3415_isi_zardesgyasi_mlsdb12072014104_(1) David Bernal/isiphotos.com
Major League Soccer

MLS and Players Reach Last-Minute Accord on CBA

Major League Soccer and the MLS Players Union agreed to a deal that includes free agency and salary cap increases, but there is a strong sense that many players are disappointed with the outcome.
BY Brooke Tunstall Posted
March 04, 2015
8:56 PM
WASHINGTON, D.C.—In the end, a deal was achieved and the games will be played on time.

But the new collective bargaining agreement hammered out here tonight after several tense days of negotiations between Major League Soccer and the union that represents its players left many of the players unhappy with the terms of the deal and livid with union management.

But regardless of the hurt feelings and disappointment, the bottom line is that MLS’ 20th season will kickoff Friday night with the Chicago Fire traveling to California to face the Los Angeles Galaxy. Nine more games will be played Saturday and Sunday, making it the busiest weekend in league history.

Details of the deal are still coming to light and a relieved and exhausted MLS commissioner Don Garber said they’d be offered to the public Thursday.

"I am pleased to announce we have reached an agreement in principle with our union," Garber told American Soccer Now (and Reuters), after emerging from the headquarters here of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, which helped broker the deal. "We are not going into details tonight but it is great to be able to continue the momentum that we have been able to build for this league and do it in partnership with our players."

ASN has been able to confirm that the new CBA will go through the 2019 season and includes a limited form of free agency for players 28 and older who have played eight seasons in MLS.

It will also include annual bumps in the salary cap—which last year was $3.1 million—and raises the league’s minimum salary to $60,000, which is good news for the bottom rung of MLS players who made $36,500 last year.

But that wasn’t enough to placate some of the players involved in the negotiations who felt the MLS Players Union didn’t get enough from the league in order to avoid a work stoppage.

“All along we had a set of goals, things we insisted we’d be willing to strike to get,” said one player involved in the negotiations who asked not to be identified. “And then when things got tense and the league was feeling pressure to not miss the start of the season, we caved and gave in without getting those things. It was like not everyone was really serious about striking when it came time to strike or cave—and we caved.”

Several players contacted by ASN said that union leader Bob Foose and several of the federal mediators used by the sides to help reach an accord encouraged the players not to strike. “We lacked leadership when we needed it,” the same player said.

Among the points of contention: The amount of money players eligible for free agency can earn will be tied to how much they previously earned.

“That’s not free agency,” said one player who wasn’t involved in the negotiations but asked not to be identified because he didn’t want to appear ungrateful to the work the union’s player reps had done. “Free agency is when a team can pay a player what he thinks he’s worth and that player picks it or doesn’t.”

Citing a source, the Orlando Sentinel reported the following details on pay raises: “Players who are making less than $100,000 have a capped increase of up to 125 percent of their previous salary, players making between $100,000-$200,000 have a cap of up to 120 percent, and players making more than $200,000 have a cap of up to 115 percent.”

After weeks of deafening silence, the league's site, mlssoccer.com, offered the following comment from Garber: “We are pleased to finalize the framework for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with our players."

It released this nugget too:

“We are pleased to announce that we have reached a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with the league,” said Bob Foose, Executive Director of the MLS Players Union. “We are pleased to finally turn our fans attention back to our players and the competition on the field as we get started on the 2015 season.”

We'll have much more on the deal in the days ahead. In the meantime, what do you think about the terms of the agreement? Tell us below.

Brooke Tunstall is an American Soccer Now contributing editor and ASN 100 panelist. You can follow him on Twitter.

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