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Garber says new CBA gives players more movement than may have ever been foreseen

Don Garber 34


As collective bargaining agreement talks dragged on, the MLS players union dug its heels and insisted that a deal wouldn’t get done without free agency. Though the agreement that was made Wednesday night still has a number of restrictions on player movement, a form of free agency was indeed acquired.

While the terms of the deal may have fallen well short for some players, MLS commissioner Don Garber said in the immediate aftermath of the agreement that the players are pleased because they have achieved something few thought possible back when the league started 20 years ago.

“I think anytime you have labor negotiations between players and management, there’s so many different issues — everybody’s trying to ensure you can create an agreement that allows everybody to feel good,” Garber told ESPN late Wednesday. “In this case, the players feel good. They’ve got more movement than they’ve had before — more than we probably thought we would provide when this league was launched.”

Under MLS’s single-entity system that has been in place since the league started in 1996, free player movement has distinctly never been part of the package. Wednesday’s deal reportedly changes that, giving free agency to players who are at least 28-years old and have eight years of experience in the league. The deal also includes a cap on those free agents’ potential increased earnings.

Those restrictions might not be what the MLS players union had in mind when negotiations began, but Garber still sees the terms of the deal as a positive for all parties involved.

“It gives players the opportunity to have a bit more choice and pick markets at a certain age that they might want to play in, to be able to make a bit more money than they were able to make in the previous system,” Garber said. “And it allows our league to be able to capture some of these exciting moments that come with that.”

Some of the team owners on the other side of the negotiation table had all but ruled out the possibility of free agency in the weeks leading up to Wednesday’s agreement. Even Garber himself said last month that the system in place was one the owners bought into when they joined the league because they did not have to bid against one another for players.

That is no longer the case. Free agency is a reality now, but not at the expense of owners’ ability to have a big say in how player dealings work.

“Our owners will have stability and will have a system that will allow them to continue to invest very smartly and strategically so that we can continue to try to build this league into one of the great soccer leagues in the world,” Garber said.

MLS did not disclose any terms of the new agreement aside that it will run for five years through the 2019 season.

With an agreement in hand, the 2015 MLS season will start on time. Players reportedly were not going to travel to venues for this weekend’s opening matches unless a deal was in place by Wednesday.

“It required a lot of hard work and commitment from our players, our players union and the MLS ownership coming together to capture this lightning in a bottle we have, to build the momentum that we’ve been able to achieve in the last 20 years,” Garber said. “I think everyone was working hard to make sure we could launch our 20th season.”


  1. I played college soccer in the 1970’s and early 1980’s I have no idea how good I was because the professional soccer landscape in the United States was in shambles. Many of us, myself included, turned to coaching because the playing opportunities were so limited. A few of the very best Americans went overseas where they faced a strong anti-US player bias that still exists to some extent today. I never thought I would see something like MLS in my lifetime.

    I understood at that time that I had free agency because I could tryout anywhere in the world. What I didn’t have was credibility and opportunity. As the MLS has become stronger and the US National Team more successful, the credibility of the American soccer player has increased. It would still be very difficult for a player to have the same opportunity in another country than they do in MLS because the quality of development and the quality of the league still has a ways to go.

    I am incredibly disappointed in the Player Union leadership and the players themselves. They mortgaged the chance to increase salaries and benefits for a right they already have. The players had a chance to gain huge strides in salary and the salary cap. Those two things would increase the quality of the league and the credibility of the players. Their opportunity for free agency would have been enhanced as they gained values for teams from other countries.

    As it is a few older veterans benefit from this deal and the vast majority of players gained only a little. This was a huge lost opportunity for the Players Union to get a chunk of the revenues being generated by the league for a right they already had.

  2. I’m pleased that the player’s union was able to make this deal with ownership. It was time, and I think that this is yet another positive sign that the MLS is headed in the right direction to becoming a truly elite league over the next decade or so.

    While I agree with the arguments that chastise Garber and MLS brass for not moving to do this sooner (alongside other criticisms that some see as central and key to impeding the progress of the league), I also think that we as MLS and US Soccer fans need to have longer memories when it comes to the precedent and reasons for failure that American and North American non-Mexican leagues have had throughout the history of the game here. From disinterested ownership, to too-rapid expansion, to failure to secure TV contracts, etc. Garber has really done so much to put MLS on the map, which most of us recognize. It’s important to be patient with him as he comes to realize that this Little Engine that Could is becoming faster, sleeker, and more powerful every season. I think he, and ownership, are right in intention to perhaps over-control at the risk of allowing the MLS to fail, as soccer in this country has failed in the past, but soon they have to realize that in order for the game to continue to grow here, it must be allowed to do so.

