MLS Likely To Avoid Lockout After Breakthrough in Negotiations

MLS Pick

  • MLS threatened a lockout if players did not agree to a deal with the league
  • Both sides have seen a “breakthrough” in negotiations, which should help MLS avoid a lockout
  • MLS has reportedly backed away from its insistence on installing a force majeure clause

24 hours ago, it sounded as though the MLS was hurtling helplessly toward a lockout. Negotiations between MLS and the MLS Players Association reportedly grew heated after the league pushed back against the players’ financial requests over the weekend. The two sides have been debating the league’s return-to-play proposal, which includes every team in the league flocking to Orlando to play a tournament.

The talks have included changes to the existing collective bargaining agreement. The MLSPA sent a counteroffer to the league on Sunday, but the league pushed back and insisted it would not change its own offer. The league then threatened the MLSPA with a lockout if the two sides couldn’t come to a deal before noon Eastern on Wednesday.

Lockout Avoided?

Fortunately, it sounds as though the league will be able to avoid a catastrophic lockout scenario. Per ESPN’s Taylor Twellman, the MLS and MLSPA have made progress in negotiations since, and there is optimism that a deal will be reached before the aforementioned MLS deadline:

The expected deal will help MLS avoid dramatic financial losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The league halted the 2020 season on March 12, one day after the NBA shut down its own season. The MLS campaign was just two weeks old at the time the hiatus started.

The deal will also likely result in the league hosting its tournament in Orlando at some point in July. Players are expected to make their way to Florida around June 24, and they would stay for about six weeks as the tournament plays out.

The league initially said that players would not be permitted to bring family members with them, which was an idea that didn’t sit well with plenty of the players. There is no word on whether the league has amended that stance, though.

Breakthrough In Discussions

The reported breakthrough in negotiations came after MLS backed away from its insistence on installing a force majeure clause tied to attendance. Obviously, games will be held without fans in attendance for the foreseeable future as the country continues to try and slow the spread of COVID-19.

Instead of having a force majeure clause, the league will likely adopt a policy similar to the one used by the NBA. MLS is expected to send its latest proposal to the players for approval at some point on Tuesday afternoon. The ratification vote by players could come within the next 24 hours.

Salary cuts and revenue sharing for broadcast rights have also been discussed. The MLSPA had offered to have players take a 7.5 percent pay cut in light of revenue losses caused by the lack of fans in stadiums. The MLS’ most recent proposal called for players to take a pay cut of 8.75 percent. ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle says both sides will likely meet somewhere in the middle on that matter.

Owners Divided on Lockout

The breakthrough in talks was also aided in part by some owners coming out against the MLS’ lockout idea. Some owners were reportedly displeased with the threat, while others wanted the league to take an even harder stance. The division among ownership resulted in the league standing down from its insistence on adding a force majeure clause.

MLS and the MLSPA had agreed upon a new CBA back in February, but it was never formally ratified. That gave the league and players a window to negotiate further in order to account for changes that have come about as a result of the pandemic.

Taylor Smith / Author

Taylor is a sports writer based in Southern California. While he primarily specializes in basketball, baseball and football, he will also dabble in things like soccer and politics from time to time. He has lived in just about every corner of the United States at one point or another, and he has been covering sports and sports betting for the better part of a decade. Taylor currently lives in Long Beach with his fiancé and their two cats.