The 2020 MLS season will go on as scheduled as the league and its Players’ Association have hammered out a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Major League Soccer and the MLS Players’ Association announced the CBA on Thursday morning, with the new five-year deal expected to be finalized once it is approved by the MLS Board of Governors and the MLSPA membership.
The new CBA has been agreed to with significantly more time before the start of the season, unlike in 2015, when the two sides didn’t hash out an agreement until the night before the season was scheduled to begin.
“As we prepare to celebrate our 25th season, we are very pleased to finalize a new five-year Collective Bargaining Agreement with our players,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement. “This agreement addresses key strategic priorities for the league and our players while also retaining the basic player compensation structure that has been the foundation for the growth and stability of Major League Soccer. We had constructive, positive discussions with the leadership of the MLSPA and the players’ bargaining committee during the negotiations over the last few months and I would like to thank them for their collaboration in concluding an agreement that will serve as the foundation for a new era of partnership with our players.”
“Players have secured an agreement that will substantially change what it means to be an MLS player,” said Executive Director of the MLSPA Bob Foose in a statement. “Over the past two years, we have engaged in a substantive, comprehensive negotiation process with the league. We believe that the sweeping changes and increased investment in this agreement will not only be integral to the league’s continued growth, but will also move MLS closer to the systems in place in overseas leagues with which we aspire to compete.”
The deal features a lot of what the players were bargaining for, including increased player spending and flexibility in how teams construct their rosters, expanded free agency, more charter flights, and more.
The overall structure of how teams spend money on player acquisition and salary isn’t changing much, but teams will get a higher salary cap and more allocation money. The cap will gradually increase from $8,490,000 in 2019 to $11,643,000 in 2024. The minimum senior player salary will also go up to $109,200 in the final year of the deal. Players will also see bigger contributions to their 401k and other benefits.
One new benefit from the players’ perspective is receiving a share of media rights fees. The league’s current broadcast deals with ESPN, Fox, and Univision expires after the 2022 season and the new deals will see a portion of the revenue go towards player spending. The league agreed to spend 25% of the increased media revenue, plus an additional $100 million, beginning in 2023 with their next media rights contract.
Targeted Allocation Money, a total of $1.2 million that MLS teams could use to buy players or knock down their salary cap charges, will be combined with General Allocation Money, giving teams more budget flexibility.
One of the players’ main issues with the last agreement was an over-reliance on commercial flights for travel. The new deal requires teams to use charter flights for eight road trips in 2020, up from a maximum of four optional charters last year. The required number jumps to 16 charter trips by 2024. Teams will also be required to charter their teams to and from all MLS Playoff and Concacaf Champions League matches that involve international travel.
Free agency will expand beginning next offseason. Players will now be eligible for free agency if they are at least 24 years old and have at least five years of MLS service, regardless of how many teams they played for. Players previously had to wait until they were 28 and had spent eight years in the league. Players can still only bargain for a 15% or $25,000, whichever is greater, maximum raise if they made less than the budget maximum. The minimum raise goes up for TAM level contracts and designated players. Here’s a full explanation.
Finally, teams will be allowed to sign up to three players 22-years-old and younger on a reduced salary cap charge with more details coming at a later date. Teams will still have three Designated Player slots that can exceed the maximum budget charge.
With a new CBA in place, the 2020 MLS season can now start as scheduled on Saturday, February 29.