MLS Players Get Big Win With New CBA's Charter Flight Provision
The increase in charter flights for MLS clubs that was announced as part of the league's new CBA is a "huge win for the players," according to Jonathan Tannenwald of the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER. Clubs now will be "required to fly charter for eight one-way trips" this season, and that number will "rise to 16 one-way trips" in the '24 regular season. The old rule was that teams "could use up to four one-way charter legs for league games per season," though some teams "didn't use any." Clubs also will be "required to fly charter for all playoff games," and Concacaf Champions League games "played abroad." Increasing charter flights was "one of the players' big priorities, and they had widespread support on it from fans." A source said that the league "agreed with calls by the players and even some coaches for chartering more in the name of player health, increasing rest and recovery time." However, Tannenwald notes MLS "wasn't willing to go all the way on mandating charters for every game" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 2/7).
RECENT TOPIC OF CRITICISM: In Cincinnati, Pat Brennan notes charter flights were included in the new CBA "partly in response to years of complaints about the burden of commercial air travel" for clubs (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 2/7). In Toronto, Steve Buffery notes travel has been a "big problem for players in MLS, particularly for those who have played in the higher tier leagues in Europe" (TORONTO SUN, 2/7). In Montreal, Pat Hickey notes the travel provision is "particularly important for the Impact because there are no non-stop flights available from Montreal to many of the MLS cities" (MONTREAL GAZETTE, 2/7). Whitecaps D Jake Nerwinski, who serves as the team's MLSPA rep, acknowledged the team had "some crazy travel days last year," but added, "The new parameters we put in are definitely going to help." Minnesota United MF and MLSPA Exec Board member Ethan Finlay said that the reason charters were "so important came down to health, not pampering players." Finlay: "You have a lot of games in a tight window. We weren't just looking for the comfy travel of a charter flight. Our primary reason was to improve the game" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 2/7).
GOOD DEAL FOR PLAYERS: In Salt Lake City, Alex Vejar notes the players got "virtually everything that they were asking for, potentially putting the league on a positive trajectory for the foreseeable future." Real Salt Lake MF and MLSPA player rep Nick Besler "didn't push back when asked if the league's players got everything they wanted in negotiations." Besler said that as a whole, they are "happy with the new provisions in the CBA." Vejar notes players now will "reach free agency much earlier -- at 24 years old and at least five years of MLS service." Under the previous agreement, those numbers were 28 and eight. Clubs also will be "allowed to spend more under the new CBA." A club now will be "able to spend more than" $11.6M by '24 -- an increase from about $8.5M last season -- in player salary for non-designated players. While the better terms for free agency, salaries and travel "obviously highlight the agreement, there are some less sexy elements that were also important that players receive." Besler said that one of those is the "new monetary bonus players will receive for making the game-day roster of 18." In the previous agreement, only players who made an appearance in the game or made the starting 11 received a bonus (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 2/7). In Minneapolis, Jerry Zgoda notes the players for the first time will "share increased revenue generated by the league's new media deals" in '23 and '24. MLS will "increase player spending by 25% of new revenue generated beyond" $100M. The league's current local, national and international media rights expire after the '22 season. Finlay "calls it a new kind of 'partnership' with the league." He said, "We haven't had that type of relationship in 25 years. Hopefully, we can share and prosper" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 2/7).
LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL: Crew GK and MLSPA player rep Jon Kempin said, "We had a list of acceptable results, if you will. And we came in at or above all of those. So we are happy with the deal" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 2/7). This was the third CBA that Atlanta United MF and MLSPA Exec Board member Jeff Larentowicz contributed to, and he said that it was "by far the easiest." In Atlanta, Doug Roberson notes there were "no last-minute meetings with federal mediators" in DC, nor was there "a lot of acrimony" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 2/7). In DC, Steven Goff notes the players "made notable gains, leaving a buoyant tone among" MLSPA leadership, which "made considerable concessions five years ago" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/7). SI.com's Brian Straus noted for the players, there is "now some sense of satisfaction." They "learned some lessons and made some sacrifices" in '15, and then were "able to reap more rewards" this time around. Larentowicz said there was "plenty of heat" after the '15 deal was reached. Larentowicz: "When you step back and look at how this deal looks and how it relates to the last deal, they really go hand in hand. Maybe the heat we took, we weren't going to see the fruition of that labor until now and I think we see it here." He added, "It's not perfect, but I think where we are now is in a much better spot because of 2015" (SI.com, 2/6).