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Report: MLS, Players Union agree on minor issues in CBA talks

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The MLS players union and league officials are finding things to agree on in their contentious labor negotiations, but the heavy lifting has yet to begin.

ESPN reported Friday that the two sides have agreed on a number of minor issues this week with the help of a federal mediator. Sports Illustrated originally reported Wednesday that the two sides would spend this week hammering out agreements on smaller items before diving into the main labor issues: free agency and player compensation.

The two sides have reportedly reached an agreement on a number of stipulations, including player moving expenses and public appearance compensation.

Free agency remains the biggest issue at the heart of CBA negotiations, with many MLS stars and players union representatives stating publicly that the union is ready to strike in order to secure free agency.

The previous CBA expired on Jan. 31 and the two sides will now work to reach an agreement by the regular season kickoff of March 6.


What do you think of the current state of negotiations? Happy to hear even minor progress is being made, or still think we could be in for a strike?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. “it would drain talent… from smaller market clubs.”

    Parity is a myth in this league. Who has won 3 of the last 4 MLS Cups? The single-entity Lords in NY already break their own rules to get talented players into more “desirable” markets like LA, SEA, and NY. Also, none of these owners are poor.

  2. I think the concern with open free agency, particularly with an presumed increased cap and multiple high-profile teams entering the league in desirable locations, is that it would drain talent from less desirable and/or smaller market cities. MLS has had a lot of success with its smaller market clubs so far in part because those clubs have been able to hold onto their players, and that is worthy of protection. Perhaps the answer is an free agency allocation system, whereby an out of contract player can negotiate with his current club and a group of five other clubs at the top of the allocation order. Thus:
    1. The player must chose to be a free agent or not, knowing, as described below, that there is some risk in the process.
    2. If his current club offers him at least a one-year contract equal to or better to his current (expiring) deal, then any team in the top five can offer a better deal. The player then has the option to stay or move, but he must take one of the deals offerred.
    3. If none of the teams (current club and top 5 grouping) offer him a contract equal to or better than his current deal, then they lose the right to negotiate with him and the next five teams in the allocation order can bid. That process keeps going until at least one team offers him an equal or better deal than his expired contract. The player must accept that deal if its the only one equal to or better than his current contract.
    4. If the groups are exhausted and no team offers the player a contract equal or better than his current deal, then the player’s rights are retained by his current club.
    5. Free agency allocation positions can be traded between teams. Thus, if a team wants a certain free agent, they can trade up in the allocation grouping in order to make a bid. A prospective free agent may indicate his willingness to go to certain teams in the hopes they will position themselves to get him.
    6. When a team signs a free agent or passes on a free agent, they go to the bottom of the allocation order and only move up when additional teams pass on a free agent.

  3. A strike will be an absolute disaster for MLS and set us back 3 to 5 years, easily. Fans like me are chomping at the bit for this season……Kaka, Gerrard, Villa, Orlando, NYCFC, TFC, television deals, it’s just the best season to date. Get it done….I’ve spent more on tix n travel arrangements this winter than ever before!

    • Yes, let’s hold back the players right to more freedom of choice and movement because it makes you feel better in the short term, and because it placates you as a consumer.

  4. “Free Agency” as we think about it in other major league sports, is a misnomer. Unlike other US based sports, the MLS has a “hard cap” on players salary. While its true that other sports like the NBA do have a salary cap, it is a “soft cap” and has plenty of loopholes. The MLS has very strict rules on the cap, but included several loopholes also. However if free agency was granted to players, you would still not see, the free-for-all on player purchasing that the MLS management is squawking about. This is because;
    1. You have a salary cap that will prevent many clubs from biding on players.
    2. You have a “single entity” ownership group, that would water down any attempt to establish a true free agency., ie one that would allow any MLS player to move to any other MLS team for more money.

    What then, can the MLS players Union hope to win under the CBA.

    1. Demolition of the archaic rights holding the MLS has over players who sign with them seemingly once and forever. Even if you are “sold” to another foreign team, The MLS will still have a team to “hold” your rights to employment in the MLS should you ever come back, forever. Which means you cannot sign for another team unless you have permission from the MLS team who holds your rights, even from years before.

