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My solution to the MLS CBA situation

It is clear with just a week until the regular season is due to start, and just days before the players threaten to strike that a solution is needed and while I like a lot of things that Peter Wilt offered up in his recent post, I think he actually falls short on a number of issues.



Peter Wilt's version

My Version

1. Unilateral options and semi-guaranteed vs. multi-year and guaranteed contracts

Standard contracts are one year plus three one year League options.  No minimum # of guaranteed contracts.

Same for length of contracts and options.  Create a minimum of four guaranteed contracts per team growing to six over the course eof the CBA.

No guarantees until the teams can negotiate their own contracts, 2014 should be an option for each team to determine the risk to their own finances.

2. International transfer fees.  Players want 10%.

MLS receives 2/3 of transfer fees and teams receive 1/3.


50% league, 50% team as long as league owns all contracts. I like a 70% team, 20% league, 10% player if the team owns contracts

3. Standard salary escalator

5% increase each year of contract (for most players)

7% increase for 2nd and 3rd years; 10% for fourth year

No flat rate increases unless a player is making the league minimum.  Raises are earned; teams should treat players with respect and earn their loyalty.  I would never have allowed Stuart Holden to earn $35,000 last year, he should have had his deal reworked and perhaps he would still be in MLS

4. Standard length of contracts

Four years

Four years for 1st contract; 3 years for 2nd

I like the 4, then 3 year contract idea

5. Length of CBA

Five years

Five years

4 years

6. Free agency


Restricted - Allowed after 7 years in MLS. Draft pick compensation.

I like the 7 year deal, but would add a 24 month "non-compete" for players who leave MLS, they would be "limited free agents" upon return to the league

7. Team autonomy to negotiate contracts



No for this CBA, but yes for 2014, with a redistribution of league income to be negotiated by owners and league

8. Roster spots

18-20 senior; 4 developmental

18-20 senior; 4 developmental in 2010 & add two per year up to 12

20 senior and 4 developmental for 2010, 28 for 2011 and beyond.  2 exempt slots per team

9. Minimum salary

$34,000 for senior roster & $20,100 for developmental

$37,400 in 2010, escalating to $40,000 for senior roster & $22,100 in 2010, escalating to $23,500 in final year of CBA for developmental players

$40,000 for all players with a raise of $2,500 per year.

A top end of $400,000 should be established, with that amount climbing $25,000 each year.

10. Team salary cap


$2,530,000 in 2010, escalating to $2,700,000 in final year of CBA

$3,000,000 in 2010 with a $250,000 raise each year of CBA

11. Waived player rights

Former team retains rights to match new offer for 48 hours



My thoughts and reasons for my options after the jump:


I understand a players desire for a guaranteed contract, heck I would love my boss to tell me that I will earn money for the next 3 years no matter what my performance at work is, but in a league with a low salary cap, I simply don't think that it works.  With the current structure I don't believe players should get 10% of any transfer fee, they are choosing to leave for more money in most cases.  I do believe when teams have more control of contracts, that this is a point that I would grant the players.

Sorry no flat raises unless you make the league minimum, you earn raises.  With the current structure it is hard for teams to redo contracts, I believe that the next CBA must include a basic restructure where teams can negotiate their own contracts.  Once that happens teams would be wise to treat players better and build loyalty, I can think of nowhere that MLS and a team have dropped the ball than letting Stuart Holden play last year for under $35,000.  I am not sure but one has to believe is the league and Houston had worked with him after his breakout year of 2008 to come up with a better deal for him, that we might be able to still see him in MLS.

I like the idea of the first contract being 4 years, I know with some teams like Real Salt Lake that they believe it takes 3 years before a new player is fully up to their capabilities (if that is true then Robbie Findley should really blow up this year and win the golden boot).  That means a team spends two years developing a player and two years getting full results.  I think a 3 year option after that is fair to both teams and the players.

I think the CBA should be 4 years, I believe that MLS and the owners should work on a restructuring of the league that keeps a strong central league but allocates more power to the teams, things like  jersey sponsors, kit providers, player contracts should be handled at a team level.  The league should focus on league sponsors, TV contracts and league promotion of the sport.  I pick 4 years because the MLS deal with ESPN ends in 2014, and one of the keys to changing the structure will be a much better TV deal.  It is up to the league, teams, and players to ensure the continued growth of the sport over the next 4 years so that they can demand a much better TV deal.

Free Agency, I know this is a sticky issue and I actually like Wilt's idea, but I would add a "non-compete" clause where if a player is out of MLS for 24 months that they become a " limited free agent" if they come back to the league.  This will be difficult with the current structure where contracts are done by the league but if that structure changes in 2014 this becomes much easier.  For now returning players would likely have to subject themselves to the "allocation draft", this means if they have a specific team in mind (like Luis Gil) that some level of negotiation would need to take place.  One thing is sure players will find out in a hurry how much a team really wants them, if they are both willing to play them and compensate the winning draft team.

A lot of things hinge on the move of contract negotiations to teams from the league, I believe that this is a tough thing but should be planned for 2014.

I believe that it is too late to change the roster size for 2010, but I do believe a move to a 28 man roster is necessary for the MLS teams to compete better in both MLS and international competition.  I also think that the developmental slots need to go away, every player on a MLS roster should make a living wage of $40,000 with a $2,500 raise each year.  The top end salary should be $400,000 with an increase of $25,000 a year.  Each team should have two exempt slots, which count towards the cap at the top end salary, but any wages above that are the responsibility of the team.

This leads me to believe the raising of the salary cap (what a team can spend but not what they must spend) to $3,000,000 in 2010 with an increase of $250,000 each year of the CBA.  A team in 2011 with 28 players would have available 3.25 million dollars or an average of $116,000 per slot.  If a team used both exempt slots that would leave 2.45 million for 26 roster slots or $94,000 per slot.

I think the current waiver rules are fair as well.


So that is it, that is the deal I would propose.  I think it gives much to the players, while allow teams the things they need to try to continue the move towards profitability.  You will notice I didn't set a percentage of league revenues to be allocated for players, I don't believe that is a fair measure since the players aren't investing in stadiums, franchise fees, and other costs of running a team.  I believe the salary guidelines I have offered are more than fair.