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MLS labor deal outlined

The new collective bargaining agreement has yet to be ratified, but MLS announced some details Tuesday:

*As the Insider reported Saturday, the league has increased the salary cap by about $200,000 -- from $2.315 million per club in 2009 to $2.55 million in 2010, a 10.15 percent jump. It will rise 5 percent per year thereafter.

*Also confirming our earlier reports, the minimum salary for senior roster players will go from $34,000 to $40,000 in 2010 (a 17.64 percent increase) and rise 5 percent per year thereafter. There are no more developmental contracts, meaning everyone will earn at least $40,000.

*Players who are at least 24 years old and with three years of MLS service will have their contract guaranteed.

There's more.....

*Although the specifics of the re-entry draft have not been finalized, it will impact players who are:

-- at least 23 years old with three years of MLS service and whose option is not exercised. They will be made available to all clubs at the option salary.

-- at least 22 years old with one year of MLS service and who is asked to take a pay cut after contract termination. They will be made available to all clubs at his current salary.

-- at least 30 years old with eight years of MLS service and whose contract has expired. They will be placed in a re-entry draft unless his team makes him a qualified offer that must be at least 105 percent of his last salary. If placed in the re-entry draft, the player will be made available to all clubs at a salary equal to 105 percent of his last salary.

-- at least 25 years of age with at least four years of MLS service whose contract has expired. They will be placed in a re-entry draft unless his team offers him a base salary of at least as much as the base salary paid to him in the last year of his contract. If placed in the re-entry draft, the player will be made available to all clubs at a salary equal to the salary in the final year of his contract.

*The number of options in player contracts will be limited to two for players who are at least 25 years old with four years of MLS service. Contracts for all other players may have up to three options.

*For players whose annual compensation is less than $125,000, the minimum increase in base salary will be 10 percent for players who play in at least 66 percent of his club's games and 12.5 percent for players who play in at least 75 percent of his club's games.

*The benefits package will increase in 401(k) contributions by the league, appearance fees, per diem when travelling and relocation expense reimbursement. Among the additional player benefits in the CBA are full health care benefits for every player and his family at no cost, 401(k) contributions and expanded insurance benefits.

*The CBA includes a package of bonuses for wins in MLS games and international tournaments as well as appearance fees for international exhibitions.

*MLS and the union will establish a joint committee to study the re-launch of a reserve division. In the event the rosters are expanded, the salary for those players will be a minimum of $31,250 with additional annual increases.

What do you think?

By Steve Goff  |  March 23, 2010; 2:14 PM ET
Categories:  MLS  
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Comments

Its not perfect but the players got most of what they wanted. Just to think a couple of years ago minimum salary the minimum salary was $12,500.

Posted by: TheJim1 | March 23, 2010 2:22 PM | Report abuse

A 30 year old with 8 years of service seems like he's being treated like chattel, frankly, subject to the whims and vagueness of a drafting process, with the potential of being held hostage by some team you have no intention of moving across the country to play for...

Posted by: JkR- | March 23, 2010 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Steven you have done an amazing job covering the labor dispute, and I thank you for that. Clearly this is a huge improvement for the players and it underscores just how unreasonable the owners were being. Did we really have to go within 48 hours of a strike and bring in a federal mediator to get this done? As critical as Lieweke, Checketts and the other owners were of the strike vote, there is no doubt that none of this would have happened without the courageous move by the players to vote to strike. Union, Columbus Till I Die, El Luchador (www.luchametric.com)

Posted by: nordeckeluchador | March 23, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Describing people being paid more than the national median income to *play a game* as being treated like chattel is not only absurd, but also somewhat insulting to real victims of actual slavery.


As for what I think of the deal . . .I'm confused about one thing. Senor Goff, you wrote:

For players whose annual compensation is less than $125,000, the minimum increase in base salary will be 10 percent for players who play in at least 66 percent of his club's games and 12.5 percent for players who play in at least 75 percent of his club's games.

I'm assuming that this pertains to salary escalation -- is that right? My question is this: how do teams reconcile this minimum increase with the fact that the salary cap itself will increase by only 5% in future years? The amount the salaries increase by is significantly more than the amount the cap increases by. Or am I misunderstanding something here?

Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | March 23, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

@JkR: What? Chattel? Are you kidding? Being essentially guaranteed 105% of current salary whether drafted or otherwise picked up?

What are you talking about?

Posted by: Ron16 | March 23, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse

noredeckeluchador: You're living in a revisionist fantasy land. The League and its investor/operators repeatedly stated that they were willing to compromise on pretty much everything, and consider or propose workarounds on the things that they wouldn't compromise on. The only thing they wouldn't agree to is true free agency. So what happened? They compromised on everything except true free agency. Meanwhile, the Players Union, who said over and over and over and over that it wasn't about the money, gave up their demands for true free agency and club autonomy and instead took more money.

Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | March 23, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

I'm guessing contracts don't become finalized until roster cut-down day? Maybe that might have something to do with the timing of Busch's release?

Ithink the players did get some better treatment from their teams, but they're still stuck with lack of choice. SO long as their team doesn't offer them a pay-cut, they're stuck where they are, and they don't have freedom to negotiate with other teams even if they do get the pay-cut offer. Rest assured, this isn't over. The sides may talk about starting a more cooperative relationship, but we'll be doing this all over again in 5 years.

Posted by: fischy | March 23, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

full health care benefits for every player and his family at no cost
========================

I know you mean at no cost to the player and his family. I'm sure it costs the owners a pretty penny. I wonder how that stacks up against the Scandavian options that are open to Perkins-like players. I would think that evens up the pros and cons a little.

Posted by: OWNTF | March 23, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

I think its pretty dran good for a pro league that has not turned any profit since its inception 15 year ago.

Posted by: lovinliberty | March 23, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

This is a good thing. It clearly shows that players will be paid increasingly better as seasons roll by, which should ensure a better product on the field from promising young talent, happy veterans, and from international steals. This shouldn't be the end of the discussion, but it is a good beginning. Also, a chance for the reserve league to return? Hell's yeah.

Oh, and new techfit uniforms look like something out of X-men. Made me laugh a little. "By day, a dude who practices with a soccer ball, but by not, Tradition Man!"

Posted by: UnitedDemon | March 23, 2010 2:48 PM | Report abuse

"Describing people being paid more than the national median income to *play a game* as being treated like chattel is not only absurd, but also somewhat insulting to real victims of actual slavery."

Lighten up, Francis.

I find it somewhat silly that someone with that level of service has little to no say in where he gets to ply his trade. Or that he can be the pawn in a game of 'draft this guy, another team wants him, we can hold them up'...

That's what I'm saying. We're no longer dealing with kids, or games, at that age or stage in your career.

Posted by: JkR- | March 23, 2010 2:56 PM | Report abuse

I think its pretty dran good for a pro league that has not turned any profit since its inception 15 year ago.

Posted by: lovinliberty

I have to call BS on this statement and the perception that the owners are all losing money and have always lost money. During this CBA the MLS will collect at least $80 Million in expansion fees and maybe as much as $160 Million. The vast majority of the owners will have stadiums (sorry DC fans) that they are controlling all of the revenue on and they will have jersey sponsorships that will cover their labor costs.

Rich team owners have zero incentive to tell you they are making money and if they can help they will never tell you they are making money.

Posted by: csd1 | March 23, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

if you can get past the ridiculous "re-drafting" business (did you expect something simple from MLS?) it looks like a fantastic deal for the players. it doesn't seem like a whole lot more could have been reasonably sought.

Posted by: VTUnited | March 23, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: JkR-

I find it somewhat silly that someone with that level of service has little to no say in where he gets to ply his trade. Or that he can be the pawn in a game of 'draft this guy, another team wants him, we can hold them up'...
--------------

JKR - you still dont get it. They dont work for individual teams - they work for one employer. Think of it like working for Circuit City - the company decides which store you work for. You dont want to move to another store? fine, stay where you are or go work for Best Buy.

while isnt as lucrative as some other leagues, MLS came off its wallet BIG time. Since the league has been losing millions annually, this seems to mean the investors are ponying up a ton more or a good broadcast deal is in the works.

either way, bodes very well for us the fans (and the players).

Posted by: Section107 | March 23, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

If I play, it's a game - well, maybe a farce. If I watch my nieces & nephews play, that's a game.

These guys are not playing a game, they're entertaining me. Just like a movie, or concert, or theater.

I pay my dollars, and I get entertained.

I couldn't care less what's "fair" or not about how much these entertainers get paid. These teams take in just as much money as we are willing to pay and not a penny more or less - that's what the market says. How they divvy it up is up to them.

As a result of how they do that, if the product suffers or improves as a result, then I'll respond accordingly with my attendance.

So here's hoping a decent player now and then doesn't have to go to Norway to get the pay they want, and therefore I don't have to watch as many Janicki-level brain-locks on the field, and then I'll keep buying tickets and cold beers and watching DCU collect hardware and we'll all be happy!

Well, at least there's the cold beer part.

Posted by: CDRHoek | March 23, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

So they increased the lowest salaries, which is good, but they didn't raise comparatively raise the salary cap. Problem with that is that they'll either have to cut the number of players per team in a league where the teams already suffer from a lack of depth or they'll have to limit the amount paid too top players to fit them under the cap, which means we'll see an increasing number of players fleeing to Denmark or Greece, etc.

