MLS avoids player strike after new five-year CBA agreed

There had been some concerns over the start of the new league season, with the opening fixtures scheduled for February 29

MLS and the MLS Players Association (MLSPA) announced on Thursday that the two sides have come to a deal on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

The deal will cover five full seasons through the 2024 campaign while also preventing a potential player strike for this upcoming season.

Much like negotiations for the last CBA, discussions over this new agreement went down to the wire, with the MLS season set to kick off on February 29 while the Concacaf Champions League will begin on February 18.

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The deal is subject to approval from the MLS Board of Governors and the members of the MLSPA.

“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 league 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.”

In the agreement, the two sides have addressed a number of key issues as the league moves into the 2020 season.

To start, there will be an increased investment in player spending, with the money available for salaries for each team rising from $8,490,000 in 2019 to $11,643,000 by the end of the deal.

Additionally, the minimum salary will rise from $109,200 in 2024 while 401(k) contributions and other benefits will also increase.

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Players will also receive a payout stemming from the MLS’ new media agreements in 2023 and 2024, with player spending rising by 25 per cent of the increased media revenue in 2022 plus $100 million.

Money will also be spent differently under the new CBA, although the Designated Player rule will remain in place after reports suggesting that the league could remove it.

Under the old CBA, each team received $1.2m per season in Targeted Allocation Money to spend on high-end players, and that money has now been converted to General Allocation Money and may be used across the entire roster, giving teams increased flexibility when it comes to spending on players.

Additionally, players will also have more freedom of movement with an increased form of free agency.

The previous form required a player to be 28 years old with eight years of service, but the new system will be expanded to include players who are 24 years or older and have five years of service in MLS.

The CBA includes caps on the increases in compensation in free agent contracts, while Designated Players will also be eligible for free agency.

Also included in the deal are an increase in charter flights available to teams and a new Under-22 initiative that will allow clubs to sign three players who are 22 years old or younger on a reduced charge to a club’s salary budget.

“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.”

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