Dear MLS Fans:
On behalf of everyone at Major League Soccer and our clubs, I hope that despite the challenges we all continue to face in 2021, you and your families are having a happy, safe and healthy start to the year.
With the victory by Columbus Crew SC in MLS Cup just over a month ago, we concluded the most remarkable year in our 25 seasons. I truly appreciate everything that our players, staffs, officials, and our ownership did to get us through the year. And I want to thank all of our fans for your continued support of your club during a difficult season. For all that we achieved together, we can proudly say that the 2020 MLS season will be remembered forever.
Today, we turn the page and look ahead to the 2021 season with the MLS SuperDraft presented by adidas as our newest expansion club Austin FC makes the first overall selection. There’s incredible energy around Austin FC, as the club has sold out its season tickets and will debut this spring in a world-class stadium that reflects the spirit of their community. We will also open two new stadiums in Ohio for FC Cincinnati and Columbus Crew SC.
Through all the excitement that comes with the launch of a new soccer season, the COVID-19 pandemic is still very much with us and brings a great deal of uncertainty. I know fans missed being able to attend matches last season and it is certain that there will be significant limitations on attendance this year. Unlike other leagues here and abroad, we are hit harder financially when our fans can’t attend games.
Coming out of the pandemic in the strongest possible position will continue to require everyone in MLS to work together. Last year forced us all to make tough decisions and endure new and difficult challenges. We were forced to reduce our staff at the league and club level as well as reducing salaries. We made significant budget cuts to allow us to fund key initiatives like the MLS is Back Tournament and to continue to pay our players 95% of their salaries.
Our players faced new challenges as well with a revised schedule that had them away from their families for weeks on end and enduring new pandemic-related health and safety protocols.
As we look ahead to a second tough season this year, we met with the MLS Players Association and their player representatives in early January to talk about how we can deal with the ongoing challenges with the pandemic and the impact on MLS for a second year.
The MLS ownership group presented a fair proposal to a very difficult situation that provides the players with 100% of their salaries this year, in return for a two-year extension of the MLS Collective Bargaining Agreement. I’m proud of the solution that our ownership group has presented. The MLS ownership takes the risk and financial losses from the pandemic this year, while protecting the long-term stability of our League by providing an opportunity to earn back some of that financial loss in the future.
Like you, we are all eager to begin the 2021 season this coming March. We presented our proposal to the MLSPA two weeks ago and look forward to receiving a response. We are ready to meet with the MLSPA and players in the coming days and reach an agreement that works for the short- and long-term benefit to all.
We are confident that from these challenging times, MLS will persevere and emerge stronger than ever, and we thank you for your support.
Commissioner Don Garber