  3. so the restricted FA bit i think is a pretty decent deal….although the 8 year part is harsh. i think one or the other would have been ideal, or a reduction in the year parameter to something like 5.

    while the minimum salary increase is great, the salary cap increase is pathetic. $1.2M increase by 2019 is nothing. reading between the lines…that lack of a significant increase almost makes it a certainty that the DP minimum will NOT go up. raising the DP minimum would require a proportionate salary cap increase. that clearly has not happened. it would also appear there will not be a 4th DP slot, but if there was and I was an owner, I certainly wouldn’t want the $387.5k to go up given the lack of a significant cap increase.

    i have to say, i thought they would increase the cap by $1.2m for THIS season with an incremental increase getting us to around $7m by 2019. that would be $3.9m over the 5 years with the largest increase taking place now for the 2015 season. leaving the other $2.7m to be spread across 4 years at $675,000/season.

    • also, it should be noted that DP stuff falls outside of collective bargaining. Carlisle saying he’s still hearing stuff about a 4th DP slot of sorts.

    • Does it really only increase that much?? Where did you see that? That is very disspointing. Its hardly anything. I was hoping the increase would be closer to what you have laid out. Lets hope they can and will oncrease it out of the CBA talks somewhere along the way

      • yup. that is what pretty much everyone has reported, including Ives. others being Twellman, Lalas, Wahl, Stone, Carlisle, etc.

  4. Here are just a few players off the top of my head that are at or approaching 28/8 this season:

    Chad Marshall
    Brad Evans
    Will Johnson (1 more after this)

    And there are lots of others I’m sure. I can see how this would be pretty scary to the owners. Now they’ll have to compete for veteran talent instead of having the parity-making REDs for these guys.

    • A good use of my lunch hour, if you ask me.

      Here’s the list that I’ve come up with (based on the teams’ websites). I don’t know this is 100% accurate, but it’s damn close:

      Chicago Fire
      Quincy Amarikwa (next season)
      Jon Busch
      Jeff Larentowicz
      Mike Magee
      Patrick Nyarko (next season)

      Colorado Rapids
      Marc Burch
      Bobby Burling
      Michael Harrington
      Nick LaBrocca
      Drew Moor

      Columbus Crew
      Kei Kamara
      Tyson Wahl

      DC United
      Davy Arnaud
      Bobby Boswell
      Fabian Espindola
      Sean Franklin (next season)
      Eddie Johnson
      Chris Rolfe

      FC Dallas
      Atiba Harris
      Stephen Keel
      Dan Kennedy
      Chris Seitz

      Houston Dynamo
      Corey Ashe
      Ricardo Clark
      Brad Davis
      David Horst (next season)
      Nathan Sturgis (next season)

      LA Galaxy
      Todd Dunivant
      Dan Gargan
      Alan Gordon
      Robbie Rogers (next season)

      Montreal Impact
      Eric Kronberg
      Justin Mapp
      Dominic Oduro

      New England Revolution
      Brad Knighton (next season)
      Chris Tierney (next season)

      Josh Saunders
      Chris Wingert
      Mehdi Ballouchy
      Jason Hernandez
      Ned Grabavoy

      NY Redbulls
      Dax McCarthy (next season)
      Kyne Reynish (next season)

      Orlando City FC
      Eric Avila (next season)

      Philadelphia Union
      Brian Carroll
      Conor Casey
      Michael Lahoud (next season)

      Portland Timbers
      Nat Borchers
      Jack Jewsbury
      Will Johnson
      Andrew Weber (next season)

      Real Salt Lake
      Kyle Beckerman
      Tony Beltran (next season)
      Javier Morales
      Jamison Olave (next season)
      Nick Rimando

      San Jose Quakes
      Ty Harden (next season)
      Steven Lenhart (next season)
      Shea Salinas (next season)
      Khari Stephenson (next season)
      Chris Wondolowski
      Marvell Wynne

      Seattle Sounders
      Troy Perkins
      Kenny Cooper
      Chad Marshall
      Brad Evans
      Chad Barrett

      Sporting KC
      Chance Myers (next season)
      Paulo Nagamura
      Jacob Peterson

      Toronto FC
      Robbie Findley (next season)

      Vancouver Whitecaps
      Jordan Harvey

  5. I’m astonished by how many people care this much about free agency. It must be a political thing or something. Getting MLS where we all want it to be takes a long time and a lot of effort but this is a good step in the right direction. 20 years ago did anyone think MLS would have 20 teams, mostly in SSS, with average per game attendance higher than the NBA and NHL? Back when MLS was paying networks to show its games, did anyone think the current TV deal would ever happen?

