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MLS and MLSPA ratify new CBA agreement; avoid lockout

Major League Soccer and the MLS Players Association have finalized the new CBA agreement after months of negotiating.

New York Red Bulls v Columbus Crew SC: Round One - MLS Cup Playoffs Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

After plenty of negotiations, Major League Soccer and the MLS Players Association have agreed to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Both parties reached a tentative new deal before the 11:59 p.m. EST deadline on Feb. 5, which was extended 24 hours on Feb. 4, to avoid a lockout. That agreement was voted on and approved by the MLSPA on Monday. With the new agreement finalized on Feb. 8, MLS still has yet to lockout its players in its 26-year history.

The process of agreeing on a new CBA started in late-December when MLS triggered the force majeure clause of the previous CBA. This began a 30-day negotiation period between the league’s owners and the players association. The owners were adamant on expanding the CBA till 2027 which in turn would stall revenue sharing with players until after the 2026 World Cup in North America. That part of the deal was agreed upon.

The players in exchange for keeping the CBA till 2027 will get 100 percent of their salaries for the upcoming 2021 MLS season. Another request from players was granted with changes to free agency starting in 2026. Starting in five years, players will qualify for free agency once they turn 24 and have played at least 4 years in the league. It will remain at five years in the league from 2021 to 2025.

Another detail is a salary budget percentage increase. From 2025 to 2026, the budget will increase by 7.5 percent and then another 10 percent from 2026 to 2027. The number of charter flights allowed per team will be pushed from year-to-year (E.g. 2022 allowance pushed to 2023, etc.) Bonuses will increase as well starting in 2025.

One thing that is getting cut for the players is media rights fees. In 2023 and 2024, players will get 12.5 percent of media rights fees but this is scheduled to return to a 25 percent cut in 2025 through 2027.

After the owners of MLS gave the MLSPA the ultimatum of agreeing on a new deal, multiple players associations around the sports world spoke in support of the MLSPA. The NFL, WNBA, USL, MLB and NBA players associations all tweeted support for the MLSPA while supporters groups in MLS, including the Columbus Crew’s own Nordecke, also spoke out.

The Feb. 4 deadline was extended an extra day with the league stating that both parties had “made progress” and reached an “advanced stage” in the negotiation period before announcing a tentative agreed-upon deal Friday evening with finalization on Monday.

With the new deal in place, league operations will go on as normal and the players will not be locked out. Players will report to their teams after a mandatory quarantine period to avoid COVID-19 infections at the beginning of the preseason. The Crew and the other 26 MLS teams can now begin preparations for the new year starting on Feb. 22 with preseason.

The 2021 MLS season is just around the corner.