    The MLS has purposely confused the issue of free agency with exorbitant player compensation, and the ability (or lack of) of the MLS to control costs. As most feel that ‘free agency” is a definition of; the ability of players to receive compensation without restriction, the MLS would like you to believe it is not in the best interest fans of MLS soccer to allow such uncontrolled cost. The MLS has effectively created a “closed shop” on the ability of soccer professionals to ply their trade at an equitable rates. It has effectively used the restriction of rights to curb compensation growth.

    The MLS players union would like the MLS to endorse the “Bozeman ruling”, which sets the standard on rights transfers for most of the rest of the world.

    At the very least the MLS players union should work from the bottom up and loosen the rights holding ability of teams who waive or release players from teams and ending the compensation of the rights holding teamsvia the MLS for players they have released.

    While doing this might impact small market teams who may not be able to attract/retain players as well as, a Miami, LA or NY, you would have returning players to the MLS, who may have greatly increased the soccer ability and worth by playing abroad (and have had their teams duly compensated through a transfer fee.) have the ability to seek employment in a market they choose at a compensation level determined not by a formula, but by the market.

    Which really is what the US is all about!!

    • Agreed on all points BC,

      Now about that part…..
      “the MLS has very strict rules on the cap”

      I don’t know about that. They seem to make-up/ ignore/ rules all the time. lol

      But to your point I think they need less rules to be honest. There are to many archaic rules, like discovery claims ( so dumb ). These are mechanisms put in place to even suppress would-be salaries for POTENTIAL MLS players.

    • Two Errors

      !)”Even if you are “sold” to another foreign team, The MLS will still have a team to “hold” your rights to employment in the MLS should you ever come back, forever”

      Not correct, if you are sold then you are free to sign with whomever, if its a nats player, there is an allocation, but that is an exception. If you arent sold and then return, if the team made a “bonafide” offer then they retain the rights (see Roger Espinoza and Juan Agudelo). Most players that are sold by MLS and end up back in MLS are national team players so that might be what you are confusing. But if previously mentioned Roger Espinoza would have been sold and then decided to come back, he would be treated as a player who dropped through the dispersal draft and can sign a new deal with whomever its agreed with.

      2) not “the Major League Soccer/the MLS” 😉

      • Often, the devil’s in the details. Just what is a “bona fide offer”? Is it commensurate or better than the players previous MLS contract, or is it commensurate with the players contract offer from a foreign team?
        By making an “offer” to a player who is contemplating a move overseas, a team ensures it will retain that players rights for a good long time, even though the “offer” may not be an offer commensurate with his foreign offer or even commensurate with players with a similar playing experience, ability etc.In short, by activating a mechanism that does not reflect the players worth, the MLS will ensure it will retain the rights to that player at no cost or compensation to the player.

        There is another downside for a player. Should the competing foreign team be cognizant of the details of the previous MLS contract and have knowledge of the MLS’s “bona fide” offer, they may make a low-ball offer, knowing that the players only option back in the MLS is for a certain amount, and that player, under the “current” CBA cannot ask for more. This has the effect of limiting the players ability for future compensation. The fact is that many Leagues across Europe already have only “so-many” international spots and without a EU Passsport the players compensation cieling may be further limited.

        The “allocation process”, “discovery”, “bona-fide offers” are all gimmicks that the founders of the single entity MLS have put into the CBA to reduce a players options and to reduce overall his ability to seek comparative compensation. It has nothing to do with breaking the MLS bank and causing a runaway salary free for among owners that doomed the old NASL. The MLS salary cap was put in place for just that reason. The current “restricted” rights of most all MLS players is overkill and is harmful and should be replaced or removed.

  5. A “bidding war” is called setting the market price in the real world. trying to eliminate “bidding wars” is trying to artificially hold salaries low.

    If I am buying a house, of course i don’t want a bidding war.

    • the cap holds salaries, more money for the free agent player means less money for the players who actually need the raise.

      There is a whole world as a market for these players services, and several other leagues in this country.

