MLS, MLSPA reportedly reach deal to start season

D.C. United plays host to Inter Miami at Audi Field in Washington, D.C., on March 7, 2020. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

D.C. United plays host to Inter Miami at Audi Field in Washington, D.C., on March 7, 2020. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images/TNS)

A collective bargaining agreement has been agreed to between MLS and the players’ union, according to various reports.

Had the players not agreed to a deal by midnight Friday, the owners threatened to lock them out. The vote of members of Major League Soccer Players Association’s bargaining committee and executive board was 24-11, according to ESPN.

The two sides have been negotiating since early January on a new agreement that would allow the 2021 season to begin on time. Training camps are scheduled to open Feb. 22. The season is scheduled to begin April 3.

The MLPSA issued a statement Friday night saying that the players are set to vote on the new deal over the weekend. The league issued a statement Friday night saying that a deal had been tentatively reached and was subject to approval of the MLS Board of Governors and the MLSPA.

The league and the owners of its clubs wanted to extend the CBA through the 2027 season in exchange for the players not receiving any salary cuts for the pending season.

The players had myriad concerns, including the hundreds of millions in concessions they gave up in renegotiating the CBA agreed to in February 2020 and again in the summer after the effects of COVID-19 began to be apparent.

Reportedly, the CBA will extend through the 2027 season, which is what the owners wanted, but the players will receive a larger percentage of TV and media revenues, reaching to as much as 25 percent between 2025-27, which likely will be important after those contracts are scheduled to be up for bids after the 2026 World Cup in the U.S. The players also will receive larger salary possibilities, including 10 percent raises in 2027, and easier terms to qualify for free agency in the final years of the deal. ESPN was the first to report those details.

After agreeing to a CBA in February 2020, the owners re-negotiated the deal after the season was suspended in mid-March. MLS Commissioner Don Garber threatened to lockout the players if they didn’t agree to the revised CBA during the summer ahead of the restart to the season with the tournament in Orlando. It was a tactic that didn’t sit well with the players, citing the possibility of a lack of insurance during the pandemic, among other reasons.

As part of those negotiations, the league inserted a force majeure clause into the CBA. Following the completion of the season in December, the league enacted the force majeure clause and forced the players back to the negotiating table. Garber has said the league lost approximately $1 billion in revenues in last season and is expected to lose money again this season with the COVID-related restrictions on attendance at games.

The MLSPA countered that invoking the force majeure was an act of economic opportunism by the league. The players gave up hundreds of millions in concessions during the summer negotiations on the revised CBA.