The 2020 Major League Soccer season will officially take place after the MLS Players Association finally agreed to a return-to-play proposal.
There appeared a real danger of a lockout during a tense few days earlier this week, as both sides tried to reach an agreement over a series of economic concessions to mitigate the financial impact of the global Covid-19 pandemic.
MLS owners pushed back an ultimatum to the players by a day to 12pm ET today (June 3) to agree to a deal, which was officially announced by MLSPA at 11am.
Changes to the recently-agreed collective bargaining agreement have now been ratified, which include a one-year extension through 2025.
According to reports, the players agreed to a five per cent salary cut this year, MLS backed down from the inclusion of a force majeure clause which is tied to attendance in 2021, and both parties reached an agreement on changes to a revenue-sharing plan related to a new broadcast rights deal that will begin in 2023.
The MLSPA said in a statement: “MLS Players today ratified a new collective bargaining agreement, which will run through the 2025 season. Today’s vote also finalizes a plan to resume the 2020 season and provides players with certainty for the months ahead. It allows our members to move forward and continue to compete in the game they love.”
The union also acknowledged they are planning a return to play in a society now very different than just a few months ago due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and ongoing protests across the US regarding racial injustice and police brutality.
“We hope our return to the field will allow fans a momentary release and a semblance of normalcy. We are committed as a group to doing all that we can – both as leaders in our sport as well as leaders in our communities – to help carry our countries, our communities, our league, and our sport forward,” the MLSPA said.
“Navigating the challenges of the past several months would not have been possible without the incredible dedication and leadership shown by our Executive Board and Bargaining Committee. Finally, none of what we do as Players would be possible without our Supporters Groups and fans, and we thank them for their continued support and solidarity,” the union’s statement concludes.
It also means that MLS is now poised to return with a quarantined summer tournament at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida. The competition’s details have not yet been finalized but it is believed to include a group-stage format before a knockout tournament.
MLS commissioner Don Garber told reporters there would be additional cameras and audio features during the tournament. The original event was twice as long before it was cut back due to concerns over the time players would be spending away from their homes.
The league has been eager to salvage its 2020 season, which was postponed after the second round of games after the onset of the coronavirus crisis. In addition, the MLS All-Star Game, Leagues Cup and Campeones Cup have been called off. There also remains much doubt as to whether the US Open Cup and Concacaf Champions League will be able to take place.
Most notably, Garber revealed that MLS will take a $1bn financial hit as a result of the coronavirus crisis and that staging the tournament was essential for the league’s business operations. Garber added he was unsure if and when MLS teams will be able to stage games in home markets this year.
MLS president Mark Abbott said the league is aiming to finish the 2020 season in late December but added that playoff games could be staged in early 2021 if necessary.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently announced that the state is open to all professional sports teams in the United States who want to resume action amid the coronavirus crisis. The National Basketball Association is also looking to resume its season at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex this summer, and is advancing its own return-to-play plan.