By settling labor matters, the sides avoided the first work stoppage in MLS’s 25-year history.
“MLS players have made incredible sacrifices and overcome considerable challenges in the past year to continue doing their jobs during a difficult time for all of us,” the MLS Players Association said. “We now move on to a 2021 season that we hope can reunite supporters and players in stadiums all across North America to enjoy and advance the game we all love.”
The MLSPA declined to reveal voting results.
“We have enormous respect and appreciation for everything the players have done helping build the league and the sport throughout the years, and they’ve gone above and beyond during the pandemic,” Commissioner Don Garber said after the MLS Board of Governors approved the deal. “We thank the MLSPA leadership and the players for their thoughtful and collaborative approach on the new CBA.”
The latest revisions to the CBA marked the third time in a year that the sides clashed over work issues.
Last winter, with the previous deal expiring, they forged a five-year pact. However, the financial ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic brought them back to the bargaining table in the summer. The CBA was extended by one year, through 2025, and players agreed to 7.5 percent salary cuts and other concessions.
With modest national TV contracts, MLS is more reliant on game-day revenue than other U.S. leagues. Limited crowds were allowed in a few stadiums last fall, when the league returned to home markets following a spectator-free summer tournament at Disney World.
This winter, anticipating a slow return of crowds and another year of heavy losses, the owners exercised the CBA’s force majeure clause, which required the sides to address economic hardships.
The owners demanded — and won — an additional two years on the CBA, through 2027. In return, the players received, among other things, improved free agency parameters starting in 2026 and increased spending on rosters beginning in 2023. For example, senior minimum salaries will grow to $125,875 in 2027 — it’s currently $81,375 — and roster spending will increase 41 percent over six years.
After agreeing to pay cuts last year, players will receive 100 percent of their salaries and bonuses in 2021. Teams will still have the ability to sign up to three high-priced players, known as designated players, beyond typical salary restrictions.
As part of the new deal, the league cannot exercise the force majeure clause during the 2021 season; it would have to wait until the end of the year.
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