SANDY — The restart of the 2020 MLS season is closer than ever after the MLS Players Association ratified a new collective bargaining agreement with the league that runs through the 2025 season.
Several media outlets reported this week that MLS owners were threatening a lockout if a new CBA wasn’t reached by Wednesday, which the players responded to by skipping voluntary workouts this week. The urgency from the league centered around a deadline from Disney about finalizing details about the proposed Orlando tournament.
Wednesday’s announcement means the Orlando tournament will indeed happen, with teams scheduled to report later this month and then train and compete in lockdown with no fans. Teams will conduct their individual preseasons for roughly three or four weeks so players can get back in playing shape, which will be followed by a World Cup-style tournament. Teams will play three group games, followed by a knockout tournament.
RSL player rep Zac MacMath spoke with reporters on Wednesday after the new CBA was reached and confirmed that the first three group games would count in the regular season standings. The knockout games would not, however.
“The biggest issue from the player pool was the length of time spent away from families in the middle of a global pandemic, and they certainly made concessions on that by shortening the tournament and that helped a lot.” — RSL player rep Zac MacMath
MacMath said there’s been no formal proposal from the league about how the regular season will resume post-Orlando. MLS suspended play on March 12 due to COVID-19.
The German Bundesliga returned to action last month without fans, and it’s certainly a scenario MLS might face once the regular season finally does return to action later this summer.
“It’s a huge financial burden on the league to play with no fans. At the end of the day having games on TV for the players, for the fans, for the community is important to take on that financial burden of keeping this league going and being relevant when things are very difficult right now,” said MacMath.
MacMath and Nick Besler are the two MLSPA representatives for Real Salt Lake, and MacMath said the two have been very busy over the past five days as negotiations picked up steam.
In talking with RSL’s members of the MLS player pool this past week, MacMath said there definitely was no consensus about the CBA.
“Our team was a bit divided honestly for most of the negotiation for many different reasons. We had a lot of guys who didn’t want to do Orlando, didn’t want to take pay cuts. Some really just cared about wanting to get back to a regular season. Obviously we listened to everyone’s opinion and tried to get all the information across,” said MacMath.
The MLSPA held a silent vote on Tuesday night for all MLS players, and the majority voted to approve the new CBA. MacMath has no idea what percentage voted to approve, but it’s clear from earlier discussion that not all were in favor of the deal that included pay cuts and the Orlando tournament.
MacMath said he hopes all RSL players participate in the Orlando tournament, but some may decline for family or health reasons.
When the Orlando tournament was originally proposed last month the players were expected to spend 60 days in Orlando in isolation. That never sat well with the player pool.
“The biggest issue from the player pool was the length of time spent away from families in the middle of a global pandemic, and they certainly made concessions on that by shortening the tournament and that helped a lot,” said MacMath.
MacMath said a bonus prize pool will be set up for the players in Orlando, but the details haven’t been finalized.
MLS sent out a short statement Wednesday afternoon that details of the Orlando tournament would be announced in the coming days.