Posted by: maxf736 | March 23, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

"you still dont get it"

Posted by: Section107


Please don't tell me what I get and what I don't get. I saw something Steve wrote, and gave you my perspective on it. I don't need my opinion validated or affirmed, thanks very much.

I'm delighted to read other views, respectfully expressed.

Posted by: JkR- | March 23, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

nordeckeluchador:

Federal Mediator? Good sir, perhaps you weren't paying attention, did you not get all the press reports that stated that it was Landon "Superman" Donovan who came sweeping in from the sky to save the day!

Without him, MLS would be doomed! ;)

Funny Interview with Sepp "Blabber" Blatter:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_Hj4dV6cmc

Posted by: dwreck1971 | March 23, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

What was the salary cap in 96?

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | March 23, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Players and fans should feel good about the changes. The added guarantees and yearly bumps show some confidence from the owners going forward.

Except for DP's and Donovan, MLS is not a high glamor gig for anyone involved. But it did just become a wee bit more attractive to decent, career-minded players, which will definitely help with expansion underway.

Posted by: Godfather_of_Goals | March 23, 2010 4:14 PM | Report abuse

40k in LA, NYC/NJ, Boston?

LOL.

Does the MLS also throw in for food stamps and section 8 housing?

Posted by: vmrg1974 | March 23, 2010 4:37 PM | Report abuse

@Godfather: +1. This is a great sign of confidence in the league by the owners.

@vmrg: C'mon, how much did you make when you got out of college at 22 or otherwise joined the labor force? I got $10.5K in 1982 to work in in NYC, which is about $23K in 2010. I had to make some extra money on the side to get by, but not an extra 80 percent of my salary.

Did you know that a small number of committed families in the area actually provide a room in their home to WPS players rent-free so they can play professional soccer here? We need to be realistic about the state of soccer economics in this country and about what people in their early 20s can reasonably expect to command except in the most unusual circumstances (rock stars, NFL draftees).

Posted by: dccal | March 23, 2010 4:52 PM | Report abuse

"THE" MLS - I know I'm nitpicking, but I'm surprised how often I see (here and everywhere) seemingly soccer-knowledgeable posters write "the MLS." It's not "the" Major League Soccer anymore than it's "the" Major League Baseball.

Perhaps the league needs to start putting a statement on their press releases similar to DCU's:

"When speaking of the league, please refer to either “MLS” or “Major League Soccer,” but not “the MLS” or “the Major league Soccer.” We appreciate your cooperation."

Posted by: PrinceBuster21 | March 23, 2010 4:52 PM | Report abuse

Princebuster, you're right of course, but it seems to me half the guests on Fox Football Fone In say it; and they're the players, coaches, assistants, etc.

Even Sir David of Achilles says it constantly.

Posted by: JkR- | March 23, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Focus on the future folks, lets bring more friends and turn them into fans.

I know I am, I'm sure I am, United till I die. I can't wait... Molly Malone's tonight?

Goff, well done as always.

Posted by: UniteforDC | March 23, 2010 5:17 PM | Report abuse

Seems like great progress to me. I would be very interested to see how the total package compares to other leagues around the world. I think this situates MLS well to be an attractive place for up and coming players to play.

Owners may be "losing money" on the final net income reported, but I think their teams and the franchise as a whole is increasing in value significantly. That is what these owners are really about, building a long term business.

In terms of a DCU stadium, could DC pay to construct the stadium at the RFK site (infrastructure already in place) and then control all revenues? No money out of DC city government pocket, good upside for DCU.

Posted by: SeanWG | March 23, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Its not perfect but the players got most of what they wanted. Just to think a couple of years ago minimum salary the minimum salary was $12,500.

Posted by: TheJim1 | March 23, 2010 2:22 PM
_________________________________________

Doesn't the $12,500 figure pertain to developmental players, whereas the $34,000 is the minimum for senior roster members? Does the new CBA say anything about pay for developmental players, and if so, what?

Posted by: universityandpark | March 23, 2010 6:11 PM | Report abuse

Steve wrote that the will be no developmental status. League minimum is $40K. Andy Najar is about to feel very, very, rich. However, the government has ways of helping him get over that feeling.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | March 23, 2010 6:41 PM | Report abuse

Or am I misunderstanding something here?

Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | March 23, 2010 2:32 PM
--------------------------------------------------

You're missing the basics of math. The league is agreeing to a 10% rise on the lowest salaries -- over the median salary level for now, though that may eventually change as the cap keeps going up and top salaries with it. The cap increase is a smaller percentage, but it's a percentage of a much bigger number. Moreover, as the cap level keeps getting higher each year, the number that percentage represents gets correspondingly larger too.

