MLS, players extend CBA as talks continue

Major League Soccer and the MLS Players Association (MLSPA) have agreed to extend their current collective bargaining agreement through February 7, with the additional time aimed at aiding discussions toward a new deal.

The current CBA, which was signed in 2015, was due to expire on January 31. The 2020 MLS season begins on February 29, and club training camps have already begun.

“The two groups have engaged in productive discussions and will continue to negotiate a new CBA,” MLS and the MLSPA said in a joint statement.

The players have sought a variety of broad-based improvements to the league’s economic system, including more money for salaries, increased free agency, a simpler compensation and budget rule system, and a greater number of charter flights during the season.

The labor talks also are occurring as MLS is experiencing a sizable growth wave, most notably seen through an aggressive series of recent expansion club announcements at record-setting franchise values.

The players say they are prepared to strike. According to MLSPA executive director Bob Foose, the MLSPA has begun preparing for a possible work stoppage by creating a strike fund, with players also drawing up plans for alternative living arrangements and training options. Such funds have been common historically among players’ unions in other major US sports.

”We’ve been talking about and preparing for a work stoppage for two and a half years now at this point, and talking about the details of what that would look like and how it would proceed, and how we would all work together,” Foose said in November. ”And the players are very serious when they say they’re ready to do what’s best for the full player pool and the future of the players association and the league.”

“We understand that if it’s going to come to that [a strike], we are ready for that,” Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan said in July. “We hope that in good faith we are both able to come to the table and find common ground and continue to grow this sport and grow this league in a positive direction.”