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Michael Bradley: MLS players are ready to strike if CBA progress isn’t made

Michael Bradley TFC MLS


As contract negotiations continue between Major League Soccer and the MLS Players Union, star midfielder Micheal Bradley said players are ready and willing to strike.

In an interview with ESPN, Bradley made it clear the MLS Players Union is ready for a work stoppage in order to fight for concessions the players believe are worth fighting for in current Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations, like free agency and higher minimum salaries.

“Should we get to a point before the season where things and negotiations aren’t where they should be, we are ready to strike,” Bradley told ESPN on Wednesday. “We are united as a group to make real progress in terms of the way players get treated in this league.”

Bradley said the union is not hoping to strike, but his comments suggest the union is prepared as a group to fight for changes MLS has long stood opposed to in past CBA negotiations.

The union’s CBA with the league is set to expire at the end of the month and the union is seeking both higher salaries and more freedom of player movement.

Bradley is one of the league’s highest-paid players, earning $6.5 million in guaranteed compensation last year, but in his comments to ESPN, he backed his colleagues in their quest for higher salaries.

The latest salary data from the league from 2014 showed an average salary of $207,831 in MLS, but that appears to be skewed heavily by high-priced Designated Players as the the median was just $91,827.

“We want to help this league grow and continue to push forward in every possible way,” Bradley said. “But it is time for some changes in the way that things are done.”


What do you think of Bradley’s comments? Should MLS loosen the rules for free agency? Should MLS reconsider its single-entity model? Do you believe players are really ready to strike over free agency and salaries, or see the union caving?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Message to new DP’s: leave Europe, come to MLS, get a nice contract, not sure if you’ll be paid, not sure if you will play but you get to strike instead.

  2. I and I alone shall decide how much the players shall earn & how they shall be allocated.


  3. All of you complaining about the players here…I would like to see you be happy at work when your boss tells you that he can’t pay you a little bit more when a couple of your co-workers are making 6-8 million for the same type of work. Either give them free agency or abolish the DP rule.

    What a disaster for team unity…Mourinho just recently said as much when asked about Messi.

    MLS wants the Washington Generals and the Harlem Globetrotters to be on the same team. It doesn’t work that way.

  4. Simple solution… Get rid of the DP rule add 6 million to each teams salary cap. We would have fewer DPs but overall a better league.

  5. This could work if you institute a two cap scenario Hard Cap and Soft Cap

    Rookie contracts are for 3 years
    • Year 1 is guaranteed if a player is on the roster after August 1. Other two years the team holds player option on the contracts on at the league minimum salaries outlined below.
    • Year two option would automatically kicked in if a player hits a certain minutes played threshold (say 800 minutes played in MLS games, US Open cup or CCL do not count)
    • A 3 year period for player rights (this comes into player later)

    Soft cap
    • $8mm this is what the MLS pays out per team Capped at $8mm with a 10% increase each year.
    • This would count Home-grown’s and Generation Adidas players as well.
    • Basically 30 roster slots ($267k on average per player).
    • Player minimums should be raised to $50k year 1, $55k year 2 and $60.5k year 3.
    • After that the player should be able to renegotiate a contract with the league for whatever amount they decide upon, but should be able to sign with any team in the league who is willing to pay that amount if they have the cap space to accommodate it including their current team if they so choose.
    • This would then give the players a pseudo free agency they are asking for. Win-Win for this CBA and keeps the single entity system in place.
    • DP’s salaries would count $500k for each spot against the cap.
    • Up to 4 DP’s can be on any team.

    Hard Cap
    • $30mm– this includes the $8mm covered by the MLS and also increases 10% per year.
    • This would allow teams who want DP’s to spend up to the amount.
    • So in this case they can spend up to $22 mm on players above what he MLS pays.
    • Increase the number of DP’s to 4, but one needs to be a USNT player.
    • This allows each DP to be paid on average $5.5mm.

    Foreign or Returning former MLS Players
    • As for foreign or former MLS players coming back into the MLS here is what they should do:
    • If a former MLS player leaves within the first 3 years of signing with a team, that team would retain his rights for the amount of years left from a 3 year period. For example is a player on Houston leaves for Germany after one season and stays in Germany for 4 years. Then decides to return to the MLS, he would still belong to Houston for two more years.
    • He would of course need to negotiate a contract with the league and the team would need to have the cap space to afford him.
    • Foreign players coming into the league would need to sign a contract with the league and would be considered a free agent to sign with whichever team can afford to sign him under the cap perimeters and DP slots available if the contract is worth DP money.

    Guaranteed contracts
    • After 3 years of continual MLS service any contract negotiated and signed would be guaranteed for the length of the contract.
    • Contracts should be no longer than 3 years in length and can include options.
    • All out of contract players or players who have their contract options declined should have the right to be a free agent no matter how many years of service they have (at their current contract base salary or length of service minimum salary).
    • Again they would sign a contract with the league and could sign with whichever team they wanted as long as that team had cap room.

    Minimum salaries based on Service (annual increase of 10%)
    Yrs Service Annual Salary
    1 $50,000
    2 $55,000
    3 $60,500
    4 $66,550
    5 $73,205
    6 $80,526
    7 $88,578
    8 $97,436
    9 $107,179
    10 $117,897
    11 $129,687
    12 $142,656
    13 $156,921
    14 $172,614
    15 $189,875

    • in a league where about 1/2 the teams are profitable, you think MLS should double the salary cap and give away most of their leverage. Cut back on the weed….

