I actually agree more with my colleague here, than I do with Ives on his Fox Soccer post. But if we think that Ives is right and a strike is still nearly certain, despite no announced deadline we can think about when those deadlines might be. The following four dates are the most likely ones that could be deadlines. Three are during the pre-season, but are important for various reasons, and though pre-season matches could harm MLS anyway.
They are not matches where a couple thousand at most will show up, but significant in other ways.
The first one is rather quick. It hurts MLS significantly, as it would likely end the run of the Crew in the CONCACAF Champions League. On March 9th the Crew face Toluca in the quarterfinals. A strike 24 hours from the start of that match means that this domestic labor dispute becomes the concern of international federations. USSF, CSA, FMF, as well as Guatemala, Honduras and Panama start to pay attention. While the Crew are unlikely to earn revenue during that match, it would elevate the level of the dispute to a much higher plane.
Date two is here in Seattle when the Sounders face the Timbers in front of well over 10,000 fans in the battle between two Cascadia sides - March 11. Instead of raising tens of thousands of dollars for charity if this were the strike date it would also dull the rivalry a bit just before its fires are to burn brightest. Normally pre-season matches are attended about as well as curling in non-Olympics years, but this one is a big deal. Two of the bright stars of MLS' future will dull a bit if there is a strike just prior to this match.
Date three is one that would cause the largest embarrassment to a major sponsor/owner, while also marring a competition that should see a full Red Bull Arena.March 20thSantos with all its history and a player as great as Robinho could face an opponent of no one. Rather than 25,000 screaming fans for an amazing stadium and a marquee friendly, the Union could force a significant loss of funds and signal that the start of the season is almost certainly in jeopardy.
And of course First Kick on March 25th would signal that the season itself is in jeopardy. If the Union or League take it to the opening of the season and then strike/lockout that is a signal that one side sees a lack of good faith. Whichever side fires that shot isn't looking for a skirmish, but a tough and brutal fight.
This of course assumes a worst case scenario, and certain amount of gamesmanship from the Union or League. It isn't that I think that either side is right, but instead what dates maximize the impact of a strike/lockout. But its clear, if the League is locking out, the only date that makes sense is just prior to First Kick.