MLS reaches deal with union, strike averted


Michael Bradley of Toronto FC. (Chris Szagola/AP)

Major League Soccer will kick off its 20th regular season as scheduled after the league and players’ union agreed in principle to a new collective bargaining agreement.

The league formally announced the new five-year labour contract on Wednesday evening after negotiating with union officials and players, with the help of federal mediators, over the last four days in Washington, D.C. The new CBA still has to be formally ratified by the players’ union.

“We are pleased to finalize the framework for a new collective bargaining agreement with our players,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said in a new release. “We now enter our 20th season with enormous momentum with our new television partnerships, dynamic star players from the US, Canada and abroad, and two new expansion teams in New York City and Orlando.

“This agreement will provide a platform for our players, ownership and management to work together to help build Major League Soccer into one of the great soccer leagues in the world.”

Bob Foose, Executive Director of the MLS Players Union, added: “We are pleased to finally turn our fans attention back to our players and the competition on the field as we get started on the 2015 season.”

MLS’s previous CBA expired on Jan. 31 and both sides had been negotiating over a new deal, with player free agency the main sticking point. The league did not provide details of the CBA which runs through 2019, but Sources told Sportsnet that this new labour pact will grant free agency to players who are 28 years old and who have eight years of MLS service. Under the old labour agreement, clubs retained the MLS rights of out-of-contract players.

There will be a cap on the amount a player’s salary can increase through free agency, depending on the value of his previous contract.

The league’s minimum salary will be bumped up to $60,000 in 2015, a substantial increase from 2014 minimum of $36,500, and will increase incrementally each year. The team salary cap will also increase.

The regular season kicks off on Friday when the defending MLS Cup champions LA Galaxy host the Chicago Fire. The Vancouver Whitecaps host Toronto FC in the season opener for both clubs on Saturday. Also on Saturday, the Montreal Impact visit D.C. United.

Major League Soccer has never had a work stoppage but it came pretty close this time. The previous CBA was agreed upon five days before the start of the 2010 regular season.

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