    Sure, it isn’t the EPL or La Liga, not even close, but this is our league and it gets better every year. This CBA is a step in the right direction and it’s a whole lot better than a strike. Now I can get back to complaining about how cheap RBNY is.

      • I am generally optimistic about the game in this country and MLS too. Most of my posts are fairly positive I think, unless I’m talking about RBNY but can you blame me after this offseason? People might disagree with me on dual nationals but that should’t cloud my comments on other issues.

      • Ha just an offhand observation…. I enjoy your posts– but you do often come off as a hard guy to please…. not that there’s any crime in that.

    • I see your point, but this essentially asks all fans to assume that the league’s growth has been dependent on all of the decisions and plicies of the past, that different decisions and policies would have resulted in a weaker league, and that any change going forward will jeopardize all the progress. Until somebody explains to me, in a cogent way, how MLS’s finances will be destroyed by owners bidding against each other, when all of them are operating under a salary cap, I think this is a legitimate debate. Even with the new, diluted form of free agency, the owners have a cozy, collusive system where most players have no say in where they will play, and no ability to gauge their market value, even when they are out of contract.

      • I agree that the new system isn’t ideal but it’s better than the one we had. You don’t go from a crummy system to an ideal one all at once. Not usually anyway. To me, increasing the salary cap is more important for the growth of the league because that’s how we increase the standard of play. We do it by getting better players and we do that by paying more.

      • Not to beat a dead horse, but how can we expect a significant increase in the cap if the league is always pointing to the critical importance of cost control to prevent disaster? My point is that I don’t see how yoking players to a singe team, even after their contract expires, controls costs at all.

      • Ok I think I may be able to help resolve this for you (maybe… bear with me and at least give it a shot)….

        Presumably, you accept the idea that the removal of existing post-contract exclusivity rights would increase costs IF there were no salary cap, yes? The logic being that an auction/competitive bid situation would necessarily produce either equal or greater pricing, in the absence of a roster ceiling.

        Agree? I’ll keep going if so…

      • Sure. Monopoly results in lower wages. Are you saying it’s a stop-gap for when the cap is gone?

      • No — All I’m saying is that if you accept that free agency drives the cost of the existing pool of free agents higher, then you are necessarily implying that the salary (cost) of the non-FA players must decrease, in order to offset FA’s and maintain compliance with the fixed cap

        But this would seem to result in a lower average quality of player on the field. You’d have the same pool of FA-eligible vets, but a lower-cost (and by proxy quality) player on the field alongside them.

        This obviously won’t happen, because compensating result will always be an increase in the salary cap, in order ensure that the quality of talent in the league remains on the increase.

        Admittedly, I feel like this is a bit of a mouthful.

    • Bryan wins the post of the day. 36 hours until kick off. I can’t wait, because it is going to be a CRAZY great season….and fans watching crazy great seasons will solve all the problems people are whining about.

  6. The cap is soft. Between DPs and allocation money, there probably isn’t a single team spending only up to the cap. Also, I don’t think they need a new CBA to add a DP, so that can still happen.

    I really don’t understand the complaints. This isn’t what we want yet, but the players won an important right that will only expand. There is a great foundation set. And we have games this weekend.

  7. And for everyone else, it’s still the equivalent of baseball’s old reserve clause. MLS needs a modern-day Curt Flood to step forward.

  8. Conservative, sustainable increases in both salary cap and free agency ensure we have a league for the long haul. That’s good for owners, players and fans. However, I do not get why there is any limitation at all on number of DPs. If billionaire owners and/or corporate sponsors have cash they don’t mind splashing — outside MLS budgets — why limit that?

    And before anyone suggests “parity” is a good reason, just ask yourselves, was demand for tickets not higher when LA, Seattle and New York came to town? How many of us are not looking forward to seeing our teams compete against the likes of David Villa and Kaka? I know I have already noted “can’t miss” matches on my calendar. Parity is boring.

    As long as team budgets and financial rules ensure league solvency, there should be no limits on what billionaire hobbyists and corporate marketing departments can do to spiff players above the salary cap.

