The last hurdle in the MLS labor negotiations saga appears to have been cleared.
Over the weekend, the MLS player pool voted to ratify the terms of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. It was previously announced that the MLSPA and MLS had reached a tentative deal on a new CBA Friday night. The final step in locking in the new deal on the player’s side was getting the stamp of approval by the entire player pool.
The final step in solidifying the CBA is a vote by the MLS Board of Governors, which should be a formality at this juncture.
(UPDATE: Jeff Carlisle of ESPN is reporting that the deal has officially been approved by the MLS Board of Governors- meaning that the new CBA is officially in place)
With the new deal finally being approved by all parties, MLS will avoid what would have been a potential work stoppage. It seemed as though a lockout was becoming increasingly likely, after a one week extension on negotiations was announced last month and the league circulated a memo to its teams advising to prepare for a work stoppage. If no deal was reached, the players would have been locked out for the first time in league history, which undoubtedly would have had major consequences for the 2021 season and beyond.
Now, none of that has come to pass, and the 2021 season appears set to proceed — though maybe not necessary as previously scheduled. Preseason training camps were scheduled to open in just two short weeks on February 22, and the 26th MLS season was to officially kickoff the weekend of April 5. However, a report from Steven Goff of the Washington Post suggested that those dates could potentially now be pushed back a bit.
Don't be surprised if the first dates of training camp (Feb. 22) and the regular season (April 3) are pushed back a bit. Nothing official yet, but the labor negotiations did put a hold on some aspects of league business.— Steven Goff (@SoccerInsider) February 8, 2021
So what’s in the new deal? The full language will presumably be released in the coming days, but it looks very likely that the league received its coveted two-year extension of the terms of CBA, meaning the current, re-negotiated iteration will likely run through the end of the 2027 season. It had been previously reported that in exchange, the players received other concessions throughout the years of the deal — the most significant being 100% of salaries paid in 2021, increases in the salary budget in the final few years of the deal, and more favorable free agency requirements in 2026 and 2027.
There will be time to discuss the short and long term ramifications of this saga on labor relations, and what the new deal means in the long run for the league as a whole. But for now, we appear to have avoided the nuclear option, and we can start to look forward to some Portland Timbers soccer in a few months.