MLS players union proposes extending contract to avoid work stoppage

Los Angeles (AFP) – The Major League Soccer Players Association said Thursday it has proposed extending the current collective bargaining agreement with the league through 2021.

The union said it was offering the proposal in a bid to avoid a lockout of players by the league, which in December demanded a reopening of negotiations because of ongoing uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the MLSPA, their proposal, coupled with terms reached last June when players took a pay cut in order to resume the pandemic-disrupted season, will result in more than $200 million in economic concessions from the players.

“While concessions are always difficult to make, players have seen first hand the severe impact the pandemic has had on MLS,” the union said in a statement. “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.

“A work stoppage at this time and in this environment would be catastrophic for the standing of MLS, both domestically and internationally,” the statement said. “It is our sincere hope that it can be avoided. Players are ready to play.”

On Monday, MLS unveiled plans for a 2021 season to kick off on April 3 and culminating with the MLS Cup in mid-December.

A statement from MLS said 27 teams, including new expansion side Austin FC, would each play 34 games before the playoffs get under way in November.

But financial matters remained to be sorted out after the MLS invoked a force majeure clause in the collective bargaining agreement to reopen negotiations on a contract that was agreed upon but not ratified before the 2020 campaign and revised in the face of the pandemic.

MLS commissioner Don Garber said the league lost $1 billion due to the pandemic and could not afford another season of comparable losses.

The MLSPA countered that the renegotiation was prompted by “financial opportunism.”

The union said Thursday its latest proposal “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.”

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