    • Ummmm…. unless I’m reading this wrong, there is no such thing as “above the salary cap” in your scenario. Unlimited DP’s with unlimited salaries means you are basically removing the salary cap altogether.

      Unless I’m missing something?

  9. For those of us fans who suffered through the dark ages in between NASL 1.0 and MLS the strides to stability were worth the lack of free agency. I can understand newer fans not getting that, but the reality is without single entity the owners would never have invested. This is the right deal at the right time for the league to continue to grow.

    • Crazy how many don’t realize that fact. The money is coming in for a reason….and the reason isn’t that a gagillion people suddenly turned on the TV and started watching soccer in this country.

      The money is coming in because it is growing fast, it is a safer investment, and it is set up for both to stay that way.

    • There is a pretty clear division between those of us who remember the dark days and those who don’t. I don’t agree with everything MLS does, but it’s success has been remarkable. I’m willing to be patient a little while longer.

      If the next 20 years are like the first 20, there is a lot to be excited about

  10. Anyone know how many players would actually be eligible for FA between now and the next CBA. Anyone who doesn’t become eligible until after the next CBA is looking at that date for a more true FA situation. So, they only negotiated FA for the few who would be eligible from now till then. IT is a start, but curious how many players would actually benefit.

    • A lot, basically every player over 23 with three years of experience in the league. On DC alone I count:


      In fact the only contributors I can think of who wont are Hamid (23) Kitchen (22?) and the guys signed in the past two years. This gives more leverage to the league guys over foreign imports. I like that. Join at 20 and you pick in your prime. Come over from Europe at 25 and it’s a long way away.

  11. I’m less concerned with free agency than I am with the rumored cap number. Keep in mind that in 2019, three years before Garbers stated goal of becoming “one of the top leagues in the world,” the cap number will still be 4 million.

    That makes zero sense. Unless there’s a provision to increase DP slots to the 8-10 range, you simply can’t be a top league until you’re competing to sign the best players in their prime. And not just 3 or 4 players. In the best leagues, it’s HARD to get into the starting lineup.

    The revenue increases for top leagues will be insane over that time frame. And MLS clubs will still be competing with one hand tied behind their back.

    • The good news is that the cap number can be increased outside the CBA. If the owners decide they want to bump it, they can.

    • What makes you think the top leagues can sustain the already high wages that are out there right now? These top leagues are already buckling under the weight of their current wage structures. It’s this kind of imaginary thinking that wil get our league in trouble.

      I too want more and this is a good sign that in the next CBA. We can get more. We’ll get there and we’ll be fine. We’ve survived for 20 years with much less. Yes we may not be what you or I may want in the next five years but we’ll be here, with a chance to be more down the road.

      As got the top leagues, I see them seriously considering some stronger wage structure mechanisms in the next 5 to 10 years. Naturally, they will have to if they want to survive. Or maybe the top teams will just form a super league and leave all the dead weight behind. Either way more and more players will choose MLS in the years tom come – regardless of how this particular CBA played out.

      • No they aren’t buckling. Anyway, most clubs in Europe don’t make profits and they are ok with that because ultimately it is about sport there. Extreme cases like Portsmouth and Rangers have already set the bad example, and even those clubs still exist. Elsewhere, when the losses are too big now UEFA is intervening.

        MLS is ridiculous. Imagine yourself having to work at a company for 8 years before you could decide on your own to change jobs, and when you did you were only allowed to ask for a small raise. On top of that, you go in knowing you must retire in your mid-30s because you aren’t good enough to do that job any more.. Makes me feel claustrophobic. We it me I would leave that country immediately.

        Meanwhile, that company is paying some of your colleagues 70x your salary to do the same job as you..

      • “most clubs in Europe don’t make profits and they are ok with that because ultimately it is about sport there”

        Seriously? Sport? If it was about sport, fans and participants would expect that their clubs have some sort of reasonable competitive chance of winning the league. Ever. For all but 4-5 teams in each league (sometimes fewer), this hope is entirely and permanently closed. Gone.

        That’s not “sport” That’s blind loyalty and eff-the-results club allegiance, the sorts of romantic luxuries that a fledgling league in an emerging domestic sport can scarcely begin to afford.

        Unfortunately for MLS, nobody’s great, great-grandfather supported Real Salt Lake. If these teams stink terminally and go bankrupt, there is not some century-old fanbase who will pay off the club’s debts and ensure that they “phoenix” and continue to exist at the top level (not that American debt courts would even tolerate the things they do in Europe). They will simply go away as professional clubs, and fans will go back to watching basketball or football or one of the many other competing options available to American sports fans.

