Football: MLS on brink of players' strike

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The United States' Major League Soccer (MLS) is on the verge of a players' strike, as talks on a new collective contract have failed to bring a deal, with just two days until the start of the new season.

The players' union (MLSPU) and club and league representatives were locked in talks late on Tuesday at the offices of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service in the capital but no deal was reached.

Negotiations are expected to go down to the wire on Wednesday as the two sides seek to craft a new five-year collective bargaining agreement. The previous CBA ran out on Jan 31.

MLS' 20th season is scheduled to start on Friday when defending champions LA Galaxy host the Chicago Fire.

With Chicago due to fly out to that game on Wednesday, the pressure is on both sides to avoid disruption to the start of the campaign.

The main sticking point appears to be the players' demand for the introduction of free agency. Players have threatened to strike if their hopes are not met.

Neither MLS nor the union were willing to comment after Tuesday's talks but they are expected to return to the table on Wednesday.

ESPN reported that there had been some movement towards an agreement on Tuesday, with the league offering free agency to players who are at least 28 years old and have eight years in MLS.

Neither the union nor the league would comment on that report.

Sunday's games see two new MLS teams make their debuts when New York City FC travel to Orlando City, who have sold 60,000 tickets for the clash at the Citrus Bowl. "We're preparing as if we're kicking off at 5 pm Sunday," Orlando's English coach Adrian Heath told the Orlando Sentinel.

DC United were due to face Costa Rican team Alajuelense later on Wednesday in the Concacaf Champions League quarter-finals and it was not clear if that game would be affected by any possible work stoppage.

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