MLS and its Players Union have ratified the new five-year collective bargaining agreement that was agreed upon in March.
Under the new terms, which last through the 2019 season, the league introduces a form of free agency for the first time and will have a rising salary budget that will reach $4.24 million per team in the final year of the agreement (teams spend vastly more when taking into consideration off-budget amounts used for Designated Players and salaries whose budget numbers are bought down using allocation money).
Details of the agreement were released by the Players Union Thursday afternoon, and according to the organization, 91% of players voted in favor of it. Some of the more key points, taken directly from the release, include:
• FREE AGENCY: For the first time in MLS history, out of contract players and players whose options are declined can choose where to play within MLS. Players who are 28 years old with at least 8 years of MLS service and are below the max salary will be able to freely choose their team within the following salary limits:
• Players earning less than $100,000 can negotiate a raise of up to 25%
• Players earning between $100,000 and $200,000 can negotiate a raise of up to 20%
• Players earning $200,000 and above can negotiate a raise of up to 15%. • The above percentage increases may be raised for players who significantly outperform their contracts.
• SALARY BUDGET: The salary budget will increase from $3.1 million per club in 2014 to $3.49 million in 2015 (12.5%) and will increase by roughly 5% per year thereafter, as follows: 2016 – $3.66 million; 2017 – $3.845 million; 2018 – $4.035 million; 2019 – $4.24 million. In addition, new allocation money, including the amounts announced by the league last week, will be issued each year of the agreement to each MLS team in the following amounts: 2015: $250,000; 2016: $250,000; 2017: $300,000; 2018: $300,000; 2019: $350,000. As a result, the average salary of senior roster players who are not Designated Players will increase by roughly $60,000 over the course of the agreement, and should be approaching $200,000 by 2019.
• SENIOR MINIMUM SALARY: The minimum salary for senior roster players will increase from $48,500 in 2014 to $60,000 in 2015, $62,500 in 2016, $65,000 in 2017, $67,500 in 2018 and $70,250 in 2019.
• RESERVE MINIMUM SALARY: The minimum salary for additional players beyond the first 24 roster slots per club will increase from $36,500 in 2014 to the following: 2015 – $50,000; 2016 – $51,500; 2017 – $53,000; 2018 – $54,500; 2019 – $56,250. In addition, such players, who must be 24 years old or younger, will receive an additional bonus of $500 for each MLS game in which they appear, and another $750 for each MLS game that they start.
• GUARANTEED CONTRACTS: All players who are at least 24 years old who have one year of MLS service, and are on an MLS team’s opening roster the following season will have guaranteed contracts for the duration of their MLS careers. As a result, approximately 81% of MLS players are now playing with guaranteed contracts.
• OPTIONS IN PLAYER CONTRACTS: A greater percentage of players are now limited to no more than 2 years of options. For players who are at least 24 years old with 2 years of MLS service when their contact is signed, that contract may have no more than 2 years of options. New contracts for all other players may continue to have no more than 3 years of options.
• RE-ENTRY DRAFT: The Re-Entry Draft will continue in effect for those players who: (i) are 23 years old with at least 3 years of MLS service and whose options have been declined: and (ii) are at least 25 years old with at least 4 years of MLS service and who have played out their contracts, but have not received a bona fide offer from their existing team.