Eye to eye, they faced each other. They came this close -- and went no further.
This evening, Major League Soccer and the MLS Players Union came to an 'agreement on principle' on a new collective bargaining agreement. In doing so, the league and the union averted the first strike by a professional athlete's union in the United States since 1994.
A strike -- coming on the eve of the league's historic twentieth season -- was widely considered to be a damaging blow for a sport that, despite impressive inroads, still struggles for mainstream acceptance in the American sports landscape.
With the agreement, however, now both sides begin the furious rush towards kicking off the season on Friday evening. That's when defending MLS Cup champions LA Galaxy face off against the Chicago Fire. The agreement also means that no games will be missed by any MLS teams.
Despite the agreement on principle, multiple hurdles remain. Reports from various news sources indicate widespread dissatisfaction among players on the terms of the deal. The player representatives from seven teams, according to veteran soccer journalist Ives Galarcep, voted against the deal. They were:
- Sporting Kansas City
- New York City
- Real Salt Lake
- Red Bull New York
- FC Dallas
- Colorado Rapids
- Montréal Impact
There is, as of right now, no word on the final terms of the deal. There are multiple reports of anything from a seven-year agreement -- which MLS owners would dearly love -- to a five-year agreement -- which the players' union would be very keen on. There are various details being circulated, but none of these have been verified. However, it looks from every indication that there were definite compromises made on both sides. We will see who compromised more.
An announcement will take place later tonight. We will be covering it, along with further developments on this fast-moving story.
UPDATE: Paul Tenorio of the Orlando Sentinel spoke with a source who has direct knowledge of the deal. According to that source, this looks like a decent deal for MLS players. The agreement will last five years -- until 2020 -- and it creates free agency for those players who are 28 years old or older, and have at least eight years experience in the league. Free agency will be capped depending on the salary:
- Players making less than $100,000 are capped at 25% increase of their salary;
- Players making between $100,000 and $200,000 are capped at 20%; and
- Players making more than $200,000 have a cap of 15%.
So, if you're making $99,000 at that point in your career, you can expect a raise taking you up to, at most, $123,750; if you're making, say, $150K, then you stand to max out at $180,000; and if you're making 500,000, then you can max out at $575,000.
Furthermore, the agreement includes a minimum salary of $60,000, with that number increasing in increments periodically, and presumably an increase in the overall salary cap -- but no hard numbers were available there.
The key term in that whole deal: it's a five-year agreement. So we'll likely be revisiting these issues again in the very near future.