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MLS season to start on schedule as league, Players Union come to terms on new CBA



It took until the 11th hour, but the 2015 MLS season will begin as scheduled.

Multiple outlets reported via Twitter on Tuesday night that MLS and the Players Union have come to terms on a Collective Bargaining Agreement, with player representative and Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando telling Reuters that a “deal is done.”

MLS confirmed that the two sides have reached an agreement in principle with press release Wednesday night.

“We are pleased to finalize the framework for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with our players,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber in a statement. “We now enter our 20th season with enormous momentum with our new television partnerships, dynamic star players from the US, Canada and abroad, and two new expansion teams in New York City and Orlando that will debut in front of more than 60,000 fans on Sunday in the Citrus Bowl.

“This agreement will provide a platform for our players, ownership and management to work together to help build Major League Soccer into one of the great soccer leagues in the world.”

The Orlando Sentinel is reporting that the two sides agreed to a five-year deal that will allow free agency to players who are both over 28 years of age and have eight years of MLS experience. Salary increases will be capped for free agent players, as those making under $100,000 have a cap of a 125 percent increase of their prior salary, players making between $100-200,000 have a cap of 120 percent and players making more than $200,000 have a cap of 115 percent.

In addition, the new CBA will include a raise of the minimum salary to $60,000, a figure expected to increase incrementally during the years of the deal. Finally, there will also be an immediate raise in the salary cap, although no specific figure has been released.

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

Not all teams are happy with the terms of the agreement, however. According to, many players were unhappy with the final deal and player representatives from seven teams — Sporting Kansas City, Real Salt Lake, the New York Red Bulls, the Montreal Impact, FC Dallas and the Colorado Rapids — voted against it.

Still, a resolution has been agreed upon. Talks had become contentious in recent days, as the two sides continued to negotiate over the players’ rights to free agency. Frustration reportedly reached a head on Tuesday, as negotiations continued late into the night before ending on a sour note.

Discussions resumed Wednesday morning, however, and led to the deal being struck early in the evening.

As a result, the MLS season will start as scheduled beginning with Friday’s match between the Chicago Fire and defending MLS Cup champion LA Galaxy.

What do you think of the news? Excited for the season to get under way? Who do you think got the better end of the deal?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Mediocre.

    At least they’ll get on the field. But we have to wait another 5 years before seeing any evolution in this league. Too slow. Even then, expect only a small step toward deeper rosters and fair player movement, which again won’t be enough to compete with the world market. Meanwhile, new teams will be added and the player pool diluted.

    Thanks to these negotiations, though, American fans now see the problems inherent to single entity, and how such a sound business approach can actually stall the league in the long term. MLS markets their fan communities but that is some corporate bs, as they mainly want to protect their investments. They are in the entertainment business, naively trying to sell “one of the best leagues in the world in 8-10 years” to an actually quite savvy American audience. In successful football clubs around the world, profits actually take a back seat to club history, fan communities, and quality play. Which is why soccer fans craving the best soccer still look elsewhere, leaving MLS to scour a small niche.

    • “Thanks to these negotiations, though, American fans now see the problems inherent to single entity”

      They do? What is your evidence of this? It has been about 12 hours since these negotiations wrapped up…. I am not sure how you can possibly be drawing these conclusions already!

  2. Can someone give me a refresher on who actually pays the players? I looked it up and found no clear answer. Is it that MLS pays them outright and the teams have no liability outside of DP’s? Or is it that MLS pays their salaries and the teams pay MLS an equal price for the services of the players?

    • It is my understanding – based on conversations with a few folks I have spoken with within the league — that 100% of player salaries (including all DP money, even the amount above the ~$400k cap threshhold) are paid to players directly by the league. These salaries are funded to the league by the individual teams on a pro-rata basis as dictated by the underlying player contracts.

      Does this help?

  3. This was a good compromise. Yea, the younger guys would like a lower age for free agency, but the with the minimum salary raised not such a hit. If you are a young guy who really does well you can always threaten to go outside MLS to improve your contract. If your not doing well then you don’t deserve free agency. Pandora’s box has been opened and this will incrementally improve.