      • I agree to a certain point. However that is why there should be a higher laddered minimum salary.
        – 50K: 0-3yrs
        – 75K: 3-6yrs
        – 100K; 6yrs+

        If you can’t get more than 100 and you are say (27yrs) odds are you are not going to get much better, so it might be better investing in other/younger players.

    • Yes, trying to eliminate bidding wars to artificially hold the salaries low is collusion and is part of anti trust laws which is illegal. The way MLS gets around that is by having a CBA and by being a single entity.

      • And if we are talking about salary caps, what was the cap at last year? 3.1 million? And what were the total salaries last year for LA, Seattle, TFC, Red Bulls, Vancouver, Montreal, and FC Dallas?

        Team Total Base Salary
        1 Toronto FC $15,609,766.50
        2 LA Galaxy $12,291,473
        3 New York Red Bulls $10,195,154
        4 Seattle Sounders $9,633,959
        5 Vancouver Whitecaps $5,411,558
        6 Montreal Impact $4,578,914
        7 FC Dallas $4,130,404

        I think these teams may have gone over the cap by a little bit…

        Just saying its not a hard cap.

      • We are not talking about the 2/3 starts who make 10s’s everyone else, we are talking the median players who really make up the league. Only 4 or so team spent under 4 million (when I checked), so make the cap higher. Make it at least 5 not 10, but 5 with a staggered increase to 6.5 if targets are met over the next 4 or 5 years.

        Also change the minimum:
        laddered minimum salary.
        – 50K: 0-3yrs
        – 75K: 3-6yrs
        – 100K; 6yrs+

        If teams don’t view you as worth 100K in 6 years, you should probably retire.

  6. If free agency happens, the MLS must re evaluate their stance on pro/rel and single entity in order to keep the league from going back into financial trouble. Bidding wars will inflate the players wages and the teams that cant support those types of wages will be forced to be relegated (using cheaper players) until they can build their “Business” up to where they can get those high priced players. Similar to what the SPL Rangers had to do.

    • First, the salary cap will still act as a ceiling on wages and second, Rangers ran up enormous debts that they couldn’t pay, went into administration (sort of the UK version of bankruptcy) and were liquidated. An entirely new team called Rangers started down in the fourth division of Scottish football and are still working their way up. How is that a model for MLS?

      • Didn’t Chivas USA also implode despite all MLS rules and safety measures? And, by the way, since you mockingly made Rangers a “model” for MLS, they actually averaged more in attendance in that fourth division than any MLS club. How’s that for a model?

      • Comparing the Rangers attendance as a “4th division club” is pretty disingenuous. After all, they’re still Rangers, and their average attendance was an order of magnitude higher than their fellow 4th tier teams.

      • But it is convenient for their arguement, though !

        It actually disproves their arguement, as a team that is poorly run, actually does very well, as long as they are a superclub.

      • James, you completely missed my point. I did not say that all fourth division clubs are like Rangers. The original poster picked Rangers as an example of a failed model, but my point that despite all mismanagement and relegation to the fourth division, Rangers are still doing better than any of the MLS clubs. The reason they are doing better is that they are in a competitive environment with promotion and relegation. MLS clubs are in a bubble that suppresses competition. Hence the difference, Chivas USA is dead, while Rangers and their loyal fans with all their woes have a chance to return to the top division. And, yes, it is not disingenuous to point to their attendance numbers – despite being relegated to the fourth division – they continued to draw fans, while playing against 4th division teams. They drew thousands DESPITE playing in the 4th division. Their fans have something to hope for.

      • If you think Rangers are doing well because their attendance is good, you’re obviously not following very closely. Rangers are the target of continued derision in Scotland because despite having had all this time to sort things out and despite having huge advantages over other lower division clubs, their financial situation is still a mess. Despite promotion and relegation, they’re still in turmoil.

      • Chivas’ implosion had nothing to do with a failure of MLS rules and everything to do with their FO’s incompetence.

    • There still will be a salary cap, so that scenario is unlikely. About the worst that would happen is that if you overpay for someone, you have to underpay for the next. So, if you think depth is a problem now, it could really be an issue then. It probably could strengthen NASL or USL immensely if they can pay competitive mid-tier salaries. But, I agree that some form of free agency should exist, even if somewhat limited by time in the league or a similar measuring stick.