      • If you want to be a top 5 league you need to start acting like one.
        Plus you have at least 7 years to get your ducks in a row with the new TV contract ($70mm per year) and the $280mm + from new club expansion fees ($70mm Orlando, $100mm NYCFC, $110mm from LAFC, plus I can’t remember what Atlanta is going to pay and we still have two more teams coming).

  6. Don’t get me wrong, I like Bradley as a player, but is this guy for real? First, he makes a ridiculous paycheck because he came back to the MLS only because he wasn’t able to break into Roma’s lineup. Second, he used MLS as a trampoline to launch his career overseas… he didn’t go overseas because of money (because he never made that much overseas) rather because the quality of play in Europe is, simply put, better than here in the US. If the US is going to grow and compete then they have to follow the model of the leagues they hope to emulate. This means free agency isn’t in the cards.

  7. Michael Bradley, a true leader. Thanks Michael for coming back to MLS and sticking it to Jürgen with his Europhobia.

  8. Ur all fools! Why do you think teams are creating usl pro teams?? They know something is brewing up with single entity. A new league without this stupid structure will be created when the mls folds

  9. MLS needs reform DP: DP salary should start $750k.
    Increase max salary at to be $650k. Players like Wondo deserve his pay but not DP status!

  10. My issues with MLS are not with the concept of single entity and salary caps. The MLS formula has fostered the stability of a growing league. However, the numbers have to be more equitable to the rank and file players. A second round draft pick that gets signed for the MLS minimum in a major market area like metro NYC can hardly live on that salary, especially if he has a family. The players deserve to make enough to have a decent, if modest, quality of life. The minimum salary needs to be higher.

    If a player does well and is rewarded by a raise in pay, he is suddenly in danger of losing his job due to salary cap restrictions. A player earning 150K to 200K after five years of hard work finds himself to be expendable because of the cap hit. IMO, there should be a mechanism that does not penalize players for being good enough to deserve a decent paycheck, especially when there might be DP players on the team making twenty times their salary for similar production. The salary cap needs to be more flexible.

    My feelings regarding free agency are mixed. I don’t understand why a team retains a player’s rights beyond the terms of his contract, or why the out of contract player has to subject himself to some kind of a draft before he can seek another team. If a team can freely sign a player from Argentina, why can’t they sign an out of contract player from Ohio if the numbers work. Or when a player has a specific job opportunity go sour because he is on another team’s secret Discovery Player list. IMO, that is a variation of indentured servitude.

    Just my opinion.

    • Single entity can’t abide free agency is the line we always hear. IF we assume that’s not just fiscally driven but legally true, what could the league give to meet player demands?

      We take for granted in this sports culture that trades throughout the season are a normal part of life (NFL, MLB, NHL). The articles from foreigners who sign here and get traded midseason and need to relocate significant others or family members help highlight a problem many players are experiencing. Maybe we cut down intraleague trade windows to emulate a more European movement cycle?

      Take that same problem, and amplify it by the player making the league minimum and, as some players have blogged, having trouble getting their moving expenses covered. A minimum salary dries up even faster if you can’t get out of a lease and have to sign one in another market that’s expensive or furnish an apartment on the other side of the country. I think league provided moving allowances for players traded from team to team is minor but helpful.

      I think MLB also has something that’s interesting with partial and full “no trade” clauses in their contracts for players with 10 years of service and five with their current team.

      How about all MLS contracts are guaranteed contracts as of roster compliance date in March? Might lead to a few guys getting cut instead of given a few months to show what they have but it reduces uncertainty for others.

      Team only options on contracts can go. Or be severely limited. Again, a facet of American sports that is not common to all parts of the world. (And often challenged in court anyway, MLS can reduce its legal costs on that one).

      Other sports leagues have a travel policy about the level of accommodation that is required. Doesn’t have to be the Waldorf or a Leer Jet to demonstrate a commitment to quality.

      Does MLS have a formal transfer request system? Can a player with sufficient years of service request to be traded? Or sold?

      And I’m with players on the “x team holds my rights” after I left the league and I’m out of contract or I was sold and the team didn’t take the transfer fee from the league. That’s not always an incentive to come home. Unfortunately, the existing mechanism otherwise is allocation order and that’s not any better.

  11. This is all ridiculous. Obvious the minimum is going up. This is all just negotiation. But the league just can’t hand over the keys to the kingdom. If you think MLS is solid as a rock please see Chivas USA. They have to be careful to protect the future of this league. If the players are not happy with their pay they are free to go somewhere else and work.

    • You mean the same Chivas USA that essentially sold for 100 million dollars?

      A mismanaged team is going to be unsuccessful in any league. In most cases, the league is fine because those teams are relegated. In MLS, that doesn’t happen, so it’s more visible.

  12. MLS is approaching 20. Players have every right to step up now and demand a bigger piece of the pie. I’ll leave it up to them, their union and management to fight it out over what that bigger piece looks like.

