Progress Through Bargaining

In 2003 MLS players organized a union to represent their interests and begin to reclaim the rights that were stripped from them in the creation of Major League Soccer. In the ensuing years, the players, through their PA, have raised compensation levels across the roster to more accurately reflect players’ role in the league’s success, introduced free agency faster than any other major North American sport, and achieved numerous benefits to support them on and off the field. The primary driver behind all this progress was, and remains, collective bargaining.

How Does Collective Bargaining Work?

  • Collective bargaining enables players to work through the MLSPA to negotiate a contract with league owners establishing the terms of their employment.
  • Players jointly discuss and decide their collective priorities, then elect a group of players from each team (the Bargaining Committee) to represent them in bargaining sessions with the league.
  • Players stay informed and express their opinions through their Bargaining Committee members. The Bargaining Committee makes all the decisions on behalf of the players regarding the development and exchanging of proposals.
  • Once a tentative agreement is reached, all players vote to accept or reject the terms reached by the Bargaining Committee members and the league.
  • If the players vote to accept the terms, the contract is then ratified and legally binds both the players and the league to the terms of the deal.

Who is Involved?

Every player is involved in, and impacted by, the collective bargaining process. Players work continuously to educate themselves on important issues, and every player has the ability to participate in and influence the bargaining process.

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What are the Priorities?

The three previous negotiations each focused on their own critical issues, but there are overarching themes that are priorities for players.

Player Movement

In the 2015 negotiation, despite the league and owners declaring it a "no-go" issue, players successfully negotiated the first form of free agency in MLS history. While the last negotiation was about establishing this fundamental right, today players are focused on creating a path to free agency with fewer restrictions, earlier in players’ careers.


In the early years of MLS, players sacrificed pay and personal stability for the love of the game to create a foundation for a sustainable, successful league. For many, that meant taking salaries as low as $10,000. Since the MLSPA was formed in 2003, we have continually fought to secure real financial gains for players up and down the roster.

Budget Rules

MLS oversees an overly complex and unnecessarily confusing system to build rosters and acquire players. The system is littered with acronyms that fans, commentators and players struggle to understand. Players are committed to working towards and fighting for a system that is more transparent, more fair and allows competition to happen not just on the field but between front offices as well.

Working Conditions and Benefits

Improvements in working conditions, continued investment in infrastructure, and necessary changes to reduce the physical impact of MLS travel demands will all boost player performance on the field and move MLS closer to becoming a “league of choice”. MLS players are real people with families and responsibilities to take care of. For years, players lacked crucial benefits like adequate insurance, retirement plans, and moving stipends. Gradually improving player benefits has been an important focus for the MLSPA to ensure players take care of their life both on and off the field.

Your Support

Gestures of solidarity from fans and Supporters’ Groups on and off the field are essential to our efforts to increase fairness, improve competition, and ensure continued investment in MLS. We thank our amazing fans and Supporters’ Groups for everything they do.

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