On Feb. 6, the MLS announced an agreement in principle for a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between owners and the players’ union, the MLSPA.
Now, if this would have been the NFL, NBA or MLB, the national media would have been consumed with the story, like sharks smelling blood in the water. But the new MLS agreement barely chummed the waters.
While this agreement might not have made national headlines, to the players, especially younger players, it was a big deal. A big enough deal that rumors of a work stoppage were going around MLS teams before most players left for the off-season break.
But that’s all behind now. The new agreement is in place, play will go on uninterrupted and lots of positives for the players.
Here’s a breakdown of what’s new in the agreement that will run through the 2024 season.
1) Increase in Player Spending
This has to be good news for all the players but especially the younger ones. Money for teams to spend building their rosters will increase from $9.2 million in 2020 to $11.6 million in 2024. The Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) that clubs used to sign bigger names will be decreasing over the contract term. Meanwhile, General Allocation Money (GAM) will increase. More money equals better quality players, which, hopefully, equals a better fan experience overall.
Also, the minimum salary for the senior roster players will increase each year to $109,200 in 2024 ($70,250 in 2019). Players will also receive additional benefits, including a 401k contribution.
“We are getting to the point where even in our very expensive cities, every player is able to make enough money to live well,” said Bob Foose, executive director for the MLSPA.
2) Greater Salary Discretion for Owners on Roster Decisions
Going back to the TAM money, over the last three seasons, clubs were given $1.2 million per season in Targeted Allocation Money. That money was used for players in the higher salary range. Now, the TAM allocation will decrease but that money will be used instead as General Allocation Money. This means clubs can use the money for the whole roster and not just big-name acquisitions.
3) Players Will Share in Media Revenue
The current MLS media partnership ends in 2022.
When the MLS signs a new media deal, the player spending will increase by an amount of 25 percent of the increase. Again, that’s more money the clubs can use to acquire and retain players.
4) Charter Flights Increased
Imagine being a professional soccer player and having to ride a bus to the airport, walk through TSA side by side with screaming humans, then wait for the boarding to start and sit in the middle seat of a commercial flight from DFW to Seattle. Such is the life of an MLS player under the previous agreement. The last CBA only allowed for charter flights to be used up to four legs. And that was at the club’s ownership’s discretion. The new CBA requires a minimum of eight legs of charter flights for this season increasing to 16 in 2024. Plus, all Audi MLS Cup games and any international Concacaf Champions League games will require chartered flights. No more packing an MLS team on a crowded Spirit plane to Panama (Didn’t happen. It’s just a joke).
This is a big accomplishment for the players’ union. It’s a big win for FC Dallas players but even more so for the smaller market teams. Clubs like Sporting KC, Real Salt Lake, Columbus Crew, etc. have smaller airports and less direct flights to places like Portland. If teams couldn’t get a direct flight, they had to suffer through layovers or at the very least increase time sitting on a plane. This new rule will significantly reduce travel times.
5) Expanded Free Agency
Under the new contract players who are 24 years old and have five years of MLS experience qualify for free agency. Previously, the age was 28 years old with eight years of service. Players across the league who now qualify for free agency will double this year.
6) Designated Player Spots
Clubs can still sign up to three Designated Players under the new contract.
Good news overall for the players. Players get a lot of concessions. Owners kept some of the power. But overall, everybody seems happy. Now it is time for some MLS soccer.
First game up for FC Dallas, Feb. 29 hosting the Philadelphia Union.
What are your thoughts on the new players’ contract?
Is it a good deal? Should they have gotten more?
Featured Image: @FCDallas