MLS and the MLS Players Association agreed to a deal to amend the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement and to make financial concessions this year, paving the way for the return of the league to match action in the coming weeks.
Players agreed to $100 million in financial breaks this year, including a standard pay cut for the remainder of the year (5 percent or 7.5 percent, depending on reports) and a maximum bonus fund of $5 million for the league. In addition, the new CBA will run an additional year, to Jan. 2026, will include a force majeure clause allowing either party to cancel the deal, but that force majeure won’t be tied to attendance figures as the team owners previously proposed. Revenue sharing with players will also shift over the course of the CBA, the revenue sharing provision new to the league as of the CBA signed earlier this year.
The agreement came after the league threatened what seemed like a nuclear option, a lockout, earlier this week and demanded players agree to the team owners’ demands or else. The league had previously asked for a force majeure clause that would allow the CBA to be broken if five teams saw attendance dip 25 percent, which seemed like a strange and easy way to break a deal, while also requiring notoriously loose standards about attendance to be tightened up. In response to the lockout threat, players did not turn up for putatively voluntary training sessions Monday and Tuesday to express their discontent with the hardball tactics.
Here is the full statement from the MLSPA:
The result of all of this is that a formal announcement of MLS’s return to play plan is expected in the coming days. Based off reputable reports of the past several weeks, the plan is expected to be for all 26 teams in MLS to go to Orlando for a reopening tournament, after several months of dormancy during the coronavirus pandemic. Teams will be in Orlando for around six weeks, while the tournament itself will last just over a month, according to a comment from league commissioner Don Garber on Wednesday. Teams are expected to play three games during the tournament in group play to count towards the regular season standings, while top finishers will progress to a knockout stage. It’s all likely to be pretty similar to the World Cup format.
Garber said players would be required to participate, barring punishment, except under specific exemptions, although those details are not known. This is relevant because it’s unclear if Los Angeles Football Club star Carlos Vela, among other players, will want to go to Orlando at all, with Vela’s wife pregnant and the couple also having a young child already. Will Vela be exempt? Will he want an exemption? That remains to be seen.
The return to play plan has not yet been confirmed by the league but that is expected this week or next. Again, don’t expect any major changes from what’s already been reported, but the league announcement will confirm details and fill in where needed. We’ll be sure to bring you that news as it drops.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.