Posted by: fischy | March 23, 2010 7:30 PM | Report abuse

"For players whose annual compensation is less than $125,000, the minimum increase in base salary will be 10 percent for players who play in at least 66 percent of his club's games and 12.5 percent for players who play in at least 75 percent of his club's games."

Expect to see more player rotation in future lineups at the end of the season by teams that have missed or clinched playoff bids.
"Why isn't Tim Ward playing today? it's the last game before the playoffs, and he's been great since he got back from that midseason injury." Hmmm...

Posted by: Modibo | March 23, 2010 8:46 PM | Report abuse

So if it's a Tuesday and there's a full moon and the player is left footed but right handed then his former team has no rights to him but get a free gallon of Ben and Jerry's ice cream. Could they have any more rules?

Posted by: owendylan | March 23, 2010 10:23 PM | Report abuse

Wow, the players did pretty well. Well at least most of them. Actually i guess this favors the US players, keeps out the Luciano Emilio's or higher priced players but pays the lower end guys much better. Given that there are more of the lower paid guys and less of the hired paid guys that makes sense. Plus the Holdens et al can always (and probably will) go over seas for more money anyway.

Seems like the players called the owners bluff and won. The owners must not be doing too bad. Doesn't cost the owners too much really though and locks in the salary cap for 5 years. Not bad for the players, they are made in the shade now. Not compared to other sports leagues but compared to everyone else in the real world. Ask 25-30% of LA or NY residents if they'd trade their salaries for $40K a year for 8 months of work a year, great 401K and insurance paid for their whole family and i guarantee they'd be in. Maybe 40 or 50%.

Posted by: Brian76 | March 23, 2010 10:44 PM | Report abuse

"Argy Bargy Outsiders" for those left out of the "Argy Bargy Insiders" mfls.com league

password: united

Posted by: Brian76 | March 23, 2010 11:13 PM | Report abuse

Goff,

A few more questions...

I'm assuming that it is still a 24 player roster. Does everyone count against that total or are certain players exempt: GA, Homegrown, injured reserve, etc.?

Also, are certain players not counted against the cap? If so, which ones?

What are injured reserve policies (when are they eligible to return/restrictions, etc.)?

Posted by: tfoisie | March 24, 2010 3:37 AM | Report abuse

Also, are there any limits to the number of international players that a team may have / play....

Posted by: tfoisie | March 24, 2010 4:25 AM | Report abuse

fischy wrote:

You're missing the basics of math. The league is agreeing to a 10% rise on the lowest salaries -- over the median salary level for now, though that may eventually change as the cap keeps going up and top salaries with it. The cap increase is a smaller percentage, but it's a percentage of a much bigger number. Moreover, as the cap level keeps getting higher each year, the number that percentage represents gets correspondingly larger too.

I think you misread Goff's post, and possibly mine as well. First of all, the lowest salaries didn't increase by 10%, but by over 17%. But that's irrelevant. The 10% figure was from where Goff said:

For players whose annual compensation is less than $125,000, the minimum increase in base salary will be 10 percent for players who play in at least 66 percent of his club's games and 12.5 percent for players who play in at least 75 percent of his club's games.

That sounds like a salary escalation clause -- not a one-time description of a salary increase. But the point is this: obviously it's true that since the cap value is a larger figure, a 5% increase in the cap value can in principle be a larger figure than a 10% increase of a subset of the salaries under the cap. But you're forgetting about salary escalation of the salaries *above* $125k. In past years, the standard salary escalation was at 5% per year; I've heard nothing indicating that the senior players in the League took a pay *cut*. So, "basic math" as you put it: try to come up with a scenario where salaries below $125k escalate at 10%, salaries above $125k escalate at 5%, and yet the whole thing stays below a cap increase of 5%.

Posted by: christopher_a_metzler | March 24, 2010 4:00 PM | Report abuse

I didn't misread Goff's post -- I was skipping to the chase -- the 10% increase for salaries below $155k, but you're correct to point out they might rise by as much as 12.5%. I'm guessing most won't -- I suspect that most of the players who will play in at least 75% of games are already making that money. It's mostly reserves who will be affected -- not exclusively, but mostly.

AS for the handful of players in each team who were making below $40k, it's a big hit to the cap to raise their salaries. A couple of developmental deals with a bigger jump, and a tiny bump up for the league minimum for the rest. I'm sure it won't put any team over the cap....

I didn't realize there was a salary escalation generally. However, since Goff hasn't mentioned it, perhaps it's been replaced by the escalation clause for those salaries below $125k??

Posted by: fischy | March 24, 2010 6:32 PM | Report abuse

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