The Seattle Sounders and Major League Soccer will begin their new seasons on schedule.
MLS commissioner Don Garber confirmed Wednesday that the league and its players’ union reached an agreement in principle on a new collective bargaining agreement, averting a work stoppage that could have delayed the start of the 2015 season.
The negotiations played out over three days in Washington, D.C., with captain Brad Evans representing the Sounders.
The players said their top issue was free agency, and they reportedly won that in a limited form, apparently for players 28 and older with eight of more years in the league. The overall team salary cap also went up, and the league’s minimum salary was increased to $60,000. The contract is believed to run five seasons.
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An official announcement with additional details is expected Thursday.
With the deal, the 20th MLS season will begin on schedule at 7 p.m. Friday when the Chicago Fire visits the defending champion Los Angeles Galaxy.
Six games are scheduled Saturday and then three more on Sunday, including the Sounders’ seventh season opener at 6:30 p.m. against the New England Revolution at CenturyLink Field.
The Sounders trained at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila on Wednesday morning, when it seemed uncertain if there would be an agreement or a strike or a lockout.
“We’re staying on the same schedule and waiting to hear,” coach Sigi Schmid said.
Then word broke around 5 p.m. with a flurry of Twitter reports from media and players, including one from Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando simply reading, “Play ball.”