We’re midway through the month of January and normally this would mean preseason for the Philadelphia Union would be days away, a player or two would be added to the roster and we’d have at least part of a schedule in our hands.
Preseason very well could be starting on time for the 24 players currently on the roster, but dates for the Concacaf Champions League (normally in February) and the start of the Major League Soccer season are still in question.
A hold-up with the Collective Bargaining Agreement or CBA is likely a big reason why there isn’t more clarity right now on when the season is starting, which is all intertwined with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic that is threatening to drastically limit stadium capacity for several more months.
MLS notified the MLS Players Association in late December of its intention to invoke what is known as the Force Majeure clause (unforeseeable circumstances that prevent someone from fulfilling a contract) and proposed extending the CBA negotiated last year for two years.
Now as the two sides negotiate the clock is ticking.
“All of you know that we have an unbelievably crowded calendar this year,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber was quoted saying on Wednesday when discussing the mid-March start. ”We have World Cup qualifiers, we have the Gold Cup, we have the Concacaf Champions League, the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup that was delayed a year, we have the Canadian Championship. We have a schedule that is as crowded and as busy as any, perhaps in the history of the league.”
Media accounts of a call with MLSPA executive director Bob Foose on Wednesday didn’t make things sound too optimistic on the players side.
The Union typically open preseason camp the third week of January and head down to Florida for the first of two stints there at the end of the month. The team opened camp at the 76ers Fieldhouse in Wilmington on January 20 last year. They announced the dates two days before Christmas.
Aside from the addition of the five previously announced homegrown additions to the first team roster, the Union have only subtracted players from their roster since they were knocked out of the playoffs in November. Comparing to last year, Jose Martinez and Jamiro Monteiro had already been signed by this point but Matej Oravec and Jakob Glesnes were both added in the final two weeks of January.
The Union have two picks in next Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft but there’s little reason to believe the Union will be drafting anybody not named Pass in that one.
While Joe Bendik and Aurelien Collin are out of contract and no announcement has been made about their return, both are still listed on the team website, which would bring the count to 26 players.
Sporting Director Ernst Tanner said last week that they were working on bringing in a left-footed center back and mentioned after Brenden Aaronson’s departure targeting an attacking midfielder.
In addition to the playing staff, questions remain about head coach Jim Curtin’s staff. Assistant Oka Nikolov’s return is in question and Pat Noonan is a candidate for the still-open D.C. United head job.