Washington, DC (SportsNetwork.com) - Major League Soccer and its players' union agreed to terms in principle on a new collective bargaining agreement which will run through the 2019 season, the league announced Wednesday evening.
With the deal in place, the league will avoid its first-ever work stoppage and kick off its 20th season on Friday when the defending champion Los Angeles Galaxy host the Chicago Fire at the StubHub Center.
"We are pleased to finalize the framework for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with our players," said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. "We now enter our 20th season with enormous momentum with our new television partnerships, dynamic star players from the US, Canada and abroad, and two new expansion teams in New York City and Orlando that will debut in front of more than 60,000 fans on Sunday in the Citrus Bowl. This agreement will provide a platform for our players, ownership and management to work together to help build Major League Soccer into one of the great soccer leagues in the world."
Heading into the negotiations, the big sticking points for the players were trying to secure some form of free agency, as well an increase in the minimum salary.
According to initial reports, the league's first offer regarding free agency was to allow a player to pick his next team as long as he had accrued 10 years in the league and was at least 32 years of age.
The deal, according to a report from the Orlando Sentinel, grants free agency to players that are at least 28 years old with eight years of service. A player's raise in free agency is capped based on salary.
The new deal also includes a minimum salary increase to $60,000 per year, a substantial mark-up from the 2014 minimum salary of $36,500.
"We are pleased to announce that we have reached a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with the league," said Bob Foose, Executive Director of the MLS Players Union. "We are pleased to finally turn our fans attention back to our players and the competition on the field as we get started on the 2015 season."
In addition to Friday's opening match, the 2015 season will see the introduction of two new expansion teams: Orlando City Soccer Club and New York City Football Club. The two new clubs will open their seasons against each other on Sunday at the Citrus Bowl.
Other notable opening-weekend matches include the MLS Cup runners-up New England Revolution traveling to CenturyLink Field to face Seattle Sounders FC, while the New York Red Bulls will face Sporting Kansas City at Sporting Park.