MLS players approve new contract, opening door for season to resume

The new CBA runs through the 2025 season. The sides had agreed to a five-year CBA in February, but it had not been ratified when the coronavirus pandemic began.

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MLS players have approved a new collective bargaining agreement.

MLS players have approved a new collective bargaining agreement.

Jewel Samad/AFP via Getty Images

Major League Soccer took a huge step Wednesday toward resuming its 2020 season.

The players’ union announced it ratified a collective bargaining agreement that will run through the 2025 season, clearing the way for the league to restart the season in a tightly quarantined tournament in Orlando, Florida. The players and MLS had agreed to a deal in February, but the pact wasn’t ratified before the season was halted March 12 because of the pandemic.

The agreement includes 5% pay cuts for the players in 2020, and the players also will see a drop in their share of media rights. If the players hadn’t signed on to a new pact, the league was prepared to lock them out.

“Major League Soccer will take a billion-dollar revenue hit due to the pandemic, and that’s a function of lost revenue that, regardless of what we are able to do, is going to be nearly impossible to generate at the levels that we need,” commissioner Don Garber said. “Our previous business plans, and certainly the basis for the negotiation of the CBA, were based on what the expected business for MLS would look like over the next five years, and obviously that’s changed.”

In a statement, the MLS Players Association said, “[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.”

As for the Orlando tournament, Garber said the original plan was “twice as big” as what was settled on, though he didn’t have precise details on how the event will unfold. It has been reported that the tournament would count in the standings, and teams would play three group games before a knockout tournament.

Garber said players would be in Orlando for no more than 35 days. Teams are expected to arrive in three weeks.

What comes after that tourney — assuming it’s played — also is unclear. Garber didn’t rule out playing games in local markets but didn’t know when that would happen. He didn’t sound optimistic that fans could attend, saying, “We accept that, for the most part, those games will be played without fans.”

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