lines Drawn: US Soccer Federation Threatens

Battle Lines Drawn: US Soccer Federation Threatens to Drop Veteran Men's National Team Playerswon't let them playFrom Associated Press - The U.S. Soccer Federation is threatening to drop all experienced players from the roster for its next World Cup qualifier unless the union agrees to a new labor contract by Feb. 1.The USSF's deal with the U.S. National Team Players Association expired in December 2002 and federation lawyer Russ Sauer sent the union a letter Dec. 8 threatening the move.If the USSF follows through and escalates the dispute which centers on payments to players it would severely damage the U.S. team's chances to win at Trinidad and Tobago on Feb. 9 and possibly to qualify for the 2006 World Cup."We've notified the team that we need to have a deal in place or other options can be pursued for participation in that game USSF spokesman Jim Moorhouse said Wednesday.The union said it represents all players who have appeared for the national team or been invited to a training camp. Without them the USSF would be forced to use a squad of mostly young players all without experience on the national team.The USSF's decision was first reported Tuesday by The San Diego Union-Tribune.The United States which has played in four straight World Cups is in the six-nation final round of qualifying from the North and Central American and Caribbean region. The top three teams advance to the 32-nation field in Germany and the fourth-place team goes to a playoff against an Asian nation for another berth."The current soccer federation approach is part of their long-standing view that the players should not be represented said Mark Levinstein the union's head. "The players have been playing for almost two years without a contract and without any reasonable offer for a new contract."Under the expired deals 25 players earned $200543 each at the 2002 World Cup where the Americans advanced to the quarterfinals in their best finish since 1930. If the Americans had won the tournament players would have earned $499022 apiece.For World Cup qualifiers players receive a minimum of $2000 per game and up to $6000 the payment specified for wins over Mexico Costa Rica and Jamaica. Payments for exhibition games range from $2000 to $5150 depending on the opponent and the result.Players filed unfair labor practice charges with the Baltimore office of the National Labor Relations Board accusing the USSF of illegal regressive bargaining a charge Moorhouse denied.The federation claims the players initiated a strike when they decided last month to skip a training camp scheduled for Dec. 13-20. The union claims players were not formally notified of the camp and that the USSF is threatening a lockout.Because of the dispute the federation did not finalize exhibition games Jan. 22 against South Korea in Los Angeles and Jan. 30 against Sweden at a site that never was determined.While the USSF needs the exposure of the World Cup to generate a large part of its revenue U.S.-based players need the World Cup to advance their careers and attract interest from European clubs which pay far more.