USL Championship players ratify first collective bargaining agreement

Players in the USL Championship overwhelming ratified the first collective bargaining agreement between the United Soccer League and United Soccer League Players Association, a source familiar with the vote told Soccer America.

The six-day voting window ended on Monday afternoon. For passage, 70 percent of USL Championship players need to take part in the vote, and two-thirds needed to approve the agreement for it to take effect.

Soccer America was told that 87 percent of players voted to approve the agreement. The five-year agreement covering 2021-25 also required ratification by the USL’s Board of Governors. An announcement by the league and players is expected on Tuesday.

Key points:

-- A minimum compensation structure (beginning at $2,700 a month in 2022 to $3,100 in 2025);
-- New standards for player contracts (covering such things as per diem payments and appearances) and arbitration and grievance procedures;
-- New standards for working conditions (start dates, number of games, days off, bereavement and family leave)

In November 2018, the USL voluntarily recognized the USLPA as the union representing players in the Division II league. (It does not cover the Division III USL League One or the Super League, the Division II women's league the USL plans to launch in 2023).

Bargaining began in 2019 in Tampa, at the USL's headquarters, and took 32 months.

First collective bargaining agreements are always difficult to complete because both parties must agree among themselves the important issues to be prioritized in negotiations and simply because of the back and forth that goes into agreeing on so many terms. Heavy player turnover from season to season adds another wrinkle.

The process of reaching the USL Championship's first CBA was complicated because of the Covid-19 pandemic that halted league play in March 2020 and put in doubt the completion of the 2020 season.

The USL finished shortened USL Championship and USL League One regular seasons but was forced to cancel the championship games in both leagues because of Covid-19 issues.

The USL Championship, whose regular season will end this weekend, has 31 teams in 2021. It will add Queensboro FC and Monterey Bay FC in 2022. By 2033, all MLS-operated second teams in the USL Championship and USL League One will move to the new MLS Division III league.

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Players in the American Hockey League and ECHL, the two largest minor ice hockey leagues, are represented by the Professional Hockey Players’ Association, which was formed in 1967. The Basketball Players Union was formed in 2020 to represent the players in the NBA's G League. There has never been a union for Minor League Baseball players.
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