You want details and you want them right now. Okay, Major League Soccer just announced some details of their new collective bargaining agreement. Here they are, with instant analysis from someone who should really be doing more important things:
TERM: 2010 – 2014. (Five years, same as the last one. Get ready for the “2015 Strike?” thread on Bigsoccer if it hasn’t happened already.)
GUARANTEED CONTRACTS: Guaranteed contracts for all players who are at least 24 years old with three years of MLS service. The majority of the players in the League will have guaranteed contracts each season. (Keep in mind, that’s guaranteed for that season only, which is better than in baseball and basketball – ask the Cubs how that eight-year Alfonso Soriano deal looks about now. The thing is, it’s the guys making the minimum who really have had to sweat contract guarantee date. If you’re not making a lot, you would at least like the certainty that you’re going to get that. But, I guess they figure that’s a perk given to those who’ve shown they can stick in the league for three years and nothing in life is certain anyway.)
SALARY BUDGET: Team salary budgets go from $2.315 million in 2009 to $2.55 million in 2010 (+10.15%) and 5% per year after that. Senior roster players see their minimum pay go from $34,000 in 2009 to $40,000 in 2010 (+17.64%) and 5% per year thereafter. (Shelling out more money, but still not spending wildly. Don’t expect someone who made $34,000 last year to be 18% better as a player this year, but if this stops the “how can we have professional athletes making this absurdly low salary figure?” columns, that’s a good thing.)
PLAYER MOVEMENT: Next off-season will see a “re-entry draft” for players who are out of contract. Specifics have to be ironed out but players in these categories will go into it:
- A player who didn’t have his option exercised and who is 23 with at least three years of service goes into the draft and is available to all clubs at his option salary.
- Any player at least 22 years old with one year of service who is asked to take a pay cut after having his contract terminated goes into the draft and is available to all clubs at his current salary.
- Any player at least 30 with eight years of service whose contract expires goes into the draft unless he’s offered at least 105% of his last salary. If he goes into the draft, any club can claim him for 105% of his last salary. If you’re at least 25 and have four years of service, you go in the draft unless your club offers you the same base salary (and if he goes into the draft, that same salary applies).
- It says nothing yet about compensation for a player who moves on this way.
(We can form a better opinion once we see it in action, I guess. But the players agreed to it. It’ll be interesting to see how it works. And the league is absolutely against having teams bid against each other.)
OPTIONS IN PLAYER CONTRACTS: Players who are at least 25 years old with four years of service are limited to two option years in their contracts. All others can have up to three. (So they can still lock up the kids, but labor unions are rarely that interested in their newest members.)
Players making less than $125,000 will see a minimum increase in base salary of 10% if they play in two-thirds of their team’s games and 12.5% if they play in three-fourths. (Sounds reasonable…no more keeping a guy low-paid despite the fact he ends up being a contributor.)
PLAYER BENEFITS: Increases in 401K contributions by the League, appearance fees, per diem and relocation expense reimbursement, full health care benefits for every player and his family at no cost, 401(k) contributions and expanded insurance benefits. (Sounds good, yeah?)
BONUSES FOR WINS AND EXHIBITIONS: Bonuses for “wins in MLS games and international tournaments as well as appearance fees for international exhibitions.” (Hey, look at that, the regular season just got more meaningful?)
RESERVE DIVISION: They will establish a committee to “study the re-launch of a Reserve Division,” which would have guys making at least $31,250 with annual increases.(This will make the development geeks go nuts, but the Reserve League really wasn’t developing that many players the first time around. Maybe they’ll take it more seriously if they do it again.)
Overall, seems like a deal everybody can live with (obviously, else they wouldn’t have agreed to it). Accomplishes some things the players wanted, some things the owners wanted, some things fans wanted to see.