There will be a Major League Soccer season with no disruptions.
The league and the MLS Players Association announced Thursday they have reached agreement on the terms of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, pending a full ratification vote by the players and the league’s board of governors.
The new five-year CBA starts with the beginning of the 2020 season and runs through January 2025.
Under the deal, free agency rights will increase dramatically while the percentage of eligible players more than doubles. Salary budgets and player compensation will experience growth that by the end of the deal will take the average salary over $500,000 and the senior minimum salary over $100,000. Owners also will continue to invest in players on and off the field. For the first time in league history, the CBA includes mandatory charter legs for team travel that grow incrementally during the term of the agreement.
“This deal is the culmination of our efforts to engage players from every team to define our goals and push for real progress,” MLSPA executive board member Jeff Larentowicz said. “Through this work and our solidarity, we have been able to reach an agreement that will provide players with greater rights and increased compensation, and will ensure that the league’s resources continue to be used to create a league of choice for players both on and off the field.”
MLS commissoner Don Garber was happy the deal was reached three weeks prior to the season’s kickoff.
“As we prepare to celebrate our 25th season, we are very pleased to finalize a new five-year Collective Bargaining Agreement with our players,” he 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.”
Summary of key points
Increased investment in play spending
MLS will increase investment in the salary budget, General Allocation Money and performance bonuses for players, raising the spending power per club every year, from $8,490,000 in 2019 to $11,643,000 in 2024. The minimum annual salary for senior roster players will increase each season to $109,200 in 2024 and 401(k) contribution and other benefits also will increase with the new CBA.
Greater salary budget flexibility across rosters
During the last three MLS seasons, clubs were provided an additional $1.2 million per season in Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) to be used for the acquisition or retention of players within a specific salary budget range. Under the new CBA, that $1.2 million per season has been converted to General Allocation Money and may be used across the entire roster. With the increase in the amount of guaranteed spending across the entire roster during the next five seasons, the amount of Discretionary Targeted Allocation Money per season will decrease correspondingly.
Players to share media revenue for the first time
For the first time, player spend per club will include a share of the increased revenue generated by MLS’ new media agreements in 2023 and 2024. Beginning in 2023 and 2024, MLS will increase player spending by an amount equal to 25 percent of the increased media revenue above the amount generated by the league in 2022 plus $100 million. The league’s current national and international media rights partnerships expire at the end of 2022.
Charter flights increase
Clubs will be required to use charter flights for eight legs of travel during the 2020 regular season, growing to 16 legs for the 2024 season. In the previous CBA, clubs had the discretion but not the requirement to charter up to four legs per season. In addition, clubs will be required to use charter air travel for all MLS Cup playoff matches and Concacaf Champions League games involving international travel.
Expanded eligibility for free agency
The eligibility criteria for free agency has been expanded to include players who are 24 years or older and have five years of service in MLS. This lowers the age and term from the previous CBA, in which players 28 years old with eight years of service were eligible for free agency. The CBA includes caps on the increases in compensation in free agent contracts.
Players making above the maximum salary budget, including Designated Players, will now also be eligible for free agency based on specific guidelines.