For all the talk of upset players and dissension among the rank and file, the MLS Collective Bargaining Agreement appears to have been ratified with relative ease. Although it took several months to get done, a rather overwhelming 91 percent of players voted to approve the contract, the union reported on Thursday.
There aren't many new details available from those that had been disseminated at the start of the season, but we did learn a bit more about the money that will be available to players over the contract's five-year life and got a more clear picture of how free agency will work.
The big line item is that the MLS salary budget has gone up from $3.1 million per team in 2014 to $3.49 million in 2015. That's a 12.5 percent bump and will be followed by annual bumps of 5 percent until 2019 when each of at least 22 teams will have budgets of $4.24 million. That budget number will only apply to the top 20 players on a team's roster, won't include most of Designated Players' wages and doesn't account for any Allocation Money.
Teams will also be given a lump sum of Allocation Money -- which includes the recently announced Targeted Allocation Money -- each year, totaling $250,000 in 2015 and 2016; $300,000 in 2017 and 2018; and $350,000 in 2019. This Allocation Money is in addition to whatever unknown amounts were available to teams for things like qualifying for CONCACAF Champions League or failing to make the playoffs.
Once all of that money is added up, the union says, the average non-Designated Player will get a raise of about $60,000 over the course of the CBA and be making about $200,000 a year. The minimum salary for senior-roster players immediately goes up from $48,500 in 2014 to $60,000 in 2015 and will be at $70,250 in 2019, while the reserve minimum (players who are younger than 25) goes up from $36,500 in 2014 to $50,000 in 2015 and will be $56,250 in 2019. Those "reserve" players will also get $500 a game bonuses every time they play and $750 every time they start.
The other high-profile item from the CBA is free agency, which will be available to players who are at least 28 years old and have at least eight years of MLS experience. Here's how it will work:
• Players earning less than $100,000 can negotiate a raise of up to 25%
• Players earning between $100,000 and $200,000 can negotiate a raise of up to 20%; and
• Players earning $200,000 and above can negotiate a raise of up to 15%.
• The above percentage increases may be raised for players who significantly outperform their contracts.
While that's an extremely limited form of free agency in comparison to both Europe and most other North American leagues, it is a massive step forward for a league that was adamant about controlling all player movement.
Although the Re-Entry Draft will still exist, the number of unilateral option years a team can impose on players has been limited to two for most players (at least 24 years old and two years of MLS experience). More players will also have guaranteed contracts, with 81 percent now getting that added job security.