  4. I know it’s 5 years away, but 2020 couldn’t get here any faster.
    These 5 years are going to fly and Garber better be ready for 2020 if he wants to make MLS a “top league” by 2020 and next time around, the CBA will get more than serious.
    Now let’s look forward before we hit 2020.
    This year 2015, San Jose will open their stadium. Then in 2016, Orlando will open their new stadium and by 2017, Atlanta will join MLS with LA2 and their “soccer stadium,” but I say nfl sharing stadium.
    But, what if LA2 has trouble getting their stadium ready. We haven’t heard nothing of their stadium location or name, and we are 2 years away, so probably the LA2 would join 2018.
    Another thing, what will happen with Miami, will they join 2018,2019 or 2020.
    Will Miami be the 23rd, 24th team or 25th.
    Then let’s not forget about Sacramento, San Antonio and Minneapolis. Right now MLS is at 22 teams, but like I said before, LA2 holds the key to this expansion craziness. If LA2 is good to go by 2017, and Miami ain’t ready, then who’s in.
    I can keep going but these 5 years are going to be fun and out of control for MLS fans.
    Will messi come, will CR7 go to LA or NY. Will Sacramento join by 2018 and the number one question of all, will red bull fall and sale.

  5. Not a great deal for the players, but has made inroads towards their goals.
    1) At least an entry into free agency even if the years/age standard is a little high. Hope it drops in the next CBA to 25/5.
    2) Min Salary improvement. Still not great, but a decent start. Next CBA hopefully $75.
    3) Cap increase….not nearly enough, but if TV ratings improve it should allow for increases in the future to make MLS More competitive.

  6. This was not the time to strike, throwing the baby out with the bath water would have been a mistake, IMHO, not with 2-new team starting up this year.

    Any movement on free agency for the players is a victory. The league will continue to grow, and focusing on the guys that make up the numbers should have been the unions primary focus, IMHO, not free agency. If the union plays the “long game” this could be the opening salvo towards eventual victory, ie numbers similar to the NBA.

  7. There are conflicting reports that would make this either barely palatable or atrocious for the non-DP players:

    Is the $60K for the minimum immediate, or reached by incremental steps from now to 2020, as reported by one tweeter? The latter is barely more than inflation. Is the ownership of players rights after they leave the league gone, so that players such as Herc can come home and choose their destination? Also, as many have commented, 28-year old players don’t get many offers unless they are superstars.

    We’ll find out tomorrow – I’m reserving judgement until then.

  8. @LouisZ i like your method a lot more too but this is a huge step by the owners and accepted by the majority of the players. 5 years hopefully they can work off of this.

  9. Now I’m hearing a 15% cap increase instead of $4m. That’s a significant difference and pretty disappointing, if true.

  10. 28/8 is too restrictive, few would qualify. A better formula would have been any player with a combine age + years of service (min.4) with a total of > 30 would qualify for free agency.

    That means a 21 y.o. player could see F.A. at 26 (26 + 5 years of service)
    a 27 y.o. player with 4 years of service (27 + 4 years of service)

    To me the biggest problem is not being able to dictate where you can begin your career in MLS as a DP.

  11. Sounds like a compromise. Both parties got a bit and gave a lot. Not the deal I was dreaming of but a few significant steps forward for soccer in this country.

  12. The deal isn’t that bad. Interesting set of players from small market teams + NY opposing the deal. MLS has to move incrementally – It doesn’t matter where MLS stands relative to the world…what matters is where it stands relative to other professional sports leagues in the US. It moves the ball forward for players on free agency and salary/salary cap, and puts in place a pretty short window to revisit again in 5 years.

    The reality is, outside of soccer fans who read SBI and Big Soccer, an MLS strike would have such a minor impact on the news cycle and would draw a big fat yawn from much of the sports-fan and even soccer-fan world.

    • What does this mean?

