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MLS owners’ CBA proposal: Two-year extension, no immediate pay cuts

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Owners want to freeze salary cap through 2022, push current deal to 2027.

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Nashville SC The Tennessean-USA TODAY NETWORK via Imagn Content Services, LLC

When Major League Soccer announced they intended to invoke a Force Majure clause to renegotiate the recently-approved Collective Bargaining Agreement, fears of a work stoppage ahead of the 2021 season increased significantly. However based on the ask from the owners, those fears appear to have been at least reduced — for now.

According to a report from Yahoo Sports, the league will not ask the players to take any additional reduction on salaries, but instead want to increase the duration of the current deal by two years. They also want to extend the current salary-cap freeze through 2022.

That doesn’t mean the players would not be forgoing future revenue to be sure — the deal if approved would foreclose a couple of potential media-related revenue opportunities, while also delaying shorter-term raises — but the fears of a drastic salary reduction up front don’t appear to be in the cards. Combined with the hard feelings around the last re-negotiations, it’s unclear how players will perceive this offer.

The details of the proposal were outlined in a story in The Athletic, which reported that MLS is asking that the terms agreed to for the 2020 season be extended through the 2022 season. Then, the terms of each year would be pushed back one additional year from what had already been delayed (2021 would run through 2023; 2022 terms would now run through 2024) until the deal ends after the 2027 season. According the the report, the league would implement salary increases in the 2027 season in a similar year-over-year percentage as outlined in prior years.

Importantly, that would take the deal past the 2026 World Cup, scheduled to be held in the United States, Canada and Mexico. That event is expected to be a financial bonanza to MLS and US Soccer. When it was first agreed to in February 2020, the CBA was scheduled to run out in 2024. Pushing the CBA past that event would remove a potentially significant bargaining chip for the players’ union.

According to the The Athletic report, the under-22 player initiative set to begin in the 2021 would remain. That new discretionary initiative would authorize the signing of up to three players under the age of 22 where teams would be able to spend as they please in acquiring the players. The players’ salaries would have to be under the maximum budget charge, set to be $612,500 for the 2021 season.

The MLSPA has not responded publicly to the report.