By Michael Lewis
The Major League Soccer Players Association Thursday presented a counter proposal to MLS, saying that it will make more than $200 million in economic concessions while adding a two years to the Collective Bargaining Agreement. That deal would extend the agreement to 2026, for the years the league has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Dec. 29, MLS invoked a force majeure clause on the CBA on Dec. 29. The league claimed it had lost almost $1 billion in 2020, with some $725 due to the pandemic. Invoking the clause reopened negotiations for 30 days, with two options. Either side could nullify the CBA or negotiations could continue.
Both sides reached a tentative agreement on a five-year CBA, just before the pandemic closed down the league.
“Players and staff have clearly borne substantial risk to their physical health because of the pandemic,” the MLSPA statement said. “With these concessions, players have also unquestionably borne a substantial portion of the league’s COVID-related financial losses. To the extent that those losses continue beyond current expectations, the CBA allows teams to further reduce expenses by adjusting their discretionary spend. Most importantly, this offer creates a revised CBA framework to ensure the continued growth and stability of MLS in the years to come. In exchange for and in recognition of these concessions, the proposal includes modest non-economic changes for the 2025 and 2026 seasons, changes that would benefit players by reducing the age for free agency eligibility by one year and decreasing some of the restrictions on free agent earnings.
“While concessions are always difficult to make, players have seen first hand the severe impact the pandemic has had on MLS. They recognize and appreciate the collective sacrifice that was required from league staff, club staff, matchday employees, ownership groups and fans to complete the 2020 season, and they recognize that this impact will continue to be felt by all as the 2021 season gets under way. Today’s proposal will allow players, fans and the entire MLS community to get back to the crucial business of building this league for the years and decades ahead. A work stoppage at this time and in this environment would be catastrophic for the standing of MLS, both domestically and internationally. It is our sincere hope that it can be avoided. Players are ready to play.”
MLS announced that the 2021 season will kick off April 3.
To be continued, for sure.