  13. For me the end results are going to look like this:

    1. The cap doubles to about $6MM with DPs still consisting of about 25%
    2. A new mid level DP is created, above $400K and below $1MM, to make 4 allowed DPs
    3. Minimum will increase to $65K
    4. Moving expenses will significantly increase along with travel accommodations (read Bobby Warshaw’s latest article)
    5. Contract guarantees to some level will be instituted through all levels regardless of time played.
    6. The drafts (reentry and otherwise) will continue to be reused, but the allocation for incoming foreign talent or returning talent will be altered to a more simplified structure.

    Any kind change to single entity or free agency for any level player is all smoke and mirrors and is a non-starter. MLS will never give in to those things, they would let the league fold instead, and I am not kidding.

    • Honestly, I think your crystal ball might end up being accurate here…. all of this seems pretty reasonable. Good guesses.

    • DPs account closer to 1/3rd. 3 DPs is a cap hit of $1162500, or 37.5%. to me, that is too high.

      i like your ideas but i think you can combine #1 and #2. bump DP minimum to $500k-$750k (i’m not going to do the math to figure out the more realistic number). then tack on about $1m (dependent on the minimum DP salary agreed upon) to the current $3.1m. this effectively gives teams more money to their cap to make up for the increase in the DP minimum. so it’s not really a cap increase.

      from there, MLS then ups the cap. lets say they go with DP minimum of $750k, that leaves a difference of $362,500 per DP slot to make up, or, $1,087,500. that leaves us with a cap of $4,280,750. from there, lets get aggressive and hope MLS will double the cap putting us just under $9m.

      then for the rest of your numbers, tack on an appropriate monetary increase to the cap to accommodate those costs. i’d also love to see them do away with allocation funds and just add that monetary value (known internally) to the cap. in this scenario, we could see a cap of $10m-$12m. with that, DPs would take up around 19%-22.5% (assuming we stick with 3) of the total cap…effectively a 5th. that gives teams more than enough room to raise non-DP player salaries and not be penalized when they want to pay guys like Valeri, EJ, Besler, Zusi, etc. $400,000-$600,000 contracts.

      • Good comments. I think one of the most interesting things here is the relationship bewtween the DP rights/numbers, and the remainder of the CBA. Thing is– the DP rule was developed and initially implemented independently of the CBA (by necessity at the time, as part of the Beckham deal).

        By nature, the DP rule is effectively an “overlay” on top of the CBA structure, and while it’s likely the two will be negotiated simultaneously at this turn, it’s not intuitive how they actually interact. For example, raising the number of DP’s allowed, or changing the cap hit, does not necessarily dictate the behavior of teams with how they choose to pay their non-DP players. There are multiple possible responses, and it’s a matter of team strategy how they choose to allocate their money…. how these changes affect the “median” player cannot be determined by logic alone, which I find somewhat interesting….

      • very true. i’m definitely commenting with the idea that the CBA and the DP rule are mutually dependent.

        any idea if in the last CBA that changed and the DP rule was incorporated? i’m not sure that info is even public, but you would think at this point, 7 years after creating the DP rule, it would be a part of the CBA. but it’s MLS, so who knows…

  14. I think a hard salary cap with penalties would help the MLS, but the problem is you have to deal with transfer fees when dealing with other leagues in the world. So, here’s how you solve that issue, you sign nothing but Americans (THUS TV Revenue rises) and kids out of college, and free agents from Europe, let transfer fees come out of their salary cap, and provide a luxury tax for those who go over the salary cap.

    • Except with a hard cap and luxury tax you lose parity. In a hard cap, luxury tax system you might end up with a team like TFC spending 100 million more than the rest of the league, cause money doesn’t matter to mlse, hell Rogers makes more money on data plans/usage in a month in Canada than mls makes in revenue/profits in a year. Makes for a uneven planning field.

      • A good point, but a lot of it depends on the luxury tax. The reason the Yankees consistently barge through the luxury tax threshholds is because the penalties really have not been that severe (by design). A luxury tax can certainly work, it’s just a matter of where the the bar is set, and how high the tax is. For example, if you set that tax at 200% per dollar above the cap, I doubt you’d see anybody spend $100 million, though you might very well see somebody spend $1-2 million extra if they felt they had a Beckham-type asset.

        I absolutely agree that maintaining parity is the key, but I don’t think that a luxury tax is, by defninition, an enemy of parity If set effectively, I think it is a tool worth exploring.

  15. MB is helping union negotiate pure & simple. Single entity is here to stay, but you can increase DP’s and minimum salary. Player movement is more difficult but creative progress can be found. Bottom line is that all these changes should improve product, audience and therefore revenue so there is common ground to stand on.

  16. I find most of these posts a little bit silly. Clearly the players should negotiate for, and get something more, from the league. Raising the minimum is one option, but those guys at the bottom don’t have a lot of leverage. It’s not as if they have a ton of other places to go. Raising the salary cap, changing the DP hit, etc… all possible.
    But this stuff about ending single entity is just silly. The clubs do OWN the players, but they do it collectively. The model might suck for players making money, but it makes the league viable and stable when it might not otherwise be. I don’t really think they should change this. It’s working, as long as they share the growth of the league with the players. If they don’t. the league will eventually stop growing and will be forced to change. Right now, it’s working–look at the summer signings–they are perhaps better than ever before, and many teams feel secure enough within the structure to make big investments. Make some increases–probably to the salary cap and to the minimum, and leave most everything else. When the league can attract Giovinco types for closer to what they are worth (i.e. when players consider MLS a lateral move or better), then it will be time to revisit the overall structure of the league. We are 5-10 years from that, I’d guess…

    • I agree with nearly everything you say and not arguing to end single entity just yet, but it is a point of fact the clubs DO NOT own the players contracts MLS does.

