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MLS players overwhelmingly ratify CBA

Free agency, guaranteed contracts, and a salary budget increase are all part of the new CBA.

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

It took awhile but we finally have an approved collective bargaining agreement.

The Major League Soccer Players Union announced today that their members have ratified the collective bargaining agreement between the Union and Major League Soccer that was publicized ahead of the 2015 season. The final proposal was approved by 91% of players, according to the union.

As part of the announcement, the Union has released key details of the agreement, which will run through the 2019 season:

  • Free Agency: For the first time in MLS history, players that meet certain perimeters will qualify for free agency. Players who are at least 28 years old, have at least eight years of MLS experience, and are below the max salary will be granted free movement within the following salary limits:
    • Players earning less than $100,000 can negotiate a raise of up to 25 percent
    • Players earning between $100,000 and $200,000 can negotiate a raise of up to 20 percent; and
    • Players earning $200,000 and above can negotiate a raise of up to 15 percent.
    • The above percentage increases may be raised for players who significantly outperform their contracts.
  • Re-Entry Draft: The Re-Entry Draft will be used for players who: (i) are at least 23 years old with at least three years of MLS service and whose options have been declined; and (ii) are at least 25 years old with at least four years of MLS service and who have played out their contracts, but have not received a bona fide offer from their existing club.
  • Salary Budget: The salary budget will increase 12.5% over last year as the cap is now set at $3.49 million per club as oppose to $3.1 million in 2014. The salary budget is scheduled to increase by roughly 5% in subsequent years (2016 - $3.66 million; 2017 - $3.845 million; 2018 - $4.035 million; 2019 - $4.24 million).
  • 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, reserve players who are 24 years old or younger will receive a bonus of $500 per MLS appearance, and another $750 for each MLS game started.
  • Guaranteed Contracts: All players who are at least 24 years old who have one year of MLS experience, and are on an MLS team's opening roster the following season will have guaranteed contracts for the duration of their MLS careers. This means that 81% of MLS players are now playing with guaranteed contracts.
  • Options in Player Contract: Players who are at least 24 years old with 2 years of MLS service when their contract is signed can have no more than two years of options on their contract. New contracts for all other players cannot have more than 3 years of options.
  • Player Benefits: Players will see increases in 401(k) contributions by the league, termination pay, appearance fees, per diem when traveling, and relocation expense reimbursement, as well as an increase in time off for players.

Looking over the released components, it's clear that the Players Union made significant strides. The introduction of free agency, regardless of its strict requirements, is a step in the right direction. Also positive is the 12.5% increase in the salary budget, which will continue to rise in the coming years. Details involving guaranteed contracts and player benefits are also noteworthy.

That said, you have to wonder what the full collective bargaining agreement says. The Players Union was obviously selective in what they made public. What omitted details convinced 9% of players to vote against this document?