        European leagues are a mess… a poor model that MLS should learn from, not copy. When UEFA is having to step in with the surefire farce that is “Financial Fair Play”, it should be clear that something is badly wrong. Far better to pattern yourself after sustainable and competitive leagues that are proven within your region…. the NFL, for example, is gold-standard for sports leagues worldwide, and while MLS needs to do things its own way, this provides a far better model than the terminal dysfunction of Europe.

      • Diego’s Maradoughnuts, great job with your explanation and very well articulated. America is not Europe, and the sooner we start to understand that, the better off we’ll be.

        We need to busy ourselves with supporting the MLS and allowing it to grow organically within our environment. Again, thanks for your insight.

      • +1

        I am finding I seldom if ever disagree with you.

        The only league that’s close is the Bundesliga – they were built with ticket affordability and don’t-spend-more-than-you-make as guideposts but even Bayern is off the leash there because they make so much more than the others. Still, alone among the Euro leagues, the Bundesliga is the only league that could reasonably replicate what MLS is doing now…and I think they’re going to, when they see what MLS looks like in another 10 years. The others, I have no idea how they’d reel in their big spenders and realistically institute cost-control and parity measures.

      • Yes seriously. I respectfully disagree, Diego’s. Sports are not only about winning and “poor” mid-table clubs all over the world are doing just fine. As are clubs in lower divisions, who represent the majority of a federation’s pyramid and are crucial to it’s food chain. Their fans enjoy the game, support their local club, local club takes pride in selling players to bigger clubs. It is the nature of things to have big and small, rich and poor. How can an American call that dysfunctional? NASL trauma?

      • I don’t know about anyone else, but BILLION dollar media deals is what makes me think that these leagues are doing fine even with very high salary structures. Maybe that is just EPL though now that I think about it…

    • Cap makes total sense. Until TV dumps billion dollar contracts on the league MLS is stuck on a slow growth glide pathl. Realistically, MLS is roughly a couple decades away from challenging the Big 4. That’s not bad considering Sunday will be the first day in the 20 year history of league that it will have a true national foot print.

    • I am not so sure the players union was pushing all that hard for a cap increase. If the cap goes up then job security goes down. Why pay more for the same thing when you can now get something better for the same price. That’s why you see a big bump in minimum salary, it closes the gap between veteran and young players, making it less likely for teams to dump older higher earning veterans.

  12. Well, I can’t wait for the next CBA in 2020. It will be the biggest, the toughest and players will have more power by then and Garber wants MLS to be a “top league.”
    For now if we look at the future from 2015 to 2020, MLS might end up with 8 to 9 new soccer stadiums. You have San Jose, Orlando, Atlanta, Miami, Minneapolis, LA2, DC, Sacramento and San Antonio.
    Not only stadiums, but MLS should end up with some very interesting DP signings, like CR7, Rooney, zlatan, messi, cavani, tevez, iniesta, arjen Robben, Suarez, gareth bale, Phillip lahm,ribery, lowandowsky ,pirlo, David silva. All those players would come to MLS for DP money and their age is coming at a good time, some might not be that old.
    Plus aguero, falcao, fabregas, and Sergio Ramos.
    Make it happen MLS.

    • Agree, although MLS will have made it if its DPs in 2020 are players you haven’t heard of yet who are as good as the players you’ve named. MLS won’t get much better by signing more 32 year old DPs. They need to be signing 24 year old DPs.

      • You mean like Juan Ramirez, Fernando Aristeguieta, Erik Torres, Octavio Rivero, Bryan Rochez, and David Accam, Maybe none of them become a super star but MLS is signing guys (you’ve never heard of) that are under 24 to DP contracts.

      • I kinda did the math with the teams who spend on aging DPs and its pretty good. Here it goes.
        Vancouver, Portland, Sacramento= around 4
        Houston= 1
        Miami=for sure 3
        Orlando= around 2
        That’s around 29 good aging dps like I said before, Rooney, aguero etc. Imagine MLS having 29 Beckham dps from 2015 to 2020, and it’s very possible due to some big talent is starting age.

  13. First step towards a more recognizable form of player movement and less byzantine rule system. Not surprised so many wanted better the 8 and 28. That will come in time.

    For some context Baseball didn’t have free agency till late 1970’s and that only came after a protracted legal battle and arbitration:

    NFL has a similar history:

    It’s not the deal everyone wanted but no short feat the players were able to take a step in the right direction without a protracted legal battle.

