AMERICA’S most eagerly anticipated Major League Soccer season to date is set to kick off tonight after the threat of strike action was averted just 48 hours before the first match.
Four days of negotiations between the players’ union and the league finally resulted in a new collective bargaining agreement and avoided a humiliating delay for MLS chiefs.
Players succeeded in securing a higher minimum salary, believed to be £39,000, and, for the first time in the league’s 20-year history, free agency for out-of-contract players, although that only extends to those aged 28 or older who have spent at least eight years in the league.
“It required a lot of hard work from the players, the players’ union, ownership coming together to try to capture lightning in a bottle,” said MLS commissioner Don Garber.
This season is set to be MLS’s biggest yet, with former England stars Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard due to join mid-campaign, greater international television exposure due in part to a new deal with Sky Sports, and two new teams.