First ever group of MLS free agents available to be signed from today

Major League Soccer will see free agents available to be signed for the first time ever from today.

A total of 26 players are part of the first MLS free agency group after seeing their contracts expire at the end of the 2015 season and will be able to negotiate with potential suitors from 1pm ET (6pm GMT) today.

Free agency has been introduced to the league as part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement that was agreed back in March, before the start of the 2015 campaign, and it will now be seen in use for the first time in MLS history.

Out-of-contract players who are at least 28 years old and have a minimum of eight years of service in MLS are eligible for free agency, including the likes of Corey Ashe, Ned Grabavoy, Jeff Larentowicz, Mike Magee and Alan Gordon.

Full list of the 26 MLS players available for free agency from today:

GK Jon Busch (Chicago Fire)
GK Troy Perkins (Seattle Sounders)
GK Kyle Reynish (New York Red Bulls)
GK Andrew Weber (Portland Timbers)

DF Corey Ashe (Orlando City SC)
DF Bobby Burling (Colorado Rapids)
DF Ty Harden (Chicago Fire)
DF Michael Harrington (Colorado Rapids)
DF Stephen Keel (FC Dallas)
DF Drew Moor (Colorado Rapids)
DF James Riley (Colorado Rapids)

MF Eric Avila (Orlando City SC)
MF Brian Carroll (Philadelphia Union)
MF Ricardo Clark (Houston Dynamo)
MF Ned Grabavoy (New York City FC)
MF Nick LaBrocca (Colorado Rapids)
MF Jeff Larentowicz (Chicago Fire)
MF Justin Mapp (Montreal Impact)
MF Paulo Nagamura (Sporting Kansas City)
MF Nathan Sturgis (Houston Dynamo)

FW Chad Barrett (Seattle Sounders)
FW Edson Buddle (LA Galaxy)
FW Conor Casey (Philadelphia Union)
FW Kenny Cooper (Montreal Impact)
FW Alan Gordon (LA Galaxy)
FW Mike Magee (Chicago Fire)

Which of the free agents above do you think will be the most sought after in MLS?

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Sounders waive Cooper, Montreal Impact express interest

By Sandy Beeson – Twitter: @Sandy_Beeson

Having helped Seattle Sounders lift the Supporters’ Shield in 2014, Kenny Cooper is now facing the prospect of finding a new club and lining up for a fifth team in MLS having been waived from Seattle’s roster.

Despite recording his lowest goal tally in MLS, albeit in just 12 appearances, the striker played a key role in the Sounders’ success last year with game-winning goals against Columbus Crew, Cascadia rivals Portland Timbers and Cooper’s former side FC Dallas, helping to secure a first Supporters’ Shield title for Seattle.

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After spending a full preseason with the Sounders, Cooper was left out of the matchday squad by coach Sigi Schmid for the team’s opening fixtures and was conspicuous in his absence from training this past week. It is likely that Cooper’s usefulness to the squad was seen to be outweighed by his comparatively large $200,000 salary with speculation that this is a move by Sounders to create more cap space for an impending move.

MLSsoccer.com state that Cooper is eligible for the Waiver Draft but, theoretically, if he was to clear waivers he would presumably be eligible for free agency, which came into effect as part of this year’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.

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One club who have already expressed an interest in Cooper are the Montreal Impact, a side currently lacking in forward options, particularly after the news that CONCACAF Champions League hero Cameron Porter will likely miss the entire 2015 season with an ACL injury.

Cooper, who speaks fondly of brief spells at both Oldham Athletic and Plymouth Argyle earlier in his career, not to mention two years spent with Premier League giants Manchester United, would provide an experienced option for any team willing to take on his salary.

Named as part of the MLS Best XI in 2008, Cooper has 75 MLS career goals in 210 appearances.

Would Kenny Cooper be a good signing for the Montreal Impact?

MLS player strike still looms with CBA agreement yet to be reached

By Keave Tollington – Twitter: @KeaveT

With the beginning of the 2015 MLS season just four days away, the threat of a player strike just won’t go away.

Major League Soccer’s five-year Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) contract came to an end in January, spurring appeals from the MLS Players Union (MLSPU) to introduce free agency and look at various other issues concerning player’s salaries before a new CBA was to be signed.

The MLSPU wants its members to be able to move clubs freely, just like the European leagues allow their players to do. Currently in MLS, if a player’s contract runs out, they remain club property.

An agreement has yet to be reached between the MLSPU and the league and the possibility of a player strike still looms large with just four days to go until the new season gets underway. There was a similar situation in 2010, when a player strike was dodged right at the last minute when MLS compromised and introduced a Re-Draft System.

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The Re-Draft System (which is currently still used) allows players to move on at the end of their contract. However there is no option for multiple bids to be put forward for players which means a player has very little choice on his destination and makes it hard for a good deal for the player to be reached.

MLS have been against free agency for the league since its inception. MLS and the MLSPU have been in talks for several months now and the league appear to be adamant that they won’t budge. But the players also look like they aren’t giving up in the fight for free agency, which leaves the league in a very difficult situation. MLS run a single-entity structure which means they own every single player’s contract.

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Most MLSPU members seem to believe that for the league to become on-par with the European leagues, free agency is essential. However, Real Salt Lake owner Dell Hansen believes that “free agency talks are a waste of time” – a comment in which he is reportedly being fined $150,000 for.

The MLSPU presumably want a system similar to that seen in Europe – players there have more options to get the best contract they can, with the club of their choice. Most of those who are against this argue that ‘free agency’ only really affects ‘free agents’. However as contracts come to an end each season, all players are often left feeling uncertain about their next move and the financial implications it might entail.

Another talking point to come out of the CBA discussions is the pay disparity in MLS. The league’s minimum salary of $36,500 is among the lowest compared to many professional leagues. A handful of stars earn millions each season but the 2014 average salary was $92,000. MLS are more open to compromising over minimum wages and salary caps than they are about free agency. The full extent of MLS pay disparity can be seen here.

It is still unclear whether there will be MLS action this weekend but Nat Borchers told ESPNFC that the MLSPU remain “very hopeful in the next two or three days that we’re going to come up with something that’s a win-win solution.”

Do you think the 2015 MLS season will start on time?