      It doesn’t matter with uncommitted potential fans. It certainly would have had disastrous effect on the committed or marginally committed American soccer fan. Ultimately that is what had to be avoided.

  13. this is a horrible deal for the players. The industry standard in soccer worldwide is that when your contract is up then you’re a free agent. This is what the players should have asked for.

    Free agency once you’;re 28 and past your prime years? Good grief.

    • That was never going to happen this time around. But now that the barrier has been broken, you’re just going to see incremental decreases in the thresholds until you have something pretty close to full free agency. It’s a huge step for the players.

      • it keeps the idiotic single entity system intact. That’s all these villains (owners) want.

        28 years old and 8 years in the league? How many players will meet that metric? And they can only get a 10% raise with their new team? That is not free agency.

    • Agreed. The players were sold out by their reps. The union had real leverage and got nothing except precedent, no less. I can see the union slogan: We Want freedom Pretty Soon.

      Has a revolutionary ring to it, dont you think?

    • @AB. Every MLS player can go and sign for any team in the world once his MLS contract is up. It has been that way since 1996.

      • Except for a team of his choice in MLS, unless they want him too and get in him the Re-Entry draft. So after his contract is up he can either be assigned to a team stateside, or pack up and go play in Scandinavia. So much for the American dream in the world’s game. #realfreedom

  14. The key to the whole thing is 5 years, which is short enough to make this palatable for (most of) the players. The owners just cheaply bought themselves some time to get the foundation right for demands they know they will have to meet eventually in a far more meaningful way that this deal addresses them. The players basically got a basic precedent set for the future on free agency — it will never be a yes/no issue again — but agreed to hold their fire for now on trying to obtain truly major concessions, on the fairly safe assumption that the league will be healthier in another five years and they will have more leverage. As for the fans, the deal doesn’t move the needle much in terms of the experience. This deal won’t make or break the goal of MLS becoming a truly world class league in terms of on field quality.

      • MLS has been doing more than treading water the past few years on the old CBA – this will help push things along a bit.

      • I guess what i meant was more like ataying at the same rate of growth. I felt like we may see a bigger growth from this CBA agreement

    • Since the players unionized, all of the CBAs have been 5 years in length. Don’t get too excited about the length, as it seems to be standard in MLS.

    • $7 mil is unrealistic, there was never going to be anything other than a gradual increase. But almost $1m more is pretty significant. This is going to make the league better. There are loads of good $200-300k-ish players out there that teams can now add. Now the onus is on owners to spend the money.

  15. Players got hosed. Wow.

    288 won’t incentivize young americans or younger talented foreigners to sign with MLS. What 24 year old from Europe signs here knowing he wont have the ability at free agency till his career is winding down?

    Also is 10% the raise for a free agent???? There better be no max. Who cares if you go from 200k to 220k?? Pointless..

    $4 mil cap is the best increase they’ve got to date, but it’s still not enough. With having to pay out minimum salary upgrades, (I’ve heard the $60,000 min may be for the 25 and up minimum which was around 48k last year. Under 25 was low $30,000s), each team may only be able to get an extra impact player or two.

    I REALLY hope there are DP changes. I hope they add one more DP, and I hope they raised the threshold of being considered a DP to $1 mil. As a sounder fan we could have 2 Alonso’s at 400k each AND a DP instead of using a DP spot on 1 Alonso. Its hard to attain and/or keep talent in this league with a DP threshold so low.

    Did we finally do away with re-entry draft? Is allocation order gone for returning USMNT players??

    may be me, and I know the details aren’t out yet, but if it is 7 years long. I don’t know, I want to become a great league but it feels that we have succumed our league to mediocrity and the inability to truly grow for close to a decade. I’m not happy about this. Really hoping its a 5 year deal. Or atleast an opt out clause at some point in a 7 year deal.

    • Just saw update after writing that essay…. 5 years makes me feel better.

