MLS: The new CBA a win-win

CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 11: MLS Commissioner Don Garber during the MLS SuperDraft 2019 presented on January 11, 2019, at McCormick Place in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Andy Mead/YCJ/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 11: MLS Commissioner Don Garber during the MLS SuperDraft 2019 presented on January 11, 2019, at McCormick Place in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Andy Mead/YCJ/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

On Thursday afternoon, MLS and the MLS Players’ Association agreed to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The deal is a win-win for all involved.

Major League Soccer and the Major League Soccer Players’ Association have agreed to a new five-year Collective Bargaining Agreement. The deal includes a multitude of changes to both player benefits and roster construction.

What did MLS get out of the new CBA? The biggest change in terms of roster construction is the new third Designated Player restrictions. MLS announced that there is now a restriction on the third DP a club can sign. This was rumoured to be potentially happening in an article by Sam Sketsjal of The Athletic earlier this year. The new DP rule restricts the wage a player can earn to the maximum amount of TAM if they are over 23 years of age. This continues the push that MLS is making towards becoming a selling league.

Another addition that they made to the roster construction is that three players under 22 years of age will have a decreased salary budget charge. The exact specifics are not known as of now, but it will impact the future of MLS clubs and roster construction.

The league also changed TAM (Target Allocation Money) and GAM (General Allocation Money). The 1.2 million that was previously given to clubs as TAM is now given as GAM. This allows for increased investment in current MLS players. It could remove a lot of the restrictions that teams had with that money allowing for more inter-league moves.

On the players’ side of things, their most notable achievement in the CBA negotiations was the change to free agency. Players are now eligible for MLS free agency if they have played five years in MLS and are over the age of 24. This is down from the previous eight years of MLS experience required and having to be 28 years old. This is something that MLS players have been craving for a long time, and today, they finally achieved it.

The players also increased the number of charter flights they can take from the previous non-mandatory four to mandatory eight and for all international travel and playoff travel. This was a big topic of discussion last season with some very long travel times for MLS players.

They have also introduced shared media revenue between the players and the league. Per the MLS press release in 2023 and 2024:

"“MLS will increase player spending by an amount equal to 25 percent of the increased media revenue above the amount generated by the league in 2022 plus $100 million.”"

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This is a massive step forward for the players union and MLS and follows in the footsteps of other major leagues in North America.

In terms of a win-win for both sides, MLS has increased the possible amount that clubs can spend on their rosters via GAM and the salary budget from $8.49 million in 2019 to $11.643 million in 2024. The agreement will allow for higher salaries. As part of this increase in potential spending for MLS rosters, the minimum salary a senior player can earn will increase per season to $109,000 in 2024.

Agreeing the CBA is an incredibly positive move for the MLS and MLSPA. It has signalled a willingness to invest in younger talent, while also improving the rights of MLS players. It will be interesting to see where this takes the league moving forward, and if it has anymore wider ramifications than just what’s in the initial press release, but the fact that it has even been agreed upon this soon is a positive for MLS fans everywhere as it avoids a potential work stoppage and will keep MLS players playing until 2025 at the very least.

MLS fans should be incredibly happy about these changes because it will allow for more offseason changes, worldwide respect, and young talent to break into the league. MLS is pushing away from the ‘retirement league’ joke and towards a respectable organization that can produce talented young stars.

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It makes the next month or so even more interesting with teams still needing to fill DP slots and build their rosters. The ramifications of this agreement will be felt instantly around the league. There will be countless changes over the next month as teams add their new DPs and adjust to the threat of free agency. MLS is about to get a whole lot crazier than it already was going to be over the next month, so get excited MLS fans, cause we’re just getting started.