    • that would result in a net decrease in money teams can spend…..

      $7M cap plus 1 DP slot is less than $3.5M and 3-4 DPs slots, allocation money, etc.

  17. The players will make free agency their primary goal – been more so than the salary cap.
    The belief seems to be that free agency will lead to greater compensation as teams need to compete for players services.

    Has their ever been talk about a players union beyond MLS? I mean a union that organized all North American players in all divisions that could bargain with whatever league and USSoccer as well?

    • You can’t have free agency until the individual MLS franchises/teams/clubs are able to negotiate and own their own player contracts.

      Currently MLS signs,owns, negotiates and pays the player’s contract and then allocates them to their team and counts that salary towards the salary cap of that team. The franchise/team only pays salaries for DPs that go over the 3.1MM cap.

      Since the individuals teams don’t negotiate with each other over players free agency is a mute point until this would change, which would be a monumental change to the MLS structure which is unique within FIFA.

      If want more complication just look up MLS Allocation Money in the MLS rule books and try to figure that one out.

  18. Some modest proposals:
    1) Raise the minimum salary to $60k (it is just above $35k now).
    2) Untie DP contracts from the salary cap. That way DP signings don’t hurt a team’s ability to pay regular players better. It also incentivizes DP signings because you can improve your team without hitting up against the cap.
    3) Increase DPs to 4.
    4) Require teams to maintain salary levels at greater than 80% of the salary cap. A minimum speed requirement, if you will. That way you don’t field 4 DPs and a bunch of $60k players.
    5) Free agency should be granted to out of contract players within MLS after (i) 4 years of consecutive MLS service (MLB is six) or (ii) 30 national team caps (regardless of nation).
    6) Players with 3 or more consectuive years outside of MLS, whether former MLS players or not, should be able to negotiate with any MLS team if they wish to join the league. No seperate rule for US or Canadian national team players. Allocation table should apply under 3 years to keep everyone honest.

    • i like the ideas.

      #6 is an absolute must. #4 is a good idea

      as for the cap I would say the cap should be something that varies year-to-year as a percentage of revenue and cover all the players with league contracts. DP’s and HGP’s are players who should be signed 100% outside of the cap and are the club’s responsibilities.

  19. MLS just got 100M for NYCFC and another reported 100M for the next LA franchise. The new TV right deals with FOX and ESPN is for 75M a year that is over triple the previous deal with NBCSports for 21M. Combine that with the money they are raking in at SUM and its ridiculous that the salary cap is so low.

    Given these numbers I believe the players have all the right in the world to strike if they are not getting enough of a piece of the pie. They play the game and its an embarrassment to soccer fans that some of these guys are on getting paid 30k a year.

    They ask for more TV rights and franchise fees but the players can’t ask for a doubling of the salary cap.

    Its time to take the training wheels off Garber, MLS is a big boy now.

    • I agree that the salary cap should (and almost certainly will) go up… probably I expect something on the order of $7 million, rising to $9-10 million before the next negotiation.

      Here is the problem re franchise fees…. Franchise fees are not operating revenues. They are one-time payments, and MLS cannot simply go on selling franchises in order to fund players salaries. It would be nice to know how they are actually distributed…. I would have no problem if they were used to fund things like the reimbrusement of stadium constructions, the funding of development infrastructure, or even the (within reason) payment of dividends to owners who have accepted losses for many years while the league was moving toward profitable operations. But they can’t fund future day-to-day operations– it just doesn’t work out and it’s a bad business model.

      Re: the TV rights, yes, that is the sort of money that should be used to pay players, and I believe it will be. However, the number is really not that big. When dividied amongst 20+ teams, the new TV contract really isn’t enormous…. which isn’t surprising because the ratings are mediocre, at best. This should be the most important strategic focus of the league in the coming years— it won’t be easy to do (given most of the TV viewership “pie” during the MLS season is consumed by entrenched sports like football and baseball), but this is where the most “upside” is located, and where the players can hope for the biggest salary boost as MLS continues to capture popularity.

      Nobody knows for sure how much MLS clubs make, but the Forbes analysis from 2013 provides a fairly reasonable basis…. and the fact is MLS is doing well, but not “rolling in the dough”. About half the teams make money year-upon-year, but the profits are unimpressive…. about $2.2 million per team on average.

      Players should be reasonable in their expectations here… after all, any of them can choose to leave for one of the nearly two dozen leagues that supposedly pay better. It’s not like being an NFL player, where you are basically stuck 2-3 leagues that offer professional wages at all. There is a reason these guys don’t leave– it ain’t that bad.

      • “.. and the fact is MLS is doing well, but not “rolling in the dough”. About half the teams make money year-upon-year, but the profits are unimpressive…. about $2.2 million per team on average.”

        That would make sense EXCEPT its NOT the club that pays the players salary its MLS.

        The club is nothing more than a franchise/operator largely making money off its concession which is why building Soccer Specific Stadiums owned by the club/franchise was such a big deal initiative a decade ago.

