MLS commissioner Don Garber confirmed the league and its players’ union reached an agreement in principle on a new collective bargaining agreement Wednesday, averting a work stoppage that could have delayed the start of the 2015 season.
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.”
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 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.
Here's a statement from the league:
Major League Soccer (MLS) and the Major League Soccer Players Union today announced that they have reached agreement in principle on the terms of a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) covering five seasons, commencing with the 2015 season and continuing through the 2019 season.
“We are pleased to finalize the framework for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with our players,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. “We now enter our 20th season with enormous momentum with our new television partnerships, dynamic star players from the U.S., Canada and abroad, and two new expansion teams in New York City and Orlando that will debut in front of more than 60,000 fans on Sunday in the Citrus Bowl. This agreement will provide a platform for our players, ownership and management to work together to help build Major League Soccer into one of the great soccer leagues in the world.”
The concluding phase of the negotiations was conducted under the auspices of Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Deputy Director of Mediation Services and Field Operations Scot Beckenbaugh and Mediator Peter Donatello.
“We are pleased to announce that we have reached a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with the league,” said Bob Foose, Executive Director of the MLS Players Union. “We are pleased to finally turn our fans attention back to our players and the competition on the field as we get started on the 2015 season.”
Major League Soccer’s 20th season kicks off Friday, March 6 when the Chicago Fire take on the defending MLS Cup champion LA Galaxy in a nationally televised match on UniMás at 10 p.m. ET. The other 18 MLS clubs are in action on March 7 and 8, including a tripleheader on “MLS Soccer Sunday” when expansion teams Orlando City SC and New York City FC battle in front of 60,000 fans in the Citrus Bowl (5 p.m. ET, ESPN2), and Fox Sports 1 televises back-to-back MLS matches when Sporting Kansas City host the New York Red Bulls (7 p.m. ET) and Seattle Sounders FC welcome 2014 MLS Cup runners-up, the New England Revolution (9:30 p.m. ET).
ABOUT MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER
Headquartered in New York City, Major League Soccer features 20 clubs throughout the United States and Canada. The 2015 season will feature the most comprehensive U.S. media rights partnership in the history of the league, as eight-year agreements with ESPN, FOX Sports and Univision Deportes will commence. The 2015 regular season schedule can be viewed here. For more information about MLS, visit www.MLSsoccer.com.
ABOUT THE MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER PLAYERS UNION
The Major League Soccer Players Union, headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, is the exclusive bargaining representative for all Major League Soccer players. For more information about the Players Union, log on to its website at www.mlsplayers.org.