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Highlights from the MLS, Players Union CBA

Do you get really excited about convoluted legal documents, too?

MLS: Portland Timbers at Real Salt Lake
Luke Mulholland signs something that is not a collective bargaining agreement, because it is actually a child’s arm.
Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The Collective Bargaining Agreement Between Major League Soccer and Major League Soccer Players Union is an eighty-four page legal document detailing the duties and responsibilities of both parties. I’m going to highlight some of the interesting pieces; at least, they’re things I find interesting. If you’re really tickled by the whole idea, feel free to read up on it! There’s a ton of stuff in there I won’t be able to touch on.

The CBA lasts five years. This one was ratified in 2015; they’ll be up for a new one in 2020. During the term of the CBA, the players agree to not strike & the league agrees to no lockouts.

Things MLS and RSL can require of players

  • Media Appearances
  • Promotional Appearances

Player may be required to make three; $350/per after three and they cannot exceed two hours.

  • Commercial Appearances

Players are not obligated to make commercial appearances for commercial interests that are not the club or MLS; if MLS or the team requests an appearance: $1,000/national, $500/local minimum.

  • Soccer Camps

Teams can require a player to attend one day per year so long as the camp is free. Players may not hold their own soccer camps during the season, but may during off-season. Players may coach youth teams.

  • Bulk Autograph Signings

Twenty-four hours notice is required and players are not required to sign more than twenty-five (unless it’s for the All-Star Game, then it’s seventy-five).

  • Charitable Appearances
  • Post-Game Autograph Sessions

Teams can require two per year without compensation; after two, minimum $225/per.


If a player is unfit for reasons not related to his duties to the squad, he can be suspended for the duration of the unfitness. In addition to this, players may not play other sports or engage in dangerous activities like skiing, rock climbing, skydiving, mountain biking, motorcycling, or moped-riding (yes, moped-riding is specifically named in the CBA; mopeds are really scary).

If hurt on the job, the team continues to pay the player’s wages and MLS pays the medical fees. Players receive medical, dental, life, long-term disability, and Workers’ Compensation insurance benefits.

The really interesting stuff because, you know, we’re a capitalist nation!

The current salary cap is outlined in this article; Designated Players are explained here. The cap and minimum salaries increase each year.

MLS cash bonus pools

  • MLS Cup win: $275,000
  • MLS Cup consolation: $80,000
  • Supporters’ Shield winner (2017-2019): $130,00 (was 55,000; paid instead of conference champion money, not including). This one’s intriguing. There are many who believe the Supporters’ Shield is what actually determines the best team in the league; however, there isn’t much incentive to win it, though the prize takes a big leap this season.
  • Conference champion: $35,000; instead of playoff qualification, not including
  • Qualify for playoffs: $20,000
  • Regular season win: $7,500

Lamar Hunt US Open Cup

  • US Open Cup Final Champion: $250,000. That’s more than the Supporters’ Shield and almost as much as MLS Cup. It’s a surprise more teams don’t dig into this tournament.
  • US Open Cup Final consolation: $60,000

Canadian Championship

$50,000 to the winner.

CONCACAF Champions League:

  • Preliminary win: $3,000
  • Qualify for Group Stage: $40,000
  • Group Stage win: $4,000
  • Team advances to quarter final: $35,000
  • Team advances to semi-final: $40,000
  • Team advances to final: $45,000
  • Team wins final: $50,000

Exhibition Matches

  • Tier 1 Exhibition matches: $54,000

This is paid out against any team from the top division of England, France, Germany, Italy, or Spain.

Matches against AC Milan, Arsenal, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Chivas, Club America, FC Barcelona, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, and Real Madrid are always top tier exhibition matches

  • Tier 2 Exhibition Matches

This is an exhibition match against anyone not Tier 1.

1st match: nothing

2nd and subsequent: $27,000


  • Tardiness

1st offense: warning

2nd offense: $300-$750 depending on salary

Habitual offenders may face steeper discipline, up to suspension or termination.

  • Failure to Appear

$500-$1,000 depending on salary

Habitual offenders may face steeper discipline, up to suspension or termination.

  • Specific team rules

Team rules are subject to commissioner approval and must follow the same disciplinary fines as the previous two items.

League discipline trumps team discipline; players cannot be disciplined multiple times for the same infraction

  • Commissioner discipline:

Includes both on- and off-field conduct that is detrimental to the league.