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MLS approaches players about drastic pay cut, report says

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League confirms that games are postponed until at least June 8.

Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

With no prospect of MLS games until June 8 — at the earliest — the league has approached its players about taking substantial pay cut.

According to Jeff Carlisle of ESPN, MLS has proposed a 50% reduction in salary for its players depending in part on how many games are played, though there are some safeguards in place to protect players who do not make substantial money. Sounders majority owner Adrian Hanauer told Sounder at Heart that the league stands to lose hundreds of millions of dollars due to the coronavirus pandemic, but also insisted the league is on solid financial footing regardless. Left unsaid is that league has accepted about half-a-billion dollars in expansion fees over the last couple years and that many of the leagues owners are billionaires.

The report indicated that players who make $100,000 or less will not be affected by the proposal, and under no circumstance will players make less than 50% of their salary, no matter how many games are played. Players making more than $100,000 will also not see their pay reduced below that number.

MLS confirmed they are in discussions with the MLS Player’s Association regarding the salary issue, but did not elaborate on any specifics regarding how much money they are asking the players to forgo.

The extension of the moratorium on regular season season games until June 8 would likely require a resumption of team training by mid-May at the latest, as there would be a need for around 3-6 weeks of training to ensure player fitness and mitigate the risk of injury. As previously reported by Sounder at Heart, a league source indicated that players would not be brought in as a group to resume training. Rather, players would be brought in individually at first.

Additionally, both commissioner Don Garber and Sounders majority owner Hanauer have noted that widespread testing would be needed before games could resume. And even then, games are overwhelmingly likely to be played behind closed doors, which eliminates a substantial revenue source for the league.

The MLS Players Association declined to comment, though a source told The Athletic’s Sam Stejskal the players are unhappy with the proposal. The Collective Bargaining Agreement, approved by the players and owners before the start of the season, has yet to be ratified but neither it nor previous CBAs contained a clause that would allow for a unilateral salary reduction.