      The percantage cap increase on free agents frustrates me because the increase is just pathetic. Russell wilson is going to go from less than a million to probably $20 million this year, thats just a 1900% increase. Granted Russell is staying with the same team… but if a young star that BLOWS up and wants to become a multi millionaire in the US he can ONLY stay at the team he is currently with IF they want to spend the money on him? Stupid.

      No news on any DP rules or stupid allocation rules. Fingers crossed

      • Lots of problems in your analysis but the biggest one may be comparing MLS to the NFL. 20 years ago this league didn’t exist so what’s been accomplished to this point is pretty impressive. Have a little patience.

      • Id like to hear the other problems there is in my analysis, because I tend to think faster than I write so I’d like to clarify. Obviously I understand that we’re not going increase players salaries at that rate. It was mainly just to illustrate how weak 115%, 120%, and 125% increases truly are.

      • Here is one. Young European players already have de facto free agency since they can always return to Europe when their contracts expire. Accordingly, MLS already has to compete in the world market to get and keep such players. Thus, no European player is signing or not signing based upon whether he will get free agency in 8 years.

      • what if younger intl talent comes abroad for a shorter term deal, likes the country but doesn’t enjoy his set up in Columbus. he doesn’t have a legitimate chance to stay in the league and determine where he wants to be.

      • Then bye bye foreign player that doesn’t like where you are? Oh well? Find somebody else that does?

      • I get what you are saying… but difficulty with player contracts and dealings can only hurt the league

      • funny you use Columbus as an example as they have had no problem getting some of the best Argentinian talent the league has seen and these players love Columbus.

      • 1. I’m not sure 24 year old, or 27 year old, or 33 year old Europeans are comings t MLS thinking, yeah, let me get into the league and I’ll take advantage of free agency. These European players are coming here with fat contracts.
        2. 10% increase in salary is very nice. Just look at the graham zusi/ Matt Besler contacts, and they are DPs.
        3. Only two extra impact players, as if that is a problem. Wow.

        And there is more…..

      • Read above on #1.

        #2. 10# is not nice. agree to disagree.

        #3. With new league revenues from TV, Audi deal.. 900k a team isnt huge either. I didnt mean to say that 2 inpact players bad. just hard to believe it couldnt have been increased by 2m and each team could have 5 impact players. Why is it bad to aim high?

      • I just think some people, fans, feel that they are so vested in the interest of the players, it’s kind of strange.

        Graham zusi and Matt Besler signed contracts in the past year that suggest what the future is for our league. It might be wise to review their contracts. Their pay increase per year is less than 10%. Besides salaries under 200 k and the increase is more than 10%.

      • Fatfreb, you are paddling up river my friend. Turn your canoe around and make it easy on yourself.

    • Patience. 28/8 is just a step. This round of negotiations was all about breaking the free agency wall. Now it’s broken. 28/8 will go down next time. And with the short CBA the players were fighting for, next time will be pretty soon.

      I don’t think there’s much to worry about with young foreign players. Most of them probably aren’t thinking about staying long term in MLS anyway. I highly doubt that 28/8 is going to be a dealbreaker for any young foreign player who was considering coming over here.

      The raise is higher than 10%. 15%, 20%, or 25%, depending on your last contract, which is not terrible. And it’s a 5 year deal, not 7.

      A cap raise of almost a million is pretty good.

      This is a good job by the players. They made a lot of progress, and it’ll be good for the league.

      • Im just saying that a 15% raise on a $200,000 contract doesn’t seem like a ton.

        4 million is okay. If you raise it 15% the next 4 years of the cba the cap will only be 7 mil in 2020. Not something close to a top league by 2020. Was hoping for a bit of a bigger initial increase.

        Guess we be patient. Wait for more incremental growth. And in 5-7 years truly hope for a huge TV deal and a great CBA. I’ll be along for the ride!

      • You’re right, it’s not a ton. The raise limits are to me the worst part of the deal for the players. I actually think the 25% limit for the players under $100k is the worst part – if you excelled off your rookie deal, you’re capped at $75k even if you’re more like a $100k player (unless your team really wants to keep you). That said, it’s still better than basically take it or leave it from your club before, and this is basically just the first step towards real free agency. Once you take that first step, real free agency is an inevitability.

