Major League Soccer's Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) expired on January 31st. That doesn't seem like that big of a deal until it is framed in the context that the 2015 MLS season is scheduled to begin on March 6th - a mere five weeks separating those two events. This narrow negotiation window has put the 2015 season in jeopardy. The season may not happen at all if the MLS Players Association (MLSPA) and the league's investors (owners) can't come to an agreement and the players subsequently go on strike. I'm in favor of players getting the money that the league brings in. Yes, I know it happens because wealthy businessmen put together a league for it, and they aren't investing in MLS as charity. But fans pay to see the product on the field. They pay to watch the goals being scored, the great saves, the fancy dribbling, et cetera. I just don't see how the players can get all of what they want out of this negotiation.
The new MLS television contract is valued at $90 Million per season. With 20 teams now in the league, that means each team gets $4.5 Million. And that's great, considering the 2014 television deal was for $27 Million. The problem is that according to estimates found after MLS' release of salary figures, the league spent $129.5 Million on player salaries overall last year (for reference, the Philadelphia Union were twelfth in spending at $4.385 Million). There are also kit sponsorships, local television revenues, merchandising, and ticket revenues. There are also operating expenses like travel, stadium leases or construction costs, taxes, and academy/youth development costs. All things considered, it certainly does appear that Don Garber was being straight-forward when he said the league has lost in excess of $100 Million. The new national television deal adds $63 Million to the equation, but the league is still running in the red.
The problem with comparing MLS to other world leagues is that when those leagues were 20 years old, they didn't have competing leagues that were 100 years older and on a completely different (higher) financial plane. Back in the late 19th century, English players didn't have a foreign "Premier League" of some sort to entice them away from their fledgling league with the promise of more money. Consequently MLS has had to overpay players for the star power, helping to drive interest and bring in money which in turn leaves too many roster members inadequately compensated. I think the solution is to keep the league single entity for now, to help control costs, and compromise on the wage boost by upping the league minimum. If at some point during the next eight years of the national television deal the revenues increase, then they can address raises across all tiers of players, but the owners should make a concession on the league minimum guys now.