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Lockout looms as MLS push back on latest offer

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Published in Soccer
Sunday, 31 May 2020 22:18

The Major League Soccer Player Association announced that it voted to approve its latest counteroffer to MLS as it relates to economic concessions for the 2020 season, modifications to the recently agreed upon CBA, and their agreement to participate in a summer tournament in Orlando.

But according to multiple sources, MLS has already pushed back, insisting that it has submitted its best offer and that it won't budge further. ESPN television analyst Herculez Gomez tweeted that MLS is giving the players until noon on Tuesday, otherwise they will lock the players out.

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One source called MLS's threat "a disingenuous act," especially given how much the MLSPA membership has offered.

MLS has been shut down since March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and has been engaged in negotiations with the MLSPA over the past several weeks in a bid to soften the pandemic's economic impact.

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.

If the deal is approved by MLS, the one-year CBA extension would push the total amount of concessions the MLSPA is making well beyond the $100 million contained in the union's previous proposal last Friday.

But sources tell ESPN that there still remain some differences between the two sides, with some seeming small and others more intractable. While the MLSPA has offered to accept a 7.5 percent pay cut, MLS's most recent offer came in at 8.75 percent.

A bigger sticking point 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 gives it the right to invoke the clause if five teams suffer an attendance drop of 25 percent or more from the previous year, while the MLSPA's doesn't have that stipulation.

Another stumbling block 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 had been trying to delay its implementation by a year, but softened that stance so long as the union accepted 10 percent of the net increase in 2023 and 25 percent the following year. The union countered with 17 percent in 2023 and 25 percent in 2024.

Sunday's vote comes on the heels of another vote late last week, in which the players approved a package containing similar concessions that, according to sources, totaled around $100 million. According to sources, that offer included a $5 million cap on bonuses.

The Athletic reported that the health and safety protocols related to the Orlando tournament have largely been worked out, but that 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.

Otherwise, the particulars of the tournament are set, namely that 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.

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