[MLS] Major League Soccer and the MLS Players Union reached an agreement in principle on a new five-year collective bargaining agreement, averting a strike scheduled for the start of the 2010 season.
Among the terms of the deal:
-- a re-entry draft for players of a certain age who are out of contract or whose options are not picked up that will have the effect of creating player movement between teams without the inflationary pressure of the teams competing with each other for players;
-- guaranteed contracts for a majority of players based on age and service in the league; and
-- greater compensation for players.
The agreement was announced by MLS Commissioner Don Garber, MLS Players Union Executive Director Bob Fooseand Director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service George Cohen.
The parties were not forthcoming with specific details of the agreement that needs to be approved by the MLS Board of Governors and MLS Players Union.
"MLS was founded on the principle that our owners would not be competing against each other for player services," said Garber. "When we think of free agency, it is that concept of internal bidding, and there will not be internal bidding for player services. Players whose options are not exercised, players who are terminated and players at a certain age -- and just respect the fact that we have got to get this out to our own people before we get it to the public -- will have the opportunity with a certain mechanism of also going into this re-entry draft. That process addresses, to a large extent but not to the total extent, the players' wishes and desires. At the same time, it provides the league with something that is crucial to us and will remain crucial to us. In our view, there is no actual free agency."
The settlement was reached following marathon talks over the last two days. The sides met until 2 a.m. on Friday and 8 a.m. on Saturday. There were 25 player representatives who attended the negotiations.
"I've never seen a group of players that have been more focused, more committed, more knowledable about the issues," Garber said.
In recent months, the players complained that MLS did not take their demands seriously, but when the accord was reached both sides praised the others' commitment to get a deal done.
"We on the union side never questioned for a second the commitment of [Garber] and the league to get a deal done," Foose said. "I don't think they did on our side as well, and when you have those two factors in place, deals get done."
Garber acknowledged that the league and players had made up a lot of ground in recent weeks.
"This has been a major victory for the process of collective bargaining," Cohen said.