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The MLS CBA for Dummies

Let me try to explain what's happening between the Players Union and MLS in dummy terms

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The 2015 schedule is out. The SuperDraft, the Re-Entry Draft, the Dispersal Draft, the 'We're MLS So We're Going to Have Another Draft' Draft are done with. Pre-season training has begun for all the clubs, but what are these rumblings you keep hearing about over on the interwebs about a potential strike? What's this CBA thing? Is it some kind of degree players need to get to become pros? And why would that stop the 2015 season from starting? I don't have the answers to everything, but I will do my best to summarize it all here.

What is this CBA thing?

The CBA stands for Collective Bargaining Agreement. It is basically an agreement between the union (which are the players) and the league which sets some basic standards over player salaries and benefits.

Cool... So why is thing so important now?

Glad you asked. The current CBA is set to expire on January 31st, 2015. Yes, tomorrow!

Why can't they just renew what they had originally? Seemed like it was fine to begin with...

Well, yes and no. The players and the league could, but the players would like to take this opportunity to raise a few standards such as raising the league minimum, so that the players are paid more and they are also advocating for a true free agency.

What's the league minimum salary?

Peanuts. In 2014, non-senior players had a minimum salary of $36,500 (or $17.55/hr). Senior players have a minimum of $48,500 (or $23.32/hr).

What are the pain points being discussed?

We know free agency is the big one but recently Bob Foose (the Union leader) said that the two sides are pretty far off on other issues as well.

What about the free agency thing that the players want?

Free agency in sports is pretty simple and it works just like it does in the non sporting world. If a player is out of a contract, and wants to talk to several teams about joining their team, then he can do so under free agency. So it would just be like you if you were out of a job and looking for employment and you'd want to start talking to multiple companies to flush out your options. The current league structure prohibits that, otherwise known as the single entity, which gives teams ways to hold on to a players rights, so they cannot negotiate with other teams.

Sounds pretty crappy for the players. But why doesn't the league want free agency?

In theory, giving players this ability to move freely between teams would cause teams to fight over players and in simple economic terms, play into the supply and demand thing. If Mauro Diaz was a free agent, then several teams would go after him, and he would then let the teams go into a bidding war so he could get the highest salary possible. The other theory against free agency is that it would mean a break down in parity and giving each team a reasonable chance to win something, like a cannon or trophy or cup thing.

So... what happens if January 31st comes and no one can agree to anything?

The players have an agreement right now to continue going in training until the end of preseason. So we're talking before March's First Kick. It's pretty common practice in labor negotiations to operate under the existing CBA as long as progress is being made toward a new one.

What happens if there's a work stoppage?

Players say they won't continue without a CBA (strike!) and the owners could basically play their game in this chess match and cut the season short due to the threat of a strike (hello lockout).

Do you think the players will strike?

Eh.... Next question.

Actually I'm not sure on this one. It's one thing for NBA players to on on strike where the league minimum is a bit over $500k. It's an entirely different thing for someone making $36k to go without a paycheck. It is possible that the Union has a fund they can tap into for the lower waged players but that could run dry fairly quickly. I would imagine those players making $48k (hi Tesho!) to not be thrilled by a strike.

Will the owners lock the players out?

Right now that group has given absolutely zero evidence that they are even thinking that way. You have to figure that the owners are looking at past lockouts in other leagues as guidance as to how not to do certain things in this process.

Who should we support in this process?


Anything else we should know?

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I'm also out of guacamole, if someone wants to hit me up...