        I’m expecting continued growth for the league over the next 5 years, and now that the free agency wall is broken, they could be in good shape to make more gains next time.

      • fatfreb,
        For the players, free agency was NOT about a salary increase, it was about choosing where you live and work. The owners were worried about a bidding war, so this is a win for both sides, if the player REALLY wants to live somewhere else he can do that, BUT the owners get the assurance that this will not become a bidding war

      • It’s all relative. 15% has a way of sounding “small” when dealing with the astronomical salary figures that professional athletes make.

        But if you put it in perspective, 15% is 4-5x normal inflation (which runs about 2.3% historically in the US). And it’s over 3x the the average “merit raise” for US workers, which has hovered around 4-5% over recent years.

        You have the right attitude, for sure. It’s about patience, and waiting for MLS to finally get their act in gear on the TV side– TV is where the true unrealized money lies, and MLS (and the underlying player salaries) will only truly take off once this has been tapped. It won’t happen overnight, because winning these massive contracts involves displacing things like NFL and college football that currently occupy the big-money time slots. But certainly, that’s where the massive upside is hiding.

    • As a fan I’m happy, otherwise I feel for the players (a bit). However, just getting free agency in this league with some of the current owners (Hunt, Hansen …) feeling on the subject is a huge win. It opens doors for future free agency gains in five years time.

  16. This looks like a pretty good deal for the players actually. Cap up by almost $1m, 28/8 free agency, which will certainly go down to 26/6 or 25/5 (maybe in restricted form for the lower threshold) in the next CBA, which by the way will be soon since apparently this is a 5 year deal. $60k finally gets the min salary up to something reasonable. Players took advantage of the unique timing and managed to not get screwed. Good for them, good for the league.

  17. i hope some details start emerging soon. on the surface, it seems like the players caved more than i thought they would. but until we get all the details that is hard to say. specifically i want to know if the 10% went up and if anything DP-related happened given the $4M cap rumor.

    also, if the $60,000 minimum is true, that is a pretty solid gain for the players given the previous number of $35,125. that, to me, would be a good win for the players.

    either way, glad to hear MLS is back.

    • so seems like the FA salary increase % is at least better…but not great. to me, the biggest disappointment is the salary cap increase. won’t hit $4.3m until 2019?! that is a lot lower than i expected and as Ives pointed out, how much of that is going to be eaten up by the minimum salary increase?

  18. 28/8 with a cap around 4 million is the rumor. The devil is in the details, but the players caved and the owners get their wish: keep the MLS “safe” and guarantee the second rate status of MLS for the length of this CBA.

    The MLS is still a joke.

    • Getting even the slightest bit of movement towards free agency is huge. No matter ho much of a bitter pill the rest is. Surprised you are unable to see that. It my opinion, its the first step towards a more recognizable form of free agency and a less byzantine form of player movement.

      • Yeah I see the 28-8 gradually working its way down. It’s a major victory for the players to get their foot in the door for free agency.

    • I heard that the starting point for negotiations was $4m. It’s anything north of that, that’s a useful increase. Imagine every team with 4 more $200k+ players. Can definitely improve squads, without any worries of financial trouble.

  19. Sounds like 28/8 stuck with a slightly higher raise limit. Ives says 7 teams voted against the deal: KC, RSL, RBNY, NYC, MON, FCD, COL

    • Interesting. Kind of a “who’s who” of the middle market teams, with the NY sides thrown in, as well. How to interpret?

      • Trying to make sense of it. I know young players don’t like 28/8, since if they’re just coming out of college they have a long long wait to free agency (though the next CBA will probably knock a couple of years off). Foreign veterans new to the league probably also don’t like it since they’ll likely never see free agency. Are those teams mostly composed of those kinds of guys? NY is (my team), has a bunch of guys like that, so maybe that’s why.

      • We’ll never see this, but I would be fascinated to see a roll call vote, just to see where everyone’s head’s at

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