Soccer MLS labor contract expires; union not striking now: Major League Soccer's collective-bargaining agreement was set to expire Thursday...

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MLS labor contract expires; union not striking now: Major League Soccer’s collective-bargaining agreement was set to expire Thursday night after players balked at a third short-term extension. While the union’s decision left open the possibility of the league’s first strike, players said they won’t walk off just yet.

The sides, whose five-year contract initially was due to expire Jan. 31, have not met since Monday’s session in Washington, D.C.

“We have advised our players to keep working for the time being, but as of Friday they will be doing so without a CBA,” said Bob Foose, Major League Soccer Players Union executive director. “In the meantime, all options are being considered as the process continues.”

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MLS president Mark Abbott said last weekend the league didn’t plan to lock out players and was prepared to start the season under the terms and conditions of the old contract.

Players have sought free-agent rights and more guaranteed contracts from the single-entity league, which launched in 1996 and negotiates all contracts on behalf of its teams.

“We have listened to the issues raised by the MLS Players Union and the league has made detailed proposals that have addressed these issues, including in the areas of economics, guaranteed contracts, options and the ability of a player to move to another MLS club if he is released by his current club,” MLS said in a statement. “These proposals, which represent substantial changes from the current CBA, will significantly increase our spending and provide substantially more rights to the players.”

Income for players averaged $147,945 at the start of last season, according to the union. But the median — the point at which an equal amount make above and below — was $88,000 for 323 players listed.

The MLS schedule begins March 25, when the expansion Philadelphia Union is at Seattle, but there are matches before then. Columbus hosts Toluca on March 9 in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League, then plays the second leg at the Mexican club eight days later.

Red Bull Arena, a $200 million, 25,000-seat stadium in Harrison, N.J., formally opens with an exhibition game between the Red Bulls and Brazil’s Santos on March 20.

Liverpool, Fulham advance in Europa League: Liverpool and Fulham advanced to the third round of the Europa League, while Everton was eliminated. Hamburg, Marseille and Juventus, all former European champions along with Liverpool, also moved on to the final 16.

Beasley, Edu on U.S. roster: Glasgow Rangers midfielders DaMarcus Beasley and Maurice Edu were among 20 players picked for the United States’ exhibition at the Netherlands next Wednesday — the last match before American coach Bob Bradley selects his World Cup roster.

Aris Thessaloniki forward Eddie Johnson also was chosen but Freddy Adu, his teammate on the Greek club, was bypassed. Just three players from Major League Soccer were selected: defenders Jonathan Bornstein and Heath Pearce, and forward Robbie Findley.

Dempsey expects to be back by mid-March: Clint Dempsey says he will be back in action for Fulham by mid-March. The American attacker has been sidelined since injuring his right knee against Blackburn on Jan. 17.

World Cup may go to Europe in 2018: FIFA officials have told non-European nations applying to host the 2018 World Cup that they should drop out and focus on 2022, three officials involved in the bidding process said.

The United States, Australia and Japan are officially in the race for both World Cups and haven’t yet decided what they’ll do.

FIFA’s request would leave England, Russia and joint efforts from Spain and Portugal and Holland and Belgium to compete for sport’s most-watched event.

Bridge quits England team in wake of Terry saga: Wayne Bridge is refusing to play for England in the wake of teammate John Terry’s alleged affair with his former partner, saying his presence in the World Cup squad could be “divisive.”

Coach Fabio Capello expected Bridge to continue playing for England after stripping Terry of the captaincy when details of the Chelsea defender’s affair with Vanessa Perroncel were published.


Williams survives upset bid: Top-seed Venus Williams rallied from down four games in the third set to beat qualifier Laura Pous Tio of Spain 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 at the Mexican Open in Acapulco. Williams trailed 1-5 in the final set against the player ranked 399th in the world. Top-seeded Fernando Verdasco was knocked out of the quarterfinals by Juan Monaco 7-5, 6-3.

Fish into quarterfinals: Defending champion Mardy Fish beat Mischa Zverev of Germany 6-2, 6-4 to reach the quarterfinals at the Delray Beach (Fla.) International Tennis Championships.

Next up for Fish will be fourth-seeded Jeremy Chardy of France, a 7-5, 4-6, 7-5 winner over Santiago Giraldo of Colombia.

Djokovic to face Baghdatis in Dubai semifinal: Defending champion Novak Djokovic rallied past Ivan Ljubicic 2-6, 6-4, 6-0 to advance to the semifinals at the Dubai Championships in United Arab Emirates. Unseeded Marcos Baghdatis defeated Michael Berrer 7-6 (7-5), 6-1.


Italian race could start in D.C.: Cyclists competing in the 2012 Giro d’Italia could start the race by weaving around the monuments of the U.S. capital. Officials hoping to start the race in the District of Columbia are hosting a reception at the Italian embassy.

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