        All other North American sports leagues with a CBA negotiate on a percentage of revenue not profits.

        Its time for MLS to stop pretending American soccer fans are stupid and pay up and stop taking advantage of our young players.

      • Nope The operating profits flow through the teams, and include player salaries. While MLS hold rights to the player contracts, the fact is each MLS franchise has an independent profit/loss sheet that drives their financial performance. Simply ask yourself— why wouldn’t every team in the league have 3 high-profile DP’s and a maxed-out salary structure if MLS was picking up the tab themselves? There is a reason RSL and Colorado do not mess around with $3 million DPs.

        Let’s stop talking about these players as though they are 12-year old children being exploited by coal mines in 19th century West Virginia. The global market for soccer players is enormous, diverse, and incredibly liquid. If any one of these guys feels they are being underpaid compared to their skill set, experience, and market value, THEY CAN GO GET IT SOMEWHERE!!! There are dozens of leagues and hundreds of employers to choose from!!!!

      • I agree with you but I don’t think you are correct on the financial specifics. Each team are LLC’s they are flow-throughs to MLS. (ie. MLS owners per percentage of ownership pay the taxes). Maybe the team’s name is on the paycheck but the money flows through MLS. You are correct about DPs. Team individual owners do pick up the portion beyond the salary cap, but anything below the salary cap (or not included like Generation Adidas) are the league’s responsibility (at least that is the information that is publicly available).

        LLC’s always have balance sheets and income statements, but that does not mean they are the ones independently funding themselves.

      • “but anything below the salary cap (or not included like Generation Adidas) are the league’s responsibility (at least that is the information that is publicly available).”

        for the GA, true.

        but i think you are incorrect about DPs (unless i am reading your comment incorrectly). the team pays the entire salary, but only $387,500 counts against their cap. i don’t think MLS pays a dime from their account on DP contracts outside of transfer fees (if they decide the player is worth buying). i say that about transfer fees because didn’t MLS pay Dempsey’s fee but TFC paid Bradley’s and Defoe’s?

      • Like you said, portion of the salary goes against the cap – and the league pays the cap. As far as transfer fees I think that’s a case by case basis.

      • James…so I just had a fundamental misunderstanding. I thought the DP rule was simply a cap prevention mechanism and didn’t realize MLS literally pays the $387.5k. How I didn’t know that? I am not sure. That certainly complicates things.

      • James,
        I don’t disagree, but eventually what we are talking about is corporate structuring semantics, which have material value in a tax sense but do not really change the fact that the teams are financially managed at an individual level, prior to anything that takes place at the holding/taxable entity.

        The fact is, some teams spend more than others on “normal” salaries (i.e. excusive of DPs) and that is because they have a direct P/L realtionship with that spending. Otherwise, why would any team in the league spend a dime less than the salary cap?

        Strategically, I certainly agree that there are mandates and rules that come down from the general entity that influence teams’ behavior, theorietically for the “greater good” of the LLC members… but outside of these rules, there is a significant degree of franchise-level management, and not all franchises behave (or are inclined to behave) in the same manner.

      • I agree and there is a significant level of spending, outside of player acquisition that is exclusively determined by the operator. However, everything I have ever read about the league shows that the initial cap ($3.5m or whatever it is most recently) is shared within the league. You mention that there are teams that do spend much less than the cap…do you know which ones? Every team that I have seen spends almost to the top.

      • James,
        A fair question, and I can give you this answer, as I am actually working on an analysis for another site about players spending — it will take me another day or two to hang a number on it but I’m happy to do so…. check back here (or wherever the latest SBIS piece on this topic is) and I’ll give you some hard numbers.

        The natural follow-up will of course be “what teams will spend up to the cap if it is raised?”…. The 2012 profitability numbers from Forbes (the best we’ve got, for better or worse) suggest that most teams would not follow a $4 million increase all the way, as it would push them into the red– only 6 teams earned more than $3.5 million in operating income. The tolerance for a big increase amongst most teams is quite low.

        An interesting discussion, to be sure.

      • Mr. Maradoughnuts, in theory your statements about the liquidity of the soccer world are correct. However, in reality I believe that world is actually pretty small for the majority of the players in MLS. Of those that pay more than MLS, most have pretty strict passport regulations and it’s tough to get legal entry into the country. Look how difficult it has been for even some of our best players.

      • Leaving aside the fact that nearly 45% of MLS players are internationals anyway, the problems we’ve had (which you rightly point out) have happened almost exclusively with the UK, which is the highest-paying league, but also far-and-away the most defensive towards foreign (particularly American) players. Players who are talented enough to have offers/prospects in the UK these days really aren’t among those at the fringes of MLS labor/salary disputes.

        I might be wrong, but everything I’ve seen with other MLS players who have gone abroad suggests that there really are very few administrative barriers that prevent those motivated enough to do so from accessing the global market.

        It’s a big bet, to be sure…. the US offers a comfortable lifestyle, a first-world infrastructure, and perhaps most-importantly, the promise of an outstanding future. A player who is valued by an MLS club might very well consider himself a fool to leave right now, when things are looking so promising.

  20. MLS players receive a significantly lower percentage of revenue than other North American sports leagues and much much lower than in major European leagues. I’m too lazy to cite to the percentages but MLS players deserve more of the growing MLS pie.

