MLS and its Players Association finalized a new Collective Bargaining Agreement on Monday, paving the way for the 2021 season to begin after league threats of a lockout.
The agreement, running through Jan. 31, 2028, was ratified by the MLS Board of Governors and the MLSPA, according to a league statement. The key sticking point was an extension of the agreement reached last June. By extending past the 2026 World Cup, a joint venture between the United States, Mexico and Canada, league owners avoid revenue negotiations from the global event.
Negotiation efforts stemmed from MLS owners in December invoking a force majeure clause in last year’s agreement, forcing talks to begin anew.
The 2021 preseason is set to begin on Feb. 22, with Matchday 1 starting April 3. With time spent negotiating though, there are indications these dates might be pushed back some. There’s still a bit of business for FC Cincinnati and other teams to conduct before beginning camp.
As for the new CBA, MLS commissioner Don Garber said in the statement:
“We have enormous respect and appreciation for everything the players have done helping build the League and the sport throughout the years, and they’ve gone above and beyond during the pandemic. We thank the MLSPA leadership and the players for their thoughtful and collaborative approach on the new CBA. We worked together to address the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on the League, and we appreciate the players’ efforts to develop a CBA that deals with the uncertainty of the pandemic while also providing stability during the next seven years to enable further growth. We look forward to seeing the players on the training field in a few weeks as they begin preparations for the upcoming season.”
Said the MLSPA in a statement:
“The MLS Players Association would like to thank our Executive Board and Bargaining Committee who worked tirelessly over the last six weeks to represent and protect the interests of their teammates. MLS players have made incredible sacrifices and overcome considerable challenges in the past year to continue doing their jobs during a difficult time for all of us. We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to our player leadership for continuing to guide us during these unprecedented times.”
Here are the key terms of the new CBA as spelled out in the MLS statement:
■ Starting in 2026, players 24 and older with at least four years of service at the end of their contracts are eligible to become free agents. This provides players earlier opportunities to negotiate with and move to different MLS clubs. The current threshold for free agency is age 24 and five years of service.
■ Players will receive full compensation this year, including salaries and bonuses.
■ As agreed to last June, players will share in increased revenue with the league’s new media agreements, which begin in 2023. MLS will increase player spending to 12.5% of the incremental media revenue. That figure will rise to 25% starting in 2025.
■ The salary budget will increase gradually from $4.9 million this year to $7 million in 2027. General allocation money will go from $1.5 million this year to $3.9 million in 2027, with discretionary targeted allocation money falling from $2.8 million this year to $2 million in 2027. The total amount available for clubs to spend on their rosters will move from $9.2 million this year to $13 million in 2027, with the exception of the three designated players and three players through the league’s under-22 initiative.
■ The maximum salary budget charge will go from $612,500 this year to $883,438 in 2027. Minimum senior roster salaries will rise from $81,375 this year to $125,875 in 2027. Minimum reserve roster salaries will move from $63,547 this year to $97,700 in 2027.