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Supporters’ groups back players in CBA fight, as time to reach a deal runs short

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Independent Supporters’ Council issues rebuke of owners.

Max Aquino/Sounder at Heart

It probably wasn’t much of a surprise that MLS supporters are siding with players in the latest skirmish between labor and ownership over yet another Collective Bargaining Agreement. Still, it’s notable that fans have decided to speak out in a formalized collective voice.

The Independent Supporters Council — the organization comprised of the various groups supporting teams in North American soccer — released a statement on Monday backing the players and calling on MLS to stand down in their attempt to extract more concessions from the MLSPA. The league and players are locked in their third CBA fight in about a year, and MLS has set a deadline for midnight Thursday to come to an agreement, or face a lockout.

“Only a year after we voiced similar concerns over the treatment of MLS players, and despite the sacrifices they made to play the 2020 season, we are once again compelled to unite in support of our players,” this ISC said in a release. “With the deadline quickly approaching, it is our duty to make our collective voice heard.”

This is hardly the first time the ISC has clashed with the league in recent years. The ISC last year voiced their support for the players during the covid-related stoppage of play. And in 2019, MLS had a highly-publicized fight with various fanbases over political signage at games, a battle that the MLSPA publicly supported the fans in.

With the start of the 2021 season on a knife’s edge, the ISC has incorporated the MLSPA’s “ready to play” mantra in an effort to influence the league to get the season underway.

“Their sacrifices on and off the field during this trying time continue to elevate our clubs beyond solely the concerns of a balance sheet and open possibilities beyond what can narrowly be won or lost at a negotiating table. We see what our players have done. We support them.”

The MLSPA in a statement said they appreciate the ongoing support from the fans in this battle. “[The] Players saw and appreciated the outpouring of statements from Supporters Groups all across the country yesterday,” the MLSPA told Sounder at Heart. “Supporters Groups are the backbone of our league and will continue to carry the players forward, both on the field and off it.”

Cameron Collins, president of Sounders supporter group Gorilla FC, released a statement concurrent with the ISC announcement, calling on the league to come to an agreement and let the players play. “[T]he Players’ Association, having already made major concessions less than a year ago is willing to continue to work with MLS,” Collins wrote. “The players are trying to do what’s best for everyone involved.”

The latest offer from the MLSPA would extend the collective bargaining agreement by one additional year in exchange for some concessions from MLS on Free Agency rules. For its part, MLS is holding firm in its demand to extend the CBA by two years — which would take it through the 2026 World Cup scheduled to be held in the United States, Canada and Mexico. That event is widely expected to be a financial boon for the league. MLS, in extending the deadline, said the parties remain “far apart,” meaning the risk of a lockout is imminent unless a deal can be struck by the deadline imposed by the league.