Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber is confident the start of the season will not be affected by a strike, insisting Tuesday that there won't be a quick-fix deal with the players.
The league's first collective bargaining agreement expired Feb. 25 after the sides twice extended the five-year deal, which originally was to have run out Jan. 31.
The MLS Players Union failed to match league management's no-lockout pledge with a no-strike offer, leaving the start of the season on March 25 in doubt.
"We will not lock them out, and we are confident they will not go on strike," Garber told The Associated Press at the Soccerex convention in Manchester, U.K., on Tuesday. "We will not make any decisions just to avoid a work stoppage. We've got to make decisions that will ensure the long-term financial success of the MLS, and I'm sure we will not make any decisions to prove a point.
"I don't think any of our players want to go on strike, and we are taking their issues very seriously. The expectations are that the season will start on time, and the expectation is that we will reach agreement with our players."
The Philadelphia Union plays at Seattle in the MLS opener on March 25 and Garber acknowledges that talks could go on until then.
"It's conceivable, but my expectation is not to be negotiating an agreement an hour before kickoff," Garber said. "I would describe these as big-league problems. Years ago we had nothing to fight about, so we didn't have labour issues.
"Now that the league is growing and there is a bit more at stake, the players want to see improvement in their salaries and their working conditions. And we need to understand, we need to listen and take their issues into consideration."