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MLS and Players Association reach agreement on a five-year CBA

“As we prepare to celebrate our 25th season, we are very pleased to finalize a new five-year Collective Bargaining Agreement with our players,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber.

MLS: FORWARD25 Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

With three weeks left before the 25th season of Major League Soccer begins, MLS and Major League Soccer Players Association (MLSPA) have reached a tentative agreement on a new, five-year, Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Commissioner Don Garber was understandably excited:

“As we prepare to celebrate our 25th season, we are very pleased to finalize a new five-year Collective Bargaining Agreement with our players. 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.”

MLSPA is also happy with the new arrangement. MLSPA Executive Board Member and player Jeff Larentowicz said:

“This deal is the culmination of our efforts to engage players from every team to define our goals and push for real progress. 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.”

The key components to the agreement are as follows:

Increased investment in player spending: Each year from 2020-2024, Major League Soccer will increase its investment in the salary budget, general allocation money (GAM), and bonuses from approximately $8.5 million in 2020 to $11.6 million in 2024. The minimum annual salary for senior roster players will increase each season until it reaches $109,200 in 2024. Last season, the minimum salary for senior roster players was $70,250. Other benefits, such as 401(k) contribution, will also increase with the new CBA.

Greater flexibility for clubs to use those new resources across the entire roster: The main takeaway from this is that the additional $1.2 million in Targeted Allocation Money that the league has given each club to be used for the acquisition or retention of players within a specific salary budget range, is no more. Under the new CBA, that money has been converted to General Allocation Money and may be used across the entire roster. Additionally, 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.

Player spending to include a share of MLS’ new media rights deals in 2023 and 2024: For the first time, player spending 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% 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.

A substantial increase in charter flights by the end of the term: Clubs will be required to use charter flights for a minimum of eight legs of travel during the 2020 regular season, which will eventually grow to 16 legs for the 2024 season. In the previous CBA, clubs had the option, but not the requirement, to charter up to four legs per season. Clubs will also be required to use charter air travel for all playoff matches and Concacaf Champions League games that involve international travel.

Expanded 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. In the previous CBA, players had to be 28 years old with eight years of service to become eligible for free agency. The new CBA includes caps on the increases in compensation in free-agent contracts.

Designated player spots: Nothing changes here—clubs will still have the option to sign up to three DPs.

You can read all the details about the new CBA that will extend through January 31, 2025, on MLSSoccer.com here, or check out a handy infographic from the MLSPA here.

So, what are your thoughts on this? Is the new CBA good for league growth? What other pros or cons do you see?