BETHESDA, Md. -- Major League Soccer players have ratified their five-year collective bargaining agreement that runs through the 2019 season.
The MLS Players Union said Thursday that 91 percent of its members voted in favor of the deal announced March 5, a day before the season opener. MLS spokesman Dan Courtemanche said owners also have approved the agreement.
Players 28 or older with eight or more years of MLS service whose contracts have expired can become free agents, but with limitations on raises: 25 percent for those earning less than $100,000, 20 percent for those earning more than $100,000 and less than $200,000, and 15 percent for those earning more than $200,000.
The minimum salary for the first 24 players on each roster rises from $48,500 last year to $60,000 this season, $62,500 in 2016, $65,000 in 2017, $67,500 in 2018 and $70,250 in 2019. The minimum for remaining players, who must be 24 or younger, increases from $36,500 last season to $50,000 this year, $51,500 in 2016, $53,000 in 2017, $54,500 in 2018 and $56,250 in 2019. Players earning the lower minimum receive bonuses of $500 per league game appearance and an additional $750 per league start.
Each team's salary budget this year increased to $3.49 million from $3.1 million and will go up to $3.66 million in 2016, $3,845,000 in 2017, $4,035,000 in 2018 and $4.24 million in 2019. In addition, each team will receive new allocation money to spend in the amounts of $250,000 this year and next, $300,000 apiece in 2017 and 2018 and $350,000 in 2018.
The union estimates the average salary of players on the senior roster will rise by about $60,000 during the agreement and approach $200,000 by 2019.
Players 24 or older with at least one year of MLS service receive guaranteed contracts, a provision the union said results in 81 percent of players having guaranteed deals. Players 24 or older with at least two years of MLS service may not have more than two option years in their deals, and new contracts for other players are limited to three option years.
The union said there also are increases in league 401(k) contributions, termination pay, appearance fees, per diem for trips and relocation expense reimbursement, plus increased bonuses for league and exhibition wins and exhibition appearance fees.