      • It’s because the labor is too young & naive to know how bad they’re getting screwed over.

      • It’s less about the players’ youth and naivete, and more about the consolidated economic power of the NCAA and its bedmates the NBA and NFL. Both of the latter have requirements saying that you have to go to at least some college before being eligible for the pros.

        He who has the gold makes the rules.

      • Well technically in the NBA you have to be 19 and Brandon Jennings is an example of someone who played abroad for that year instead of going to college. Emmanuel Mudiay, who’ll be a top 5 pick in the NBA draft this year, also chose playing in China over college. I’m surprised more guys don’t do that.

      • The kids get nothing, lets use Duke for example, they are getting a free education, their books paid for and
        a monthly allowance, that comes in around $50 K a yr. So yes are they making the big bucks the pros are making, no. However
        if they are the 3rd player off the bench and play for 4 yrs you just got a $200K education for free and will land a nice job because you have
        a Duke education and can use the all the connections that come along with being able to say you played for Duke basketball. So please don’t
        go down the road that they are being used.

      • Or, let’s use another example. You sign with duke. You get to campus. You want to major in economics. You can’t take an afternoon class between November and April (practice) you insist on your right to attend that class even though it conflicts with an ‘optional’ weight room session the rest of the year. Next year, yor scholarship is revoked. Oops.

      • That is part of the deal you sign on for . Not to nit pick but annual cost to attend Duke is closer to $60k – which is significantly more than the MLS minimum so I think that is a fair trade.

      • yes because there has never been an economics class in the morning? I guess you live in a world where you get your free obama phone and expect that Senior VP job to be handed to you once you graduate.
        Welcome to the real world. If you are lucky enough to get a scholarship you are expected to fulfill your end of contract. If you don’t you loose it, period. Just like in the real world if you don’t do your job you will lose it. Well not if you work for the goverment then it’s endless porn at work.

      • Actually I’d like to live in a world where college’s focus on education instead of fielding a national sports franchise at a loss.

      • Wow that is a great point…The students at Duke must be pissed that
        their education is suffering because of Coach K and his basketball program.

      • Yup. You do what the coaches say. And when the coaches tell you to major in ‘sports science’ you major in sports science. Actually, the duke basketball website doesn’t even list the majors of the upperclassmen. Duke. One of the best schools in the country, doesn’t list the majors of those on ‘scholarship’.

        And what’s an obamaphone?

      • wow – “Yup. You do what the coaches say” Last post on this, Yes when they are paying for your education you do what they tell you do. Just like a job in the real world. Amazing the entitlement nation being raised.

        Just so you know, Obamaphone is the given name for government program giving out free phones that is full of fraud.

        In case you don’t know the MLS is a business, we are the customers, the players are employees of the MLS, they are not entitled to anything until they sign a contract and then they are entitled to what they contract says and guess what, they are not entitled to playing time once the contract is signed and they have to go “Yup coach I will do what you say”

      • NCAA doesn’t have Free Agency. Quick! Everyone grab your pitchforks!

        Comparing MLS’s lifespan to the other professional sports’ is not particularly valuable. Free Agency wasn’t a concept in 1903 (and MLB players weren’t even unionized), so it’s not like generations of (non-integrated) professional baseball players felt unfairly restricted.

        Congratulations to the players for getting some flexibility. Let’s see how many take advantage of it over the next 5 years. Congratulations to the League for making a concession on this item to try to please the loyal players who are enjoying long, successful MLS careers.

  14. Yeah, it’s frustrating our own domestic league doesn’t have free agency like the rest of the world’s leagues. But hey, that’s what makes us exceptionally American. We’re an American league in a global sport.

    I’ll be SO happy if we get free agency in 10-15 years. That would still be faster than when NBA, NHL, and MLB got it.

    • Exactly, we seem to be forgetting that MLS is still in its infancy. MLB got in 1975, the National League was founded in 1876…. that’s 99 years it took baseball to get free agency. Not to mention that the top soccer leagues back in the early 20th century were amateur sports and everyone thought by paying athletes they would “ruin” the game.

    • Nope, it’s a start. They were never going to get it all at once; they just had to crack the door open. You can bet that in five years we’ll be talking about 26/5.

    • The players got as much as they were going to get. Honestly the owners might have started taking stuff back off the table if there was a strike. The opening was really the players best leverage, after that the owners could of just waited out the players for months.