    • Sincere question: How does a “bidding war” take place when MLS as a single entity?

      From my understanding, in the single entity system MLS as a league maintains the first and final say on contract negotiations for individual clubs, correct?

      • I agree, bidding wars cant take place in a single entity. Although, it is also nearly impossible for an actual free agency to occur in a single entity. The league wont allow it because free agency leads to bidding wars and this is what destroyed the NASL.

        I do want to state that I am in favor of free agency. BUT, my original statement stands as IF free agency happens, what happens next. I dont know. I was only offering my speculation.

      • You could accomplish a limited form of free agency within the single entity MLS system, and I think the players would go for it because it would give them more choices. There are several examples of essentially “single entity” institutions/organizations which can bid against each other for an employee.

      • Interesting that you say that chip.

        I too thought/think the same. Why can’t MLS HQ let teams bid on a player an when the “bids” reach a certain threshold, MLS say : “okay, too much”?

        why can’t teams financially compete for players, they are obviously in a competition?

        I know a lot of people will say “The league is not stable, money this, NASL part 2…etc. ”

        But the reality is MLS just signed a new TV deal worth 300% more than their prior one ( 20 m to 70 m /yr ).

        There is more money than ever to spend on players. If teams over-pay for a player so be it. let them deal with it.

        There will always be players who are over/under paid.

      • I agree. With the new TV deal and new expansion team fees in excess of $100 million the money is there to allow players to gain modest to moderate salary increases while at the same time getting the opportunity to choose where they prefer to play. A hard salary cap with limited free agency bidding seems like a good compromise for both sides.

      • MLS should not use expension fees as revenue source. You can’t keep expanding to make your self profitable. It would be like a Ponzi scheme: use new investors money to pay old investors under the premise of profitability.

      • Not what I was suggesting. Just saying the recent expansion teams of NYCFC, Orlando, & Atlanta each brought in $100million +

      • So limited bidding between clubs for players with expired contracts is affordable for MLS over the next 3 to 4 yrs

    • Slow is right. The salary cap would act ceiling. I think that the hybrid solution is best. Something like 5/8: 5 years w/1 team or 8 years in the league. Then perhaps give the home team the ability to match other MLS team’s offer. Also have a Home-grown DP. That makes it easier to keep your stars and/or invest in youth.

      Finally get rid of that stupid concept of a team retaining your rights just because you come back to the league after playing abroad.

  7. “The two sides have reportedly reached an agreement on a number of stipulations, including player moving expenses and public appearance compensation.”

    good. crazy to think the league would balk at basic stuff like this.

  8. The 2015 season needs to happen…the survival of the league depends upon it. They need to bring in a bunch of NASL and USL scrubs, like that movie The Replacements. With Eric Wynalda as the Gene Hackman, hardass no-nonsense veteran coach and Landon Donovan as the Keanu Reaves hero who comes out of retirement for another shot at glory and gets the girl in the end. And of course supporting cast appearances by Santino Quaranta and Freddy Adu.

    • pretty sure Quaranta wouldn’t line up to be a MLS scab. he was basically forced to retire by the league bc there wasn’t something like Free Agency in place and the union was soft back then.

      • most people seem to overlook this fact. There are dozens of other leagues in the world to find employment as a soccer player. I have heard MLS execs bring this up as a point of contention. The NFL is pretty much the only place to play. I know about CFL and the euro league, but lets not even compare. There are top flight soccer leagues around the world. MLS is basically saying if you are that good then go abroad and earn your big bucks.

      • This is the most idiotic and disingenuous argument against free agency going around. While true in abstract theory, it is beside the point and impractical for many in the league. It lacks contextual thought and understanding. These are real people, not avatars you buy on the FIFA video game.

      • This is the most disingenuous argument against free agency going around. While true in abstract theory, it is beside the point and impractical for many in the league. It lacks contextual thought and understanding. These are real people, not avatars you buy on the video game.

