I don’t often cover professional soccer here. To be honest, I think this is probably the first time I’ve ever written about Major League Soccer.
There’s a good reason to be writing about them today, though, and that’s a provision in the labor agreement soccer players and owners reached:
Players who are at least 24 and have five years of MLS service will be eligible for free agency, down from 28 and eight years of service. The deal caps the increases in contracts for free agents.
That age and number of years of service are probably too low for baseball, since soccer players often begin play in their major league at far younger ages than most baseball players. Baseball players hone their craft in the minor leagues, in college ball, or both, before being promoted to the big leagues. MLB is looking to change that system, too, but that’s a story for another day.
Why couldn’t baseball have a system similar to this? For example, baseball players could become free agents nine years after they were drafted from high school, or six years out of college. This would make MLB players free agents at age 27 or 28, younger than the typical 30-year-old free agent today. Big-name FA can still get paid at 30, but the mid-range guys are getting left out.
Here’s one possible holdup to this idea:
MLS announced new labor agreement in which a player is eligible for free agency if he (1) is 24+ and (2) has 5+ years of service. As MLB grapples with the Kris Bryant issue, this could be a model for compromise. (MLBPA prefers age only, MLB owners prefer service time only.)— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) February 6, 2020
Still, there might be some room for compromise here, as Bill Shaikin suggests. Perhaps some combined form of age, the number of years since being drafted, and service time? And at a certain point, players would probably want “service time” defined in years rather than days on a MLB roster, the exact thing that Kris Bryant’s grievance was about.
This is going to be the most contentious part of the labor negotiations for the post-2021 CBA. Maybe there’s a bit of an opening here.