Fresh with a new logo, Major League Soccer has begun another season.
However, the 2015 MLS season hasn’t started smoothly. In fact, it almost didn’t begin on time.
Negotiations took place last week between the league’s owners and players union to reach a new collective bargaining agreement. All MLS players are under contract with the league, and were hoping for increased individual freedom. If Granted their wish, players would be allowed to transfer to different teams more freely and have more of a say in their pay scale. However, the collective bargaining agreement that was reached only allows limited free agency to players aged 28 or older and with 8 years experience in the league.
The MLS minimum salary has also been raised from $36,500 to $60,000. This means that two out of every five MLS players will be receiving a raise this year. But, most professional players in Europe get paid this much or more a week. MLS also has a designated player rule, meaning three players from each club can get paid however much the owners are willing to cough up. Some of the league’s stars like Robbie Keane and Clint Dempsey make upwards of $6 million a year, while their teammates often have to pick up extra work in the offseason.
Half of all MLS players are paid less that $100,000 a year, which can make them wonder why, as professional athletes, they aren’t getting paid more. The league’s salary cap, which doesn’t apply to the designated players, has been raised from $3.1 million to $3.5 million, most of which will be put towards paying players the increased minimum salary.
MLS team owners collectively own the league so if players were able to take some of the power back in their own hands, it would go down as a major coup. If MLS’s salary cap was waved, and owners were able to pay their players whatever they desired, large salaries that are necessary to attract big players would open up.
A new year also includes two new teams: Orlando City SC and New York City FC. Owned by the Abu Dhabi United Group, NYCFC has already been able to boost their roster with competitive signings. David Villa, Frank Lampard, and Mix Diskerud highlight their roster. Diskerud, a central player for the US national team, will add spark to the midfield alongside the composure of Lampard. NYCFC will be playing their home games in Yankee Stadium—a pitch that could attract the Big Apple’s soccer fans away from the New York Red Bulls, whose stadium is in New Jersey.
Orlando on the other end possesses weapons to kick their inaugural season off in the right direction. The standout they’ve signed is Kaká, the world player of the year in 2007 and formerly of Real Madrid and AC Milan. The Brazilian will add class and poise to Orlando’s attack, who will hope to use another in-the-mix US national member Brek Shea’s pace to exploit defenses. Shea has returned to MLS after an unsuccessful stint at English-side Stoke City FC, and will hope to get game time under his belt this season as a reinvented left back.
On Sunday, MLS fans were treated to witnessing both new sides as NYCFC traveled to a sold out Citrus Bowl to face Orlando City. The game ended a 1-1 draw—Diskerud’s curling effort being cancelled out by Kaká’s late deflected free kick—in a game that had positives for both sides as they embark on their inaugural campaigns.
Here in Seattle, the Sounders will expect to have another successful season. Awarded last year’s Supporter’s Shield for having the best regular season record, as well as winning the U.S. Open Cup, the Sounders will hope to push for their first MLS cup title.
The Rave Green has lost one of their most promising young talents in DeAndre Yedlin, who has forgone his hometown team for the Tottenham Hotspurs. The Sounders have drafted University of Washington standout Christian Roldan, who was third team All-American this past fall though he was just a sophomore. Roldan will be pleased to stay in Seattle after being named the Soccer America National Freshman of the Year in 2013, and will hope to burst into the first team and play along the likes of Dempsey and Obafemi Martins.
The Sounders also bring two of the most established center backs in the league: Chad Marshall and Zach Scott. The pair will hope to continue their dominance in the back, and extend the nine clean sheets they earned last year. As always, the midfield brass of Osvaldo Alonso will be at the root of the Sounders play. Alonso started all 33 games he was featured in last season, and won’t be shy of taking the Sounders back to the MLS playoffs.
Whether the Sounders can cope with the reigning champions L.A. Galaxy is a pressing issue. L.A. has lost MLS legend and all-time leading scorer Landon Donovan, but will add Steven Gerrard once the Liverpool captain’s season culminates in May. If the Sounders can get goal production from Martins and Dempsey and keep a rock-solid defense, there is no reason the Emerald City won’t lift its first MLS cup in November.
This is Bianca Sewake's fourth and final year at The Spectator, where she is the Online Content Editor and Managing Editor. She is equal parts excited and terrified that she is graduating with a BA in Journalism this spring. Unlike her hair color, Bianca's love for ice cream will never change.