MLS Players today ratified a new collective bargaining agreement, which will run through the 2025 season," the MLSPA announced Wednesday. "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 ratification of the new CBA means the league and players avoided a first lockout in MLS history. Also, it means the Orlando tournament is back on. Plain and simple, MLS is back!
"Labor negotiations are never easy,” Commissioner Don Garber said of the tense last few weeks. “It was more difficult [this time], but fortunately we’ve been able to reach agreement." The most contentious issues between the league and players were money, of course, with Garber expecting the league to lose out on $1 billion in revenue, and the league's desire to insert a force majeure clause, something the players were staunchly against.
The Athletic was first to report the CBA's details. "Players will take a 5 percent pay cut for the remainder of the 2020 season". And according to ESPN's Jeff Carlisle "Players will have the option to delay the salary cut until after the Orlando tournament, but the total amount of the cut will be the same. Performance and individual bonuses will be capped at $5 million for this season."
Sports Illustrated's Brian Strauss reported the players agreed to the pay reduction this year "in exchange for adding an extra year to the CBA reached in February", which would have expired following the 2024 season.
MLS and the players also agreed to a new media rights revenue split, with the current deal worth $90 million a year, expiring after the 2022 season. "Originally, the players were to receive 25% of the money generated in the new broadcast deals expected to be reached in 2023. That total will drop to 12.5% in 2023, then return to 25% in 2024-25" according to Strauss.
With regard to the force majeure clause, both sides gave and took a little. Again from Strauss, "Details of that clause weren’t available Wednesday, but the MLSPA reportedly was successful in convincing MLS to avoid linking the clause to an attendance decline at a small number of stadiums." The agreed-to clause will allow "either side [to] back out of the deal in the case of a catastrophic event like a pandemic," wrote Carlisle.
The CBA is finally on done and taken care of, meaning the Orlando Plan is next. However, nothing at this point is set in stone.
Orlando Plan In Motion
Tentatively, teams will continue to train in their home markets before heading ESPN's Wide World Of Sports Complex in Orlando to play for roughly one month. Some clubs, though, may head to Florida earlier if their respective markets don't allow for full contact training.
According to The Athletic, "The tournament will include three group-stage games, which will count toward the regular season, as well as a knockout round." Also, "the league will create a $1 million prize pool."
The idea right now is that Orlando, as 'hosts,' will have a seeded spot in one of the groups. The others will likely go to LAFC as Supporters Shield winners from last year and Toronto FC and Seattle Sounders as conference champions, with Seattle having won MLS Cup last year.
The groups will divide regionally as best as possible to maximize TV audiences. Also, kick-offs are tentatively set for early morning, late afternoon, and evening to try and avoid the summer heat and humidity as much as possible.
Strauss also confirmed the league's intention to have the group stage matches count towards the regular season. Each team played two matches before the Coronavirus stoppage in March, with this tournament taking it to five.
After Orlando, MLS still wants to have as much of a regular season as possible. From The Athletic, "The hope is for the league to resume its regular season in home markets."
Better Late Than Never For MLS
The Bundesliga returned several weeks ago. The Premier League, La Liga, and Serie A all have plans to return this month. Portugal's Primeira Liga and Israel's Premier League returned this week. Hell, Hungary and Poland are even letting fans into stadiums already.
It may not be perfect, or even finalized yet, but MLS' plans to return are massively good news, even if it is a bit late. The more soccer, the better. The sooner, the better as well.
MLS is finally coming back. It's about time.