    • People want MLS to immediately be exactly the same and just as good as European leagues that have been around for 100+ years in countries where soccer is the #1 sport. It isn’t realistic. The single entity system is the reason we still have a league. Sure, maybe it’s outlived its usefulness but getting rid of it is going to take time and patience. This is a good first step.

      • Yup.

        Cap was raised too…not as much as I would have liked, but raising it to $4 million is big…especially if DP’s still only count for $375K against the cap. Beforehand if you had your full allotment of DP’s, that’s a full third of your cap, leaving you less than $2 million to pay the other 21 guys on the squad. Now you’ve got $3 million to divide among the 21…and when you consider that $200K buys you one heckuva Central or South American soccer player or even some fringe EPL guys. It allows you to buy, for example, probably two guys of Mix Diskerud’s caliber. That’s huge for depth and overall quality.

        The biggest knock on MLS teams is that their starting 11’s are usually pretty decent, but their depth is awful, and when you dip into players 14, 15, and beyond, it’s like falling off a cliff for most teams. Now MLS teams should be able to effectively go 15-17 players deep…which will make a heckuva difference in overall quality of play throughout the season and in competitions like the CONCACAF Champions League and US Open.

        No, nobody will confuse MLS with the EPL or Bundesliga just yet, but it means you’ll have more good players, and a higher sustained level of play throughout the season.

      • the salary cap increase is NOT big. it goes up to $4.3M by 2019…not immediately. and with the minimum salary now almost double, a large chunk will be eaten up by that alone.

        to me, the biggest disappointment is the cap increase and the 8 year FA requirement. i also find it annoying there is a lack of info regarding DP slots/contracts and changes to allocation-type mechanisms.

      • I’m always intrigued by the implied idea that we’re trying to model our league after, or become like the “good” european leagues. Maybe that’s not exactly what you were saying in your comment. But I personally don’t want a league where 2 or 3 rich clubs just buy up all of the talent every year and the rest of league is fighting for moral victories to end up mid-table. That sounds fun if you happen to be a fan of a big club. Not as enticing if you support a little guy. In that vein, I’m all for any league structure that promotes parity even if we’re restricting player movement.

        As a fan of a small market NBA team, I’ve seen big time players leverage impending free-agency and force their way out all too often and then in order to stay somewhat competitive the team ends up over-paying for mediocre talent. I don’t want the same trend to find its way into MLS.

      • Yup. Normally I am seldom a fan of ownership or league offices, but Garber and the owners are doing this the right way. Don’t spend what you don’t have. Keep salaries under control, keep parity, build infrastructure, infrastructure, and more infrastructure. Take those annual 7% attendance gains, keep getting better and better TV contracts…eventually you look around and the league has 30+ teams, $10+ million caps, a massive TV deal…and a full complement of very pretty soccer-specific stadiums. We’re not that far off that now, probably 10 years away.

        At that point you’ll have every European league peering enviously across the pond at the way MLS is structured, wondering why the heck they didn’t build their own leagues that way themselves. But it’s just way too late to stuff superteams like Real Madrid or Bayern or Man City back in the bottle…and they will never, ever have truly competitive leagues.

      • “The single entity system is the reason we still have a league.”

        NOT TRUE

        1. We have many leagues in America. MLS is not the only show in town. There other leagues in America w/o single entity.

        2. That is an unprovable assumption

        It may or may not be the reason we have reached MLS 2.0! If a human/organization survives infancy and early stages of life, early adult years (18-29) or business reorganization times are where most critical mistakes that determine life trajectory are made. I hope for the sake of the American soccer watching public, the American soccer player and the American owners that there best judgement and wisdom are at work for the good of all.

      • The fact we have other sports leagues – for sports that are more popular than soccer in the US right now – doesn’t prove anything. If you’re talking about NASL, well that really doesn’t prove anything. And I don’t know how comparing the lifespan of MLS to that of a human being makes any sense.

        MLS is improving every year and sure it would be nice if it improved much faster but realistically I think what’s happened in the past twenty years is pretty impressive and this CBA will help continue that.

