MLS reaches deal to avoid players' strike

Robbie Keane lifts the MLS Cup for La Galaxy in 2014
Image: Robbie Keane lifts the MLS Cup for LA Galaxy in 2014

The 20th Major League Soccer season will get under way as scheduled on Friday after an agreement was reached to avoid the threat of a players’ strike.

Labour talks between MLS officials and the MLS Players Union have been taking place this week at the Washington offices of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

A new five-year collective bargaining agreement was finally reached late on Wednesday to replace the previous agreement which expired on January 31.

The main sticking point in the talks was the players' demand for the introduction of free agency.

MLS has never suffered from a work stoppage but some players had publicly threatened to strike if their demands were not met.

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But MLS commissioner Don Garber said: "I am pleased to announce we have reached an agreement in principle with our union.

"We are not going into details tonight but it is great to be able to continue the momentum that we have been able to build for this league and do it in partnership with our players.

"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."

"The deal is done," said Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando, the team's union representative.

Orlando City representative Tally Hall, whose team make their MLS debut on Sunday against fellow-expansion team New York City FC, said: "When you take a step back and look at the deal we have, [we have] a free agency system in place that other leagues in North America had to have several work stoppages [before a deal was agreed].

“We get something in place without a work stoppage and I think it changes the dynamic of the league."

The deal also includes a rise in the minimum wage in the league and the overall team salary cap although full details were not immediately available.

Chicago Fire players had flown to Los Angeles for Friday's game against the Galaxy not knowing if the match would go ahead.

Watch Orlando City v New York City, followed by Sporting Kansas City v New York Red Bulls, live on Sky Sports 3 from 9pm on Sunday

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