Negotiations went down to the wire just like they did in 2010, but Major League Soccer's owners were able to reach an agreement with the MLS Players Union on a new CBA on Wednesday. The two sides entered federal mediation on Monday, and were able to reach a deal after extensive deliberations.
Around 6 p.m., Ives Galarcep reported that the players had an offer they were willing to bring to a vote. It's rare that a deal is rejected in labor negotiations once union representatives are satisfied enough with an offer to put it to a vote, so once this news leaked out, it was only a matter of time before a deal was announced. A few hours later, ESPN FC's Jeff Carlisle confirmed the news.
Sources tell me there is an agreement in principle on new #mlscba. Announcement to take place later tonight.— Jeff Carlisle (@JeffreyCarlisle) March 5, 2015
This is a massive turnaround from where talks stood early on Tuesday. Information sprang up about a free agency proposal that would see players become eligible for free agency after their age 32 season and 10 years of service with one team, which would have affected just one player. Owners softened their stance considerably afterwards, and the two sides apparently agreed to allow players to become free agents at a younger age and after fewer years of service, reportedly 28 years old and eight years in the league.
Free agency was the most contentious issue, though the length of the CBA, salary cap and minimum salary were also huge negotiating points. The salary cap was $3.1 million not including various exceptions in 2014, while the minimum salary was $36,500 for players on their first contract and $48,500 for veterans.
Paul Tenorio of the Orlando Sentinel says it's a 5-year CBA with a $60,000 minimum salary that will increase gradually. He didn't have details on the percentage that the overall salary cap would increase by in the first season, but Adam Jardy of the Columbus Dispatch previously noted that it would be around 15 percent. Tenorio's story outlined the details of the CBA.
However, it seems like this needs some clarification. There's some ambiguous language there regarding the caps on players' salary increases through free agency. Tenorio likely meant that the caps are 25, 25 and 15 percent increases depending on salary level, or 125, 120 or 115 percent of the previous season's salary. FOX's Julie Stewart-Binks confirmed this.
Can confirm: FA for players 28 + and 8 yrs w/ league. min salary 60K, FA increase based on salary. min-100 = 25%, 100-200 20% etc. 5 yrs— Julie Stewart-Binks (@JSB_FOX) March 5, 2015
It was tough for both sides to come to a deal, and it doesn't sound like anyone thinks this deal is a clear win for either side.
So #MLSCBA deal is done. Hearing lots of players unhappy w/final deal. I'm told 7 teams voted against it (KC, RSL, RBNY, NYC, MON, FCD, COL)— Ives Galarcep (@SoccerByIves) March 5, 2015
To clarify for anyone confused by earlier tweet, list of teams I tweeted was teams whose PLAYERS voted against accepting deal, NOT owners— Ives Galarcep (@SoccerByIves) March 5, 2015
In order to be ready to play on Friday, the Chicago Fire had to travel to Los Angeles on Wednesday. Even though the two sides had not agreed to a CBA yet, the players agreed to travel on Wednesday morning, which was seen as a positive sign that talks were progressing in the right direction. D.C. United also had a CONCACAF Champions League game on Wednesday night, and a strike could have complicated that match, especially with Alajuelense of Costa Rica already having traveled.