      • he played in India for a bit after getting booted by MLS. now he is coaching Baltimore Bohemians

        the point is he is probably the last guy to step up and help MLS keep their hold on vet player movement. if anything he is a good symbol to how MLS’ system can be detrimental for player’s careers

    • I like this idea and I say we run with it. I say we get Ah-nold to play Klinnsman. He will mainly provide comic relief by blaming fitness for why everything goes wrong. He will also try all types of weird formation with his team (maybe a Mighty Ducks FLYING V or something). And one scene will require him saving his team by getting them out of stadium that is being overrun by Isis terrorists by leading his team to his helicopter. And of course he will be yelling “Get to ze choppa! Get to ze choppa!” while he leads them. I think might of lost the plot of the replacements. Oh well.

      • Dear Don,

        Free Agency is easy. Here is how MLS can do it to make the players happy and the owners happy and most importantly the fans happy.

        Step 1 – MLS league signs player to contract – with a condition the contract is terminated if no MLS club wants that player under the terms of that contract (e.g., salary);
        Step 2 – the player contacts MLS clubs he wants to play for;
        Step 3 – one or more MLS clubs want to have player on roster under the terms of the contract (salary); and
        Step 4 – player is allocated to club he wants to play for that also wants the player.

        Step 5 – if no MLS club wants player under the terms of the contract, they negotiate a lower salary with the player through MLS and modify the contract!

        Presto! Free Agency. There is no bidding war here. This is favorable for all parties. It really is that easy.

      • I have my issues with all coaches, including JK, because none of them are perfect. However, I have no issue with his fitness annoyance. Every time you go to camp, you are trying out for the team. Your are fighting for a spot or fighting off other guys trying to get YOUR position. Why on earth would you not show up game fit or as close to it as possible. Every guy there knew it was a possible that they would get called in. Why make it easier for someone else? Get your game right! Get your head right! I’d be ticked too.

        Additionally, I watched the game and you could tell the team ran out of gas about half way through the 2nd half. Now, I am 3-5-2 was rocky but mainly because no one has really played it before on the team, but I think it plays to our strengths and helps our weaknesses (scoring).

  9. Nobody really wants a strike BUT… Hang tough guys. This is probably your last and best shot to get that FREE AGENCY. You are entitlted to it enough already…

    Tell them that it’s an idea whose time has definitely come to MLS. We are in 2015 not 2002 . Get with the program MR G

    • Yeah I think if anything they’re more likely to get it in the next CBA when the league is (hopefully) even more stable and successful.

    • Here’s thinking they’ll end up with a 5/8 free agency agreement or something similar. 4 years on the same team or 6 years in the league.

      Surprised they don’t save the easy stuff to the end as leverage.. We’ll give you a concession here on the big one in exchange for what we want on x number of small ones.

      • That compromise would make a lot of sense.

        I’m honestly not sure why free agency is such a big deal for the owners. As long as there’s a hard cap in place, their expenses aren’t going to go up. All that ends up happening is that players out of contract are restricted in their movement.

      • I agree. It seems like it might be a smoke screen for the owners. It’s been mentioned that FA affects their single entity status but who knows how valid that argument is, since it’s all legal BS. It doesn’t make sense to me, since many players are signed from outside the league as FA’s, but who knows with legal stuff.

      • Yes, but during that 100 years America went through *just a few* changes. Baseball needed to wait a hundred years because society in general was ass-backwards for a good portion of that time. We’re in 2015 now.

      • Baseball existed before anti-trust laws for one thing and before unions were even considered normal. Yep, a lot has changed.

    • Free Agency isnt possible under single entity and it will happen when the league believes its healthy enough to continue to grow w/o it.

      • Isn’t possible? In what way? As long as there’s a hard salary cap, there’s no reason not to have free agency.

      • its single entity, non-DP players are paid by the league

        and with a salary cap, free agency means less money for the players making less as a result of the bidding war for the other player

      • Uh, no. If a team is hard-capped at X amount of dollars, it is up to the GM to weigh the costs of signing a player. The market is a two-way street. A player is only going to ask for as much as he can get. It isn’t as if free agency means Chad Barrett will demand $60,000/week. Chad Barrett will be lucky to get a a McD’s Happy Meal each week, but at least he’ll have FREEDOM. Free agency does not change the bottom line cost of running a team.

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