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MLS owners and players agree to new CBA, avoid work stoppage

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Both sides got some of what they wanted in five-year deal.

Inter Miami CF Training Session Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Both the MLS Players Association and Major League Soccer had indicated that negotiations to secure a new Collective Bargaining Agreement were going smoothly, and on Thursday, that optimism was rewarded.

The players and owners announced that they have come to a tentative agreement on a new five-year CBA—assuming ratification later this year—meaning labor peace until at least 2024. The deal, announced three weeks before the season starts, is a marked contrast to the 2015 negotiations, under which a strike was originally authorized, before a last-minute deal was reached. The 2010 negotiations also went right up to the wire.

The league and union last week announced a one-week extension, which combined with the seemingly amicable talks meant that an extension looked imminent. The five-year deal includes a number of increased benefits that the union was looking for, and some loosening of previous restrictions. Highlights:

Spending on Players

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. In addition, 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.

5-Year CBA

Year Salary Budget General Allocation Money Discretionary TAM Available Spend on Roster*
Year Salary Budget General Allocation Money Discretionary TAM Available Spend on Roster*
2020 $4,900,000 $1,525,000 $2,800,000 $9,225,000
2021 $5,210,000 $1,900,000 $2,720,000 $9,830,000
2022 $5,470,000 $2,585,000 $2,400,000 $10,455,000
2023 $5,950,000 $2,830,000 $2,225,000 $11,005,000
2024 $6,425,000 $3,093,000 $2,125,000 $11,643,000
Salary budget outline

Charter flights

In a major victory for the players, Clubs will now be required to use charter flights for eight legs of travel during the 2020 regular season, growing to 16 legs for the 2024 season. The 2015 CBA restricted the amount of charter legs to four per season. Also clubs will be required to use charter air travel for all MLS Cup Playoff matches and Concacaf Champions League games involving international travel.

Maximum Salary Budget Charge

The Maximum Salary Budget Charge, the maximum a club can be charged for an individual player on the team’s salary budget, increases to $612,500 (from $530,000 in 2019) and grows to $803,125 in 2024.

Maximum Budget Charge

Year Ceiling
Year Ceiling
2020 $612,500
2021 $651,250
2022 $683,750
2023 $743,750
2024 $803,125

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. This significantly lowers the age and service requirements from the previous CBA, in which only players at least 28 years old with eight years of service were eligible for free agency.

In addition, players making above the maximum salary budget, including Designated Players, will now also be eligible for free agency based on specific guidelines. This removes the quirk in the previous CBA whereby a team could offer a Designated Player a deal at less than his current salary and thus remove his free agent status.

Minimum Salaries

Minimum Salaries for players on the senior roster increase to $81,375 (from $70,250 in 2019) and increase to $109,200 in 2024, while the reserve minimums will start at $63,547 (from $56,250 in 2019) and increase to $85,502 in 2024.

Designated Players

In a victory for the owners, it appears there will be a restriction on the third DP spot, as previously reported. The league now has the right to limit the compensation for the third Designated Player to the maximum TAM Salary. Last year, that amount was $1.53 million. However if the player is 23 years old or younger, there will be no limit.

The full agreement is due to be ratified later this year. Bob Foose, executive director of the MLSPA, will comment on the new deal later Thursday.