There will be professional soccer in the United States this year!
On Wednesday evening Major League Soccer and the MLS Players Union reached an agreement to avoid the league's first work stoppage in its 20-year history.
As is the case these days, the news first broke on Twitter around 7:30 p.m. ET and details slowly began to emerge on the agreement of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in principle.
"Deal is done" says RSL keeper Nick Rimando— Simon Evans (@sgevans) March 5, 2015
"We are pleased to finalize the framework for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with our players," MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a press release shortly after the details were released. "We now enter our 20th season with enormous momentum with our new television partnerships, dynamic star players from the US, Canada and abroad, and two new expansion teams in New York City and Orlando that will debut in front of more than 60,000 fans on Sunday in the Citrus Bowl. This agreement will provide a platform for our players, ownership and management to work together to help build Major League Soccer into one of the great soccer leagues in the world."
According to reports, the new CBA will be a five-year deal, taking the league to 2020.
The major sticking point for the Players Union was reportedly a desire for unrestricted free agency. The final deal reportedly will give free agency for players 28 years of age or older who have at least eight years of experience in MLS.
Also, a player's raise through free agency will be capped by a percentage. Those who make less than $100,000 can make up to 125-percent of their salary, players making between $100,000-$200,000 can make up to 120-percent, and those making any more than that can go up to 115-percent of their salary.
The new CBA also makes some other significant changes to MLS. The league's minimum salary increases from $36,500 in 2014 to $60,000 and will increase incrementally each year of the deal. The maximum salary under the cap will also be increased, but those figures were not released.
With the league scheduled to open on Friday when the Chicago Fire travel to the LA Galaxy, and a full slate of games throughout the weekend, pressure grew for a deal to get done. Reports emerged Tuesday afternoon that a strike was likely, with the league not willing to give enough on the free agency front.
In the end, negotiations continued and the two sides reached a deal.
"We are pleased to announce that we have reached a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with the league," Executive Director of the MLS Players Union, Bob Foose told said in the press release. "We are pleased to finally turn our fans attention back to our players and the competition on the field as we get started on the 2015 season."
Columbus Crew SC will kickoff 2015 on Saturday night as they take on the Houston Dynamo on the road. It will mark year two of head coach Gregg Berhalter's tenure after returning the club to the MLS Cup Playoffs in his first season. It also means Crew SC fans won't have to wait longer to see some new faces, such as Kei Kamara, Hernan Grana, and Kristinn Steindorsson, make their official debuts.
"We are pleased that a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) has been reached in principle between Major League Soccer and the MLS Players Union," Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt said in a statement released by the club. "This is positive news for fans of this sport in North America, and of course in Columbus. As our team turns its attention to the 2015 MLS campaign, Columbus Crew SC strives to continue to be successful on and off the pitch, combining good business and good soccer. We look forward to delivering a first-class experience in 2015 for supporters and partners at MAPFRE Stadium and we eagerly anticipate beginning our historic 20th year in the League."
"This is great news for soccer fans across North America," Berhalter added in regards to the agreement. "We are excited to start the season and are grateful for the hard work put in by both parties in their efforts to reach an agreement."
"We are pleased to have reached a new five year collective bargaining agreement with the League," Crew SC representative to the MLS Players Union Ethan Finlay added. "The players are excited to turn our focus back to the field."
Columbus' match with the Dynamo kicks off at 8:30 p.m. ET Saturday night. Check back to Massive Report for all you need to know about the match as we get closer.