Talk about cutting it close! With something like 36 hours before the first game of the year, MLS owners and players reached a deal on a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that will save the 2015 season.
“We are pleased to finalize the framework for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with our players,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement. “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.”
According to the Orlando Sentinel, the new CBA will last five years and run through the 2019 season. And most importantly, it addresses the issue of free agency. Under the new CBA, players who are 28 years or older with at least eight years of MLS experience will be eligible to become free agents. The deal also sets caps on how much a player can earn by becoming a free agent, from 115 to 125 percent more depending on their base salary. The minimum salary will also increase each year, from $36,500 in 2014 to $60,000 in 2019.
“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,” MLS Players Union Executive Director Bob Foose said in a statement.
Free agency was the primary sticking point in the negotiations. Players demanded it, and owners flatly rejected it. The owner of Real Salt Lake went so far as to call it a “go-nowhere conversation.” And as the clocked ticked down to opening day, the only concession owners were willing to make was that any player over the age of 32 with 10 years experience with one club could become a free agent. Naturally, the players rejected that.
The agreement reached last night seems to find something like middle ground between the free-agency demand of the players and no-free-agency position of the owners. But if you stack them side-by-side, the compromise looks pretty pro-owner.
One player who was involved in the negotiations and talked to Sports Illustrated anonymously said the deal wasn’t good for the athletes on the field.
“Players are disappointed and upset with the union reps and Bob Foose,” the player told SI.com. “Not only did this deal destroy the future of the American player, it barely helps the current group of players.”
The player added that Foose and members of the union were divided on whether to strike, and ultimately gave in to the pressure of the situation.
But it’s not just some players who are dissatisfied. Seven of the 20 MLS owners voted against the deal, according to Ives Galarcep, the lead reporter for Goal.com.
So, does that mean this is a bad deal? Or can we chalk it up to not being able to please everyone? Only time will tell. Right now, though, teams are preparing for the start of the season on Friday. And after months of uncertainty, players are ready to go.
“Extremely proud of all the MLS Players Union reps and members for working together to accomplish so much,” Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Clint Irwin tweeted. “Time for First Kick! #unity2015”
Photo: Robert Laberge/Getty Images