    MLS can maybe keep the no free agency/single entity training wheels on for one more CBA but the salary cap should be significantly higher. Let’s $5m-$6m instead of the current $3.1m. Not so long ago, this league was paying networks to show its games and now it’s getting $70m or whatever a year from TV. The players need to get their share of that money.

    • Read Joe Dirt’s Comment Below.

      “MLS just got 100M for NYCFC and another reported 100M for the next LA franchise. The new TV right deals with FOX and ESPN is for 75M a year that is over triple the previous deal with NBCSports for 21M. Combine that with the money they are raking in at SUM and its ridiculous that the salary cap is so low.”

      IMO, the Salary Cap should be 10 M. Considering your revenue stream just increased by 300%, your margins will be the same if you increase the Cap at the same rate.

      It’s sad when a team like the Sounders can cover approximately 1/3 ( i’m being overly generous here… But i’m almost sure its more than 50%) of their hard cap salary figures with beer sales from their home games.

      • I agree with a $10 million cap but the cheap owners: San Jose,Colorado, NE Revs, and FC dallas would disagree. Also RSL and the Union might struggle with that too because they have an investor groups and not a single rich owner

      • Actually Dallas is pretty middle of the pack. They had 3 DPs last year. They were just all around the 500k mark.

        They spent more on salary than Portland, DC, phlilly union etc. Just no huge stars and kinda sucking.

      • One of the important concepts in the MLS strategy is actually to keep rich, “sugar daddy” type owners from having too much influence over the competitive landscape of the league.

        The only things a really rich, “I don’t give a f*ck for profits/losses” owner can do are hire 3 DP’s at top-dollar, and max out their salary cap.

        I too would like to see a nice jump in the salary cap…. I think $7 million (with annual increases) is a reasonable number that will allow the RSLs and Colorados of the league to keep pace without breaking the bank.

      • Actually, RSL does have a single rich owner. I don’t believe he’s billionaire rich, but several hundred million at least.

  21. But, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with The Don determining where Jermain Jones gets to play! What portion of holding a blind draw between Chicago and New England don’t you understand?

    It’s not like this is the most laughable thing anyone has ever heard, ever!

    Get rid of single entity, free agency is a must, no ifs, no buts! This is the only way forward, the Don must not own the players, clubs must own the players.

    • This is not about Don. This is about the owners. Don works for the owners. If they decided they don’t want single entity only they can do that. I guarentee you many (if not most) signed up BECAUSE the league is single-entity, not in spite of it. It mitigates the financial risk. The league (independent of SUM) is not profitable – very few owners would be ok sustaining the financial risk of owning their clubs outright.

      • +1. People seem to be having a very difficult time understanding exactly how important the single entity-structure and associated strategy is to the past, present, and future success of the league and its investors.

        I continue to believe that MLS and the single-enitiy structure are the envy of global soccer. Most any of them would love to have a growth model like MLS has, rather than clubs waiting for a sugar daddy so they can have some chance of being competitive. What MLS has achieved because of this in the miniscule space of 20 years is nothing short of amazing. I have seen no compelling argument for why we need to suddenly change what is working so undeniably well.

      • Let me ask you this….if the owners that only want to be an owner under a single entity structure decided to sell upon dissolution of the MLS single entity, do you think there will be buyers for those clubs? I certainly do.

      • I have no doubt the bidding wars for LA and NY would be tremendous – but the other smaller markets? No way – they need single entity. And you need those markets in order to have a real league. It’s not about individual teams, it’s about the prospect of creating a nation-wide domestic league. Most teams do not have the revenue streams to sustain themselves independently – maybe in the future but not now. You have to think of the lowest common denominator. Sure $100m NYCFC, $100m for LAFC…and yeah $60m for Columbus (by the Anthony Precourt) – but that’s not $60m for JUST Columbus – that’s a stake in the league. A part ownership of MLS as an entity. The bidding for ONLY that team wouldn’t even come close to that.

      • Based on what evidence?

        Let’s assume the clubs sold will be the less profitable clubs in MLS that are being subsidized, to an extent, by the more profitable clubs within the single entity structure. Sounds logical right? They stand to lose the most from the dissolution of the single entity.

        So who are these magical owners lining up to buy the less profitable clubs in MLS?

        Especially, when they stand to benefit far more from systems like the RED which keep costs (salaries in this case) down and profit-sharing within the single entity.

        It appears more wishful thinking on your part then actual logic that there are potential owners waiting to unleash legions of cash on soccer teams across the country.

        A question for you, why aren’t these frustrated billionaire would be owners circumventing MLS, investing huge amounts of money in NASL clubs, bringing in the best talent of the world, signing huge TV deals and changing American soccer forever?

      • Good point about NASL. As far as I can tell, this is actually their business plan too (seems to only have worked with the Cosmos so far).

  22. Time for MLS to take off the training wheels.

    Garber’s vision for being a top league in the world will never come into fruition with rules that deter quality players from coming to play in MLS. They can’t where to play, where to move their families?? These are very important factors to people in general not just athletes.

    Even more a problem, is the incredibly, ridiculously, low Salary Cap. When 1 player makes more than the whole team then the overall quality of the play will be skewed.

    I’ve said it before on this site, Garber need’s to put his money where his mouth.

