The MLS Players Association submitted a counteroffer to Major League Soccer on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), the league said in a statement on Friday.
The offer was in response to the league’s proposal submitted to the union on Jan. 5.
“Earlier today we met with the Major League Soccer Players Association and players to discuss how we can work together to put MLS on a secure footing given the unprecedented impact of COVID-19,” MLS said in its statement. “The MLSPA provided a response to the League’s proposal, which committed to paying the players 100% of their salaries this year, in return for a two-year extension of the MLS Collective Bargaining Agreement. We respect the players as athletes and business professionals, and we are closely reviewing their counteroffer. We will respond promptly and are committed to meet as many times as necessary with the MLSPA in the coming days to reach an agreement.”
The league’s offer also includes a freeze on increases in the salary budget from 2021 to 2022.
The talks come with just six days left until a league-imposed deadline to agree on a new CBA. The deadline went into effect when MLS invoked a force majeure clause back on Dec. 29. The clause allows either side to reopen negotiations for 30 days in the case of an economic catastrophe, such as the situation brought on by a pandemic. If a deal can’t be reached, the CBA can be nullified, though that isn’t a requirement.
MLS has expressed concern that because of the slower than expected rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, the effects of the pandemic — which it says caused it to lose almost $1 billion in 2020 due in part to a lack of fans in the stands — will continue deep into 2021. It’s proposal earlier this month asked the MLSPA to make upwards of $110 million in concessions. This is on top of what the MLSPA said were $150 million in concessions made as a result of the most recent CBA that was negotiated last June.
Earlier this month, MLSPA executive director Bob Foose said there was no requirement that the talks be completed within 30 days, and there is nothing stopping the two sides from continuing negotiations after that window. Even if MLS opts to nullify the CBA, the terms of the old deal would remain in effect until new terms are agreed upon, though there is the threat of a lockout. Foose also highlighted the financial sacrifices the players have already made.
“While the league is taken to saying that there are no salary reductions in 2021, the reality is that concessions have already been made in each year of the renegotiated CBA to account for the financial impacts of the virus,” he said. “And while the league may continue to talk about 2020 losses, the reality is that the negotiation over those losses is finished. We had that negotiation last summer. The players have taken and will continue to take a significant financial hit that is equal to a significant portion of those losses.”