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Collective Bargaining Agreement contracts Major League Soccer (MLS)

Issues In 2015 MLS CBA Negotiations: A look back

March 1, 2015 —

Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations between the MLSPA and MLS, are underway.

Before the 2015 Major League Soccer season can begin, a new collective bargaining agreement was negotiated by the league and the players’ union.

Last time the two sides went to the negotiating table, the discussions went down to the final week of the offseason before the 2010 campaign.

Here is a look at five of the key issues surrounding the MLS CBA negotiations.

Player Salaries

One of, if not the, biggest concerns heading into the CBA discussions is player salaries.

According to a November report by the Daily Mail, MLS has the 22nd-highest average salary among the world’s top leagues.

While some of the best players in the league are paid big money, the regular players who make the league what it is are not getting paid as much as they should.

According to the MLS Players’ Union database, some players make as little as $36,500 per year, while most have salaries in the five-figure area.

With a brand-new television deal worth $720 million over eight years beginning in 2015, MLS should have more money to disperse among its players.

By raising the average salary, MLS will be able to compete with other leagues across the globe for foreign and domestic players.

The league office may not be willing to raise the salary cap too much, but the players’ union will certainly be pushing for a bump in player salaries as the league enters its newest phase.

Free Agency

Unlike other professional leagues in America, MLS does not use free agency as a player-acquisition method.

Instead of ending up on the open market after their contracts are up, players in MLS must go through a few ridiculous player-acquisition mechanisms to find a new club.

After the end of the 2014 regular season, players who were out of contract had to go through a waiver draft and two re-entry drafts before they were able to negotiate freely with clubs across the league.

The only players allowed to participate in negotiations with all clubs are those who were not taken in any of the drafts.

Instead of using these silly mechanisms to acquire players, the 20 clubs in MLS should be able to negotiate freely with out-of-contract players once the offseason starts.

Free agency is something MLS should implement, but the league’s stubborn hierarchy may not be willing to give in to the players’ demands on this topic.

Removal of the Allocation Order

One of the most controversial topics over the last few years in MLS has been the allocation order.

If a United States men’s national team star wants to sign with the league, the allocation order is used to determine where a player lands. This process has been simplified a bit, as teams are allowed to trade up or down on the allocation list depending on which players they are interested in.

Just like the ridiculous player-acquisition mechanisms previously listed, the allocation order is another tool that sets the league back.

Instead of trading up and down the allocation order each year, clubs should have the opportunity to negotiate with any player.

Another flaw in the system comes up when two particular clubs are locked in a fight for a key player. If the allocation order did not exist, clubs would have the chance to outbid each other just like they do in every other part of the world.

It would also eliminate the chances of the league coming out of the blue with a new player-acquisition method just like they did when Jermaine Jones was awarded to the New England Revolution in a blind draw this summer.

By eliminating the allocation order, MLS would essentially open up the chase for high-quality players to the highest bidder. The removal of this acquisition method would also give returning American players a chance to choose where they want to play.

Addition of an Extra Designated Player

In 2007, MLS introduced the revolutionary designated-player rule, which allowed clubs to acquire the likes of David Beckham and Thierry Henry.

Since the LA Galaxy’s acquisition of Beckham, the league has been able to attract stars from Europe and South America as well as homegrown products.

The designated-player rule has certainly helped clubs draw more stars to the United States and Canada, but the maximum number of designated players must be raised from three to four.

By raising the designated player quota, certain sides will be able to reward key players with better contracts while chasing targets abroad.

While some clubs may not choose to use all of their spots, other big-spending clubs like New York, LA, Toronto and Seattle have the assets to bring in big-name players through the designated-player rule.

Ideally, the introduction of a fourth designated player would increase the chances of keeping young American talent in the league. But there will always be clubs who value foreign players more, and also young Americans who move abroad like DeAndre Yedlin.

Change Up Roster Limitations

This may seem like a small part of the CBA negotiations, but roster limitations should at least be brought up in the conversation.

The base roster size for each team is 30 with eight of those spots designated for international players. Teams are allowed to trade international roster spots, which is why certain sides have more foreign players than others.

Given the amount of international influence on the league, it would not be a bad thing to see the league expand the international slots by a few players.

While there should be a focus on attracting young domestic players, the 20 MLS clubs should also be handed a right to add more foreign players without having to shift around roster spots.

By adding two more international roster spots, MLS will not jeopardize the inclusion of homegrown products. And it will also grow the talent pool from an international perspective.

Another aspect of the discussion is the growth of the roster itself. If the league expanded the size from 30 to 35, it would give clubs a chance to expose young talent to the big stage and also provide insurance in case of injury woes.

By Ken Russo

My work in the business of soccer applies skills acquired in law practice with a focus on the sport's commercial, communications and sporting components. Russo Soccer aims to inform, educate and engage in dialogue on news and relevant issues in the game.

Um advogado por formação, concentro meu trabalho nos negócios, comunicações e operações de equipes no futebol mundial. | Abogado con fundación avanzada en comunicaciones, enfocado en los negocios del fútbol y las comunicaciones. | Je suis un avocat experimenté dans les affaires de football.

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