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MLS players skip training Monday amid owners’ threat of lockout

MIAMI, Fla. — (1 June 2020) In response to Major League Soccer’s threat of a lockout, players from around the league declined to show up for training on Monday.

MLS and the MLS Players Association have been in negotiations for weeks concerning the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the issues on the table are a return-to-play plan, economic concessions for 2020, as well as changes to the collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”), which was agreed to last February, but not ratified by either side.

The MLSPA sent the league its latest proposal Sunday night, but MLS pushed back, saying that not only had it given the players its final offer, but that if they didn’t agree to it by noon ET on Tuesday, owners would lock the players out.

That type of response drew the ire of the MLSPA membership. As a result, players around the league, including Inter Miami, didn’t turn up for the voluntary, in-person workouts on Monday that have been held in recent weeks.

In a statement, the MLSPA said their proposal includes salary reductions across the entire player pool, reduced team and individual bonuses, and additional concessions to existing and future terms of the CBA. The MLSPA is also requesting that the current CBA — the framework of which was agreed upon last February but not ratified by either side — be extended by one year to 2025.

According to the MLSPA, the total amount of concessions the players association is making is much more than the $100 million contained in the union’s previous proposal last Friday.

The two sides are closer on the issue of pay cut for players, though not yet in agreement. The MLSPA has offered to accept a 7.5 percent pay cut, whereas MLS’s most recent offer came in at 8.75 percent.

A bigger dispute relates to the force majeure clause that would allow either side to back out of a CBA in the case of a catastrophic event like a pandemic. MLS’s proposal ties the clause to attendance drops, while the MLSPA’s doesn’t have that stipulation.

Another issue in talks is the start of a proposed revenue sharing plan related to a new broadcast rights deal that will commence in 2023. The CBA terms agreed upon in February stated that 25 percent of the net increase in media revenue that exceeds $100 million above 2022 levels (pre-new deal) will flow into salary budget and General Allocation Money on a per team basis.

MLS owners initially demanded a delay in its implementation by a year, but more recently backed off that demand on the condition that the union accept 10 percent of the net increase in 2023 and 25 percent the following year. The union has countered with 17 percent in 2023 and 25 percent in 2024.

The Athletic reported that the health and safety protocols related to the proposed Orlando tournament have largely been worked out, with an exemption from participating for some players could opt out for medical or familial reasons such as a partner who is pregnant. That would open the door for stars such as the LA Galaxy’s Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and LAFC’s Carlos Vela — both of whom have partners that are pregnant — to skip the tournament.

On the other aspects of the return to play tournament, both sides are in agreement. The 26 teams will head to Orlando on or around June 24, take part in a three-game group stage which will be followed by a knockout round. The total time away should amount to six weeks.

By Ken Russo

While my background is in the legal industry, the skills acquired and fine-tuned in law practice are now applied to focus on the sport of football. Russo Soccer aims to inform, educate and engage on news and relevant issues in the game.

Um advogado por formação, concentro meu trabalho nos negócios, comunicações e operações de equipes no futebol mundial. | Abogado con fundación avanzada en comunicaciones, enfocado en los negocios del fútbol y las comunicaciones. | Je suis un avocat experimenté dans les affaires de football.