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By ESPN Staff

FIFA won't intervene in dispute

NEW YORK -- FIFA will not intervene in a labor dispute involving Major League Soccer that could be headed for a work stoppage next month.

A day after soccer's international union accused MLS of violating the regulations of the sport's governing body, FIFA said it has been told the league is within its rules.

"FIFA can confirm it has received correspondence regarding a current issue involving the MLS and the MLS Players' Union and their ongoing negotiations," Zurich-based FIFA said in a statement Wednesday to The Associated Press.

"FIFA understands that this domestic issue is being resolved in accordance with U.S. labor laws and does not involve the U.S. Soccer Federation. FIFA will not interfere in the process. We have been assured that FIFA's regulations have been and will be respected," the statement said.

FIFPro, the international soccer union based in the Netherlands, said Tuesday that MLS management is threatening to lock out players after the league's five-year labor contract expires Jan. 31.

MLS president Mark Abbott had disputed much of what FIFPro alleged, including the charge the league's single-entity structure violates FIFA's regulations.

"At the present moment, we're being threatened with a lockout," Kansas City Wizards player representative Jimmy Conrad said at U.S. national team practice in Carson, Calif. "Obviously, they're putting pressure on us to agree to some terms we don't want to agree to."

U.S. coach Bob Bradley, preparing for the World Cup in June, said he has developed contingency plans with the U.S. Soccer Federation. The MLS season is slated to start March 25.

"There have been discussions and from there, it's based upon the timing of the thing," Bradley said. "We'll just have to see as time goes on."

For U.S.-based players, a lockout could be disruptive.

"It's disconcerting. To talk about a work stoppage or a strike is a little bit presumptive," Wizards goalkeeper Kevin Hartman said. "We're all hoping it doesn't come to that. At the same time, we want to see things happen so that further growth can occur."

Conrad doesn't expect the dispute will reach the point of players going on strike.

"I don't think they'll let us play that card; I think they'll beat us to the punch," Conrad said. "From what I understand, a lockout would be in their best interests if we can't come to terms. That way, they don't have to pay us."


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