MLS avoids strike, agrees to a new collective bargaining agreement with its players

MLS commissioner Don Garber has to be happy that the league's 25th season will start on time. (Omar Vega/Getty)

Major League Soccer’s 25th anniversary season won’t be marred by a strike. A little more than three weeks before the new campaign is set to kick off, MLS and its Players Association announced Thursday that the two sides had come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement that will run through 2024.

The deal is in principle and still subject to the approval of both the MLS board of governors and the MLSPA’s rank-and-file, but that’s considered a formality, sources with knowledge of the situation told Yahoo Sports.

The new CBA includes an increase in spending on players — an increase that includes a share of MLS’ new media rights deals in 2023 and 2024 — plus significantly expanded free agency and an increase in charter flights.

MLS teams will be able to spend close to $12 million on their rosters by 2024, more than $3 million more than the 2019 threshold, not including up to three high-earning “designated” players. The additional $1.2 million in “Targeted Allocation Money” (TAM) each team was able to spend the last three seasons can be used across the entire roster going forward. And the minimum annual salary for senior roster players will jump from about $70,000 last season to $109,200 by the end of the new CBA.

The players made a bigger gain in free agency. In the previous CBA, out-of-contract players who were 28 years old with eight years of MLS service were eligible for free agency. The new deal allows players 24 years or older with five years of service to sign with a new club, although there is a cap on the increases in compensation for those who qualify.

One of the players’ big asks concerned charter flights. In the past, MLS teams could only charter a plane for four legs of travel per season. Many clubs didn’t even charter that often, leading to criticism from players, including high-profile ones like Wayne Rooney. Under the new CBA, every MLS team will be required to charter for eight legs of travel in 2020, increasing to 16 legs by 2024. Additionally, teams will be required to fly private to all MLS Cup playoff games and CONCACAF Champions League matches involving international travel.

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