Quarterback Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers on the sideline during the NFL football game against Denver Broncos at Qualcomm Stadium on November 22, 2010 in San Diego
The NFL players' union has decertified, making the league's first work stoppage since 1987 a near-certainty.
After 16 days of mediated talks with the NFL, the sides could not reach agreement on a new deal. The current one expires at the end of Friday, and the league could lock out its players.
By decertifying, the union has cleared the way for individual players to file antitrust lawsuits against the NFL, which opted out of the CBA in 2008. It has renounced its right to represent the players in contract bargaining.
The CBA was due to expire a week ago and was extended twice.
The union's latest move sets the stage for a lengthy court fight that could potentially threaten the 2011 season.