      • I largely agree with you, Slow, although I guess the counterargument that one could make is that other American sports leagues weren’t always as popular as they are now and still managed to get to where they are without quite so many restrictions on player movement or necessarily being #1 in popularity. Up through the early ’80’s, for example, the NBA was a distant third behind the NFL and MLB in terms of popularity, and while basketball historically was popular among some segments of the population (mostly ethnic and immigrant communities in cities — this being the case going back several decades), it lagged behind baseball and football in terms of national appeal. Further, the league was coming off of a period in which competition from the ABA drove up salaries considerably. Now, the league did have teams teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and ultimately did institute a salary cap to control player costs. On the other hand, it did allow free agency and it’s only real form of “player allocation” was its entry draft for college and high school players. So, while I think it’s reasonable to say that some restrictions on player movement and salaries are necessary to preserve the stability of a league that doesn’t enjoy universal popularity or financial security, the question is one of degree. The MLS might have the right idea, but do its wacky (and internally inconsistent) player acquisition rules and very low salary cap go too far in the direction of protecting the owners’ interests over the players’?

        I don’t have an answer, but a comparison to other American sports leagues makes it interesting to think about.

      • There are other leagues with a fraction of the funding, ambition, support, notoriety, and qualty on the field.

      • It’s said the sign of a solid negotiation is when both sides leave the table somewhat disappointed. Probably the case here.

        Personally, my biggest disappointment was how conservative they were with the cap. I think at certain points, opportunities/windows open that merit taking risk. This period seems one of momentum that would be nice to take advantage of.

        I’m in favor of the concept of a more open system, free agency…. that said, it’s not a panacea that will turn MLS into a super-league overnight, nor one that can necessarily be supported once it exists. Ask NASL.

        Lots of factors go into growing a league- you need a good solid foundation to build on….. it’s pure folly trying build a luxury mansion on soft ground. Providing a good solid business model in order to attract quality ownership- huge. Building infrastructure- huge. MLS has done lots right. Quality- anything worthwhile takes lots of time and energy and patience. The mere fact there is now something resembling a free agent on the books is a big deal.

      • Slow,

        This is one the few times I completely agree with you. I was actually hoping that CBA would result in:
        – 26/5 restricted free agency (complete free agency after that)
        – $5 million Cap
        – $50K min salary

        This is a decent compromise from that perspective.

        I personally think MLS should always have a cap with free agency.

      • Not only has the league gotten a $720n million TV deal, all the new franchisees are paying well to join the league. When you add in Orlando, NYFC, Atlanta and maybe Miami in the near future, combined with the TV deal, MLS is getting around a billion dollars over time.. Plus, attendance has been steadily increasing.They could afford to do even more than they did in this deal.

  15. It is absolutely shameful that players in MLS don’t have the same rights as soccer players everywhere else on the globe. Free agency means you control your rights once you are out of contract. MLS can go F themselves as far as I’m concerned.

    • Huh? Really!?

      Those leagues we are competeing with have been around for decades. How does free agency translate to automatic fan base from those viewers?

      I agree this is not the best deal but it is a good starting point.

    • Well we wont see AB around anymore….ok, until he changes his name and posts this again in a few hours.

      • The same means equal. The first statement in the above post is NOT true. American MLS players do not have equal opportunity.

      • Incorrect. All players in MLS have the right to play anywhere in the world where they can make a roster. They have options. None are required to play in MLS. In fact, NASL offers them an alternative to MLS and single-entity, but the top American talent haven’t moved into that league.

        The #1 priority for MLS should be: “Stay in business.” Despite any claims about how fruitful MLS ownership is, the League has still had 3 teams go out of business and several teams struggle to establish their own stadiums. I give the League, the League’s owners, and the single-entity structure a lot of credit for my ability to get excited for another MLS Kickoff this weekend.

        Quite frankly, I don’t know why MLSPU puts Free Agency above Player Compensation. If it were me, I’d be more concerned about the relationship between median pay and average salary. And I’d spend more energy making it possible for American players to get paid well without having to go play in Europe for 3 years in the middle.

        Free agency is a nice concepts, and it’s familiar to the American sports fan. But MLS’s single entity structure isn’t holding anyone back.

    • True, players don’t have some rights that players in some leagues have…but they also have a guaranteed paycheck, higher standard of living, and safer playing/working conditions. Plenty of leagues around the world don’t pay their players because teams have bankrupted themselves through spending (read the story out this week of the Uruguayan looking to leave Parma for MLS). On the global scale there’s a free agency system so if a player doesn’t like what they’re getting in MLS they can move to another country and play there.

      • The first statement is true the others that follow are strongly stated opinions that lacks proof. The best part of this post was the tacit acknowledgment that Americans must leave their own Country to be treated as fairly as a foreigner.

    • Hey at least players are paid. Many leagues around the world have teams that can’t afford to pay their players.


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