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A look at what MLS players could become free agents under a new CBA

A look at what 28/8 means to MLS players.

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The rocket scientist Wernher von Braun is reported to have said "I have learned to use the word 'impossible' with the greatest caution." While his sentiment is more sweeping than a labor agreement between an adolescent sports league and its players, it would certain seem to apply to the new labor agreement signed between Major League Soccer and the players union. Free agency, described as "a foolish place to waste time" as recently as a week ago, is reported to have come to North America's top soccer league.

The details of this arrangement are still trickling out, and may not be fully known for some months. The rough framework, however, appears to open the door for increased freedom of movement between teams for players who are at least 28 years old and have played in the league for eight seasons. Based on the current player pool, those benchmarks appear to apply to roughly 15% of the players in the league.

See the list of 84 players who appear to be eligible for free agency after the 2015 season here.

During the closing stages of this negotiation, as details started leaking out via Twitter about the possible frameworks for free agency, I dug into my archives and tried to assemble a list of affected players. The first version, which surfaced over the weekend, would have conferred free agent status only to players over the age of 32, with ten consecutive years of service to a single team. That threshold has been passed only 15 times in the entire history of the league, and only one active player - Brad Davis - would have qualified.

Players in MLS History With 10 Continuous Years On One Team

Player Seasons Team Notes
Chris Armas 1998 - 2007 Chicago
Davy Arnaud 2002 - 2011 Kansas City
C.J. Brown 1998 - 2010 Chicago
Brian Ching 2003 - 2013 San Jose / Houston * depending on how you treat the Dynamo relocation
Brad Davis 2005 - 2014 San Jose / Houston * depending on how you treat the Dynamo relocation
Landon Donovan 2005 - 2014 Los Angeles
Kevin Hartman 1997 - 2006 Los Angeles
Cobi Jones 1996 - 2007 Los Angeles
Shalrie Joseph 2003 - 2012 New England
Chad Marshall 2004 - 2013 Columbus
Pablo Mastroeni 2002 - 2012 Colorado
Bryan Namoff 2001 - 2010 DC * did not play in 2010, but was on the roster
Duncan Oughton 2001 - 2010 Columbus * missed 2005 season through injury
Logan Pause 2003 - 2014 Chicago
Matt Reis 2003 - 2013 New England
Bobby Rhine 1999 - 2008 Dallas
Gonzalo Segares 2005 - 2014 Chicago

The second (and ultimately final) framework is considerably broader. Of the 521 players who made an appearance in league play last season, at least 84 will be eligible for free agency at the end of their current contract. This pool of players breaks down as follows:

Position Players
Goalkeepers 10
Defenders 28
Midfielders 26
Forwards 20

The positional breakdown underscores the longevity of goalkeeper careers, as they account for a larger share of the free agent player pool than would otherwise be expected.

Team Players
Chicago 4
Colorado 5
Columbus 2
Dallas 4
DC 6
Houston 5
Kansas City 3
Los Angeles 4
Montreal 3
New England 2
New York City 4
New York Red Bulls 2
Orlando 1
Philadelphia 2
Portland 4
Salt Lake 5
San Jose 6
Seattle 5
Toronto 0
Vancouver 1

Please note: several players nominally eligible for free agency under this new agreement have either retired since last year, or are no longer on an MLS roster.

Columbus appears to have two eligible players, defender Tyson Wahl and forward Kei Kamara. Toronto is the only team without any eligible players, while Orlando (Eric Avila) and Vancouver (Jordan Harvey) also have one such player. On the other side of the spectrum, San Jose and DC share the league lead with six players on the list. Houston, Colorado, Salt Lake, and Seattle follow with five apiece.

It bears noting, as the league enters this period of free agency, that players on this list will still need to play out their contract before having the freedom to switch teams. The league has traditionally not released contract details, which makes the task of determining which of these players will actually become free agents somewhat more difficult.

As with many things around Major League Soccer, observers will have to watch how this continuing saga plays out before drawing any meaningful conclusions.