Earlier today, U.S. Soccer reluctantly filed a lawsuit in federal court in Chicago to confirm the existence of the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that has been in place since 2013 and is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2016.
U.S. Soccer felt it necessary to take this course of action after Richard Nichols, the newly appointed Executive Director of the Women’s National Team Players Association, notified U.S. Soccer that he does not believe there to be a current CBA, a position which would allow the team to take labor actions on and after February 24 – a view inconsistent with the negotiating history and directly contrary to the position of the prior Executive Director who actually negotiated the current agreement.
This acrimony won’t look good on anyone.
Our friends at Equalizer Soccer report that the agreement was made in 2013, but never signed. The USSF clearly thinks it doesn’t need to be signed, while the WNTPA clearly knows the profile of the sport is higher and is hoping for a better payday and a faster road to better conditions (turf, etc.).
After the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) was agreed by MLS and the MLS Players Union on Wednesday, just two days before the start of the season, it’s fair to say MLS commish Don Garber is a relieved man.
Garber, who leads the league as it enters its 20th season in 2015, spoke with ESPN about the CBA negotiations as he hailed all parties coming together.
“It required a lot of hard work and commitment from our players, the Players Union, league owners all coming together to capture this lighting in a bottle we have and build the momentum we have been able to achieve over the past 20 years,” Garber said. “Every time you have CBA negotiations between players and management, there are so many different issues. Everybody is trying to create an agreement that allows everybody to feel good. In this case, the players feel good. They got more movement than they had before and more than we probably thought we would provide when this league was launched. They will make more money and have more benefits.”
As for the owners, Garber believes they also benefited from the new CBA deal and touched on the free agency aspect.
“Our owners will have stability and a system that will allow them to invest very smartly and strategically into making this one of the best soccer league’s in the world,” Garber said. “It [free agency] gives players the opportunity to have a bit more choice, to pick some markets at a certain age that they might want to play in and to be able to make a bit more money than they were able to in the previous system. It also allows our league to capture some of the exciting moments that come with that. If you think about ‘the stove top’ and the fantasy programs and all the preseason buzz, that’s something that we hope to be able to achieve.
“We love our players and appreciate all they have done and they appreciate our owners have invested many billions of dollars into MLS. We are all working hard to continue this growth pattern and changes that have come in during this new system are something the players have achieved and I applaud them for that.”
Relief was the buzzword as meetings in Washington D.C. went down to the wire, but with plenty of the details still to be revealed publicly, many are wondering which side, if any, won with the new CBA done and dusted.
Here’s a look at some of the key factors in the deal which have leaked out so far…
Length: The new CBA is a five-year deal, which is what the players wanted after the league dug their heels in for a seven-year deal.
Minimum salary: The new minimum salary in the league is up from $36,500 to $60,000, which is one of the main areas MLSPU wanted to improve. They got that done.
Free agency: Ah, this was the main sticking point as the players had to settle for a form of restricted free agancy many would see as being a league win. Only players aged over 28 and have given MLS eight-years service would be able to select which club they move to next. It’s a start, but certainly not what players were hoping for.
Salary cap: There is a 15 percent increase in the salary cap, which although seems modest, it wasn’t one of the sticking points as the Designated Player rule continues to have added importance around the league.
So, who are the winners? Many would argue that the league got a better deal here, but it is worth noting that a strike from the players was very likely as little as 12 hours before the deal was signed.
Sources confirmed to PST on Tuesday that both sides were still far apart on several key issues and that “it was not looking great” for the 2015 MLS season. However, with the new season just hours away, MLS came back with an improved offer on free agency — previously players over the age 32 and having 10 years of experience at one club (so, basically just Brad Davis) was the only caveat being offered by the league when it came to free agency — and a vote by MLSPU was hardly unanimous but enough players voted in favor and here we are. Let’s play ball.
The true is, both sides eventually gave something up and even though they will feel slightly aggrieved to not get exactly what they wanted from the CBA deal (especially the players), we have MLS back on the schedule for one of the most eagerly anticipated campaign in its 20-year history. MLS seems to have won, right now. But long-term, we will still see plenty of talents (see: Sporting KC’s Erik Palmer-Brown rumored switch to Juventus) head overseas at a young age where contract restrictions aren’t as severe as they are in MLS. More young American and Canadian soccer players will continue to move away from their domestic league despite the increase in the minimum salary.
Overall, soccer in North America was the big winner in this CBA battle, as a work stoppage or a lockout would have harmed the league’s reputation domestically and globally. That crisis has been averted, for now, but in five years time the next CBA will be even more crucial to their future of this young league as MLS budging on free agency this time leads us to believe that more is to follow ahead of the 2020 season. Plus, new franchises in New York, LA, Atlanta and possibly Miami could see the landscape of the next CBA shift dramatically.
Have your say in the comments section below, as I’m sure plenty of you are relieved to see that MLS and the MLSPU have resolved their difference just in the nick of time.
Neither side seems happy about it, and it’s reportedly far from unanimous, but Major League Soccer’s owners and players have apparently found a workable collective bargaining agreement that stops the 20-year-old league from a cringeworthy work stoppage.
Simon Evans quotes Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando as saying, “The deal is done”, and our own Joe Prince-Wright has knowledge that the season will start on time.
The Orlando Sentinel is reporting several key details:
According to a source with direct knowledge of the deal, the new CBA is a five-year deal that creates free agency for players 28 years of age or older with at least eight years experience. According to that source, the free agency is capped depending on salary.
Players who are making under $100,000 have a cap of a 125-percent increase of their salary, players making between $100-200,000 have a cap of 120-percent and players making more than $200,000 have a cap of 115-percent.
In addition, the new CBA includes a minimum salary of $60,000, though that number will increase incrementally per year. The source said there was also an increase in the overall salary cap, though the source could not immediately provide that number.
Happy to hear from sources that new CBA is officially signed but very intrigued to hear full details. Free agency still a huge issue in #MLS