    Ownership groups will be happy paying pennies to players and having progressively better TV deals every 5 yrs. It’s time for the players to get a raise, a big one, not a small 5% raise.

    If you raise cap and increase the minimum salary you can attract better players and weed out players that are not “good enough” for MLS or “good enough” to even be professional players (Khano Smith anyone??).

    First, MLS should focus on being the best league in the region; better than LigaMX. Then you can start talking about being one of the best leagues in the world.

    Compete with LigaMX, win in the CCL , give me something tangible that I can see improvements in “OVERALL” quality.

    The intent of the previous CBA’s was to build a foundation for teams and ownership groups. Well, we just had 1 team spend 20 m on 4 players on their team this past year. We don’t need these overly strict financial/regulatory rules any more.

    Garber if you want a defining moment; this is it!

    • I agree. The current rules served their purpose and have guided the league through 20 years of success, more or less. It’s time to take the training wheels off.

    • completely agree. now is a great time really make some institutional changes, or at least lay the framework for, in MLS.

      thinking back to 1996, we needed a d1 league and we needed one that would stay. Consistent slow growth is what we needed and what we got. Much thanks to the owners and the fans who kept this league alive.

      Two decades later we appear to growing out of these “training wheels” and its time to make this league more appealing to players, fans and owners alike.

  23. With the momentum this league has gained during this off-season, this would be a major blow. I sincerely hope that there is no stoppage, although the free agency issue (elephant in the room) is not surprising.

      • What Rory said. Any delay or stoppage of regular season games would be a disaster. Does anyone remember what the NHL stoppage did in the 90s? It ruined all the momentum they had .. A strike causes a 180 for all those on the fence of interest.

        I have to imagine this works in the players favor. I hope the owners do what’s right, change some free agency rules (ie if you leave the league and come back you are tied to the original team&price) and up the cap at least 50%.

    • I think you have it completely backwards. Bradley is the one who threatening to strike on behalf of Aparicio and those similarly situated. Obviously, Bradley is not claiming to have an issue with his salary but, rather, the MLS rank and file. Its clearly an act of selflessness not selfishness on behalf of MB.

      • Now you understand it. This the key. If the guys getting rich on the system, are willing to help the guys being “abused”(its still getting paid to play a game you love), then we will see some big changes.

        Since the owners have that big new TV contract waiting, and all the new teams ready to pay $100 milllion to join, they don’t want a work stoppage. I am no expert but it seems the players have the biggest gun to bring to the fight. If they stand together, it will be very difficult for the owners to hold out. Just my two cents.

      • So you would like to have someone who makes 180 times more than you represent you in labor negotiations?

      • He isn’t representing anyone, he’s a high profile player being asked his opinion on the negotiations. And MLS management cares a lot more about his opinion than a run of the mill MLS players. Stop looking for things to complain about.

      • This is very common. Happens in all sports with collective labor negotiations. The union has the highest paid players in the structure release quotes expressing their solidarity with the lowest paid players….. it’s all part of a time-honored strategy. Bradley is just doing his part for the Players Union.

      • What, exactly, are you waiting for him to say? Don’t pay me more! Michael Bradley is wrong and the owners are right — we should continue to have massive income disparity in MLS where most players get paid a paltry sum while a few DPs get the lion’s share! The reason you won’t get a quote from Manuel Aparicio is no one give a F what he thinks. But you can be damn sure he is with MB. Its players like MB speaking out on this type of issue that is the key for players like Aparicio.

      • If you did you would never hear about it because the media doesn’t report on nobodies. Bradley is just using his high-profile to shed some light to the issue.

  24. He’s right. And that “average” salary is drastically skewed. Let’s see what the average salary is after you take away the DP salaries. Most of the players are paid pretty low. On the one side, I agree they should be paid more. But on the other hand, if a player thinks he’s worth more and thinks he can get more, he can always leave MLS.

    • Bingo. Of course the Bradley’s and Giovinco’s of the MLS world will skew the salary average.

      Garber’s comments on financial instability a few months back was a sign to me that a fight was brewing between players and the ownership groups.

      At some point it was bound to happen.

      With that being said, I think it’s a fight that must be had and one that is desperately needed.

      MLS HQ has TOO much control and that needs to change for the betterment of the leauge (Well at least on paper they do. With all these nonsensical ideas/protocols/rules that they write on the backside of napkins – its hard to determine who is really steering the ship here.)

    • Well Michael you’ve been back in MLS for a year and your salary represents the greatest inequality issues we have in the league so why don’t you just go out there and speak on behalf of the players.


      Get someone like Clint Irwin out there.

      • Exactly! This isn’t about the Michael Bradley’s and Clint Dempsey’s it’s about the lower paid guys who don’t command attention when they speak. MB – being the leader that he is, takes up THIER cause in spite of the fact that the system as currently comprised benefits him.

  25. Good to hear…I would hate not having a 2015 season but you gotta make a stand if the league is going to continue to grow and not be hampered by the administrators’ fear of the league or individual teams folding.

    • Worked out well for MLB, right? Not having a 2015 season can easily snowball into not having MLS. Thinking that MLS is on an untouchable upward trajectory right now is completely foolish.

