MLS Players Union announces new CBA ratified, key details of free agency

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It’s officially official: Major League Soccer is now home to free agency.

The MLS Players Union (MLSPU) announced on Thursday via the organization’s website that the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the MLSPU and MLS owners has officially been ratified with a 91 percent in-favor voting approval among the league’s players.

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Along with announcing that the deal has been signed by all parties, the MLSPU also revealed a number of key details from the new deal — some of which were already known — including the first-ever version of MLS free agency.

Key CBA details, from the MLSPU release:

  • The age and experience requirements for free agency eligibility are 28 years old and (not or) eight years of MLS experience
  • Free agents earning less than $100,000 can negotiate up to a 25% raise; free agents earning between $100,000 and $200,000 can negotiate up to a 20% raise; and free agents earning over $200,000 can negotiate up to a 15% raise
  • Players 24 years or older who have one year of MLS experience will have every contract their current and any future contracts guaranteed for the duration of their MLS career (approximately 81% of current players)
  • The salary cap has risen from $3.1 million in 2014, to $3.49 million in 2015 (an increase of 12.5%)
  • The salary cap will continue to increase by 5% each year throughout the duration of the CBA (through the 2019 season)
  • Given incremental increases to the salary cap and allocation money, average salaries for players across the league is expected to rise from last year’s average of close to $60,000, to nearly $200,000 by the end of the deal
  • New minimum salary figures for 2015 — Senior roster players: $60,000 (from $48,500); Reserve minimum players (beyond roster slots 1-24): $50,000 (from$36,500)
  • Increases to 401(k) contributions, termination pay, appearance fees, per diem when traveling and relocation expense reimbursement are also included in the new CBA

While free agency was the biggest sticking point during CBA negotiations back in February and March, players being awarded guaranteed contracts is perhaps the greatest of the smaller details to come out of Thursday’s announcement. No longer can the league’s cheaper teams — I won’t name names — save money by cutting a player — and leaving him high and dry — before July 1, as was the case under the previous CBA.

The new CBA remains a win for the owners, though, as the league’s highest earners still earn more than 100 times that of their peers on the bottom third of MLS rosters.