Soccer Reaches Major League Deal
A crisis has been averted, and Major League Soccer has reached an agreement in principle with its player's association on a new collective bargaining agreement, set to run through the end of 2014.
The details of what the agreement includes have not been fully provided yet, but the details released so far are pretty big in terms of creating stability for the league.
The first major win for the players is the area of guaranteed contracts. Effective immediately, any player who is age 24 or older and has at least three years of service in the league now has a guaranteed contract. That's a pretty big deal, going from playing for your pay to the certainty that whatever money you're signed for, you can still be sure to earn it if you get injured.
Both the league and the player's union made out in terms of free agency. Under the old arcane rule, once a player signed a contract with a given team, that team owned that player's rights indefinitely, even after the contract had expired. This meant that a player had to go to a different league if he wanted to play for any other team.
Under the new deal, every offseason there will be a re-entry draft where teams may select (during their turn in the draft) any player no longer under contract. This simultaneously avoids the owners' concerns of having to engage in bidding wars over every available player. The league also still holds the right to make any and all final decisions on player contracts.
More importantly, the league can now get back to the everyday business of soccer, including a few new wrinkles. The New York Red Bulls now have their own arena, and the Seattle Sounders - fresh off a trip to the Western Conference Finals in their inaugural season - will host the league's newest team, the Philadelphia Union.
The season will open this weekend, and we'll see if a league of slightly wealthier, freer and more secure players can start focusing on playing exciting soccer and establishing a foothold in the American sports landscape.