      • Unlike other American Leagues with an absolute monopoly in their respective sports, soccer is far to global for a work stoppage to have the same disastrous consequences for the players compared to the teams. The players can play and earn good or even better wages playing somewhere else in the world while MLS could lose all momentum and collapse. I think the players have nearly all the leverage in the CBA talks no matter what MLS is saying about still making loses.

  26. Getting rid of the single entity BS should be the first thing on the list. Then focus on raising the salary cap a meaningful amount greater than a 100% increase. This 25% increase crap isn’t going to cut it.

    • Absolutely agree. MLS is trying to keep control as it wants parity and also financial stability, unlike the old NASL. But, I say if the team has the money, let them buy who they want if they are a free agent.

    • I can’t fathom how having free agency could really do any damage to a hard salary cap. I’ve thought about it for the past few years and MLS HQ’s thinking is complete rubbish.

      • Yeah, I never understood that rule. The prevention of “Super Clubs” is deterred by #DP and the Salary cap.

        Let’s just be honest here places like Columbus will always have a disadvantage in competing with places like New York City on attracting Non-DP players and DP players alike.

      • It’s not a rule – it’s a corporate structure. MLS is one entity – the teams are basically theater. “Free agency” means creating a new company – it means disbanding MLS and creating a different league (even if the branding remained the same).

        Imagine the Coca-Cola Company creating 20 different kids of Diet Coke and having them compete against each other – each would undercut each others pricing and try to out-due each other. Makes no sense right? Well by asking for free agency (the 20 cokes) in a single entity (Coca-Cola Company) – you’re essentially competing against yourself.

      • I get that. It’s just that it incredibly “odd” for a competition to be done that way.

        I think the in past Market Price regulation was necessary in the league, but not so much today.

      • I agree that it is unusual but that’s what creates the stability. The ultimate goal is to have every owner own it’s own team, but as far as MLS has gone, many teams operate in markets that are still quite shakey. It isn’t all about player acquisition, it’s about all the other financial risk involved in owning a team. Throughout the league’s history, and even today, risk has far outweighed reward. Because of that, the risk needs to be shared. Unless the MLSPA can figure out a way to mitigate that (which they won’t and can’t) they will not be “true” free agents.

      • It’s the corporate structure but its not sustainable for several reasons. The two main reasons being that its anti-player rights and the other being that it’s not how any other American sports are structured. So, it goes against American sporting culture.

    • I think baby steps are still in order.

      I agree, wholeheartedly, that free agency needs to be put into action. However, I am worried that a dramatic salary cap increase will cause problems (a la NASL). Let’s split the baby – 50% salary cap increase. No?

      • A 50% salary cap increase means that the league and its ownership are paying out 1.55 million more per team, per year. Times 20, and that’s the league agreeing to pay out 31 million dollars more ANNUALLY under the cap (meaning only the part of DP contracts that hit the cap, not DPs above and beyond). Some of the owners may have deep enough pockets to compensate or just burn through money, but I don’t see how some of the struggling teams can justify it. You’d need a huge boost in the value of the TV contracts to discuss anything that big.

        The cap would need to increase if you raise the league minimum, but I don’t think its going to jump that high.

      • maybe i’m not understanding your comment, but raising the cap by $1.55m per team gives the teams who WANT to use it that much more room. by no means will anyone have to spend that. but teams like Seattle, LA, TFC, etc. would and $1.55m is not going to swing parity drastically one way or the other.

      • You don’t need a one size fits all salary cap. You don’t need DP contracts. You don’t need discovery claims. You don’t need any other the BS shenanigans MLS does.

        Financial regulations that prevents clubs from spending more than a fixed % of revenues would prevent the league from collapsing. And, with all the stupid regulations gone the league would be higher quality.

      • The league is now getting 90 million annually with the new TV contract compared to 20 million before so they still have an extra 40 million to split up. FYI don’t be surprised if tickets start to take a bump up in the next few years. I have been lucky my season tickets for the Red Bulls have been the same per game since 2008 but I can’t expect that to last forever.

    • You’re idea would be great but I’m afraid getting rid of single entity is a non-starter for the Don. MLS isn’t going to let that happen yet. Raising the cap is a must because 91k? average salary (minus DP’s) is silly low.

      MLS hasn’t entered the mainstream of American sports quite yet and when it does then it will demand better TV contracts etc.

      • BTW I hope I’m wrong about Garber and he does agree to lift the single entity. We’ll find out in the next month or so.

      • You are not wrong about it. How would they even go about that ? The legal mess would be so severe they wouldn’t get it straightened out…ever.

        Ps. watch some guy spend time to come up with a plan.

    • “Single entity” isn’t just a strategy it’s how the company is incorporated. That’s like saying Coca-Cola really needs to stop issuing “stock”. It’s how the company is chartered. You can create something similar to free agency, but MLS will not change their corporate structure.

    • one day they will, but it’s not that simple as others have pointed out. they can create something closer to free agency without having to completely get rid of their single entity structure.

      as for the cap, totally agree. there are WAY too many mechanisms and the Don said a fe weeks ago that they need new mechanisms to prevent issues that came up. as if he forgot that all these mechanisms is what caused the issue to begin with.

      they need to identify the monetary value of the cap mechanisms in place and then add that to the current cap (it would be a pretty significant increase to account for DPs alone). then, they need to raise the cap from there and make it a hard cap. that still provides a framework for parity and essentially does the same thing but without all the rules.


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