New CBA means MLS can resume soon

The MLSPA and MLS reached an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) yesterday afternoon. Several changes to the February CBA were made and a concrete plan for the 2020 season to resume was set forth.

Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

In what only can be described as a week’s worth of utter turmoil across the country, MLS fans found some positives yesterday and may rest assured that soccer will return next month.

However, just two days prior to the new CBA ratification, MLS threatened to lock its players out due to their unwillingness to budge any further on terms. Most notably, an added year to the previous CBA, exact pay-cut percentages, revenue sharing figures tied to a major broadcast deal in 2023, and an agreement on a “plan to resume the 2020 season with a tournament in Orlando.”

First reported by The Athletic and later ESPN.com, the new CBA provides what seems to be a happy Players Association, at least for now. See a statement from MLSPA below.

So what are some of the details of the new CBA ratification?

The main talking point may revolve around economic concessions. It was a hot topic during negotiations, and rightly so. MLSPA agreed to numerous concessions all in the hopes of resuming competition and moving forward with their professional careers. Some sources are stipulating that MLSPA agreed to concessions totaling upwards of $100 million dollars. Included is a 7.5% pay-cut – which is technically a ‘win’ for MLSPA considering MLS countered earlier in the week demanding 8.75% pay-cuts across the board.

In addition to pay-cuts, both player and team performance bonuses and incentives will be capped at $5 million.

All of this in hopes of continuing on as ‘normal.’

One other important change among many in the new CBA ratification includes detailed revenue sharing information related to a new, vastly more expansive broadcast rights deal set to begin in 2023. Originally, “25% of the broadcast rights fee that was $100 million above 2022 levels (ESPN.com)” would be slotted back into each team’s budget. But those percentages shifted to 12.5% in 2023 and then back up to 25% in 2024.

When that broadcast deal becomes active in 2023, the revenue sharing could prove to be impactful in terms of which teams find success with attendance and tv ratings compared to those that struggle.

But perhaps the most notable change comes in the form of prevention.

A force majeure which allows either side to back out of the CBA due to a pandemic which can cause economic strife – as we’ve seen now for 3 months.

MLS wanted to tie that clause to attendance numbers but the PA fought back, erasing that idea from the new CBA ratified yesterday.

For now, players are prepping for a return to action. Details of the tournament in Orlando have slowly been released, most notably by MLS commission Don Garber yesterday afternoon via video conference. The tournament would last roughly 6 total weeks, include a three-game group stage, followed by an intense knockout stage which would ultimately end in one sole 2020 winner.

All signs point to players arriving at the Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World on June 24th.

But what if a player declines due to ongoing concerns regarding the coronavirus? So far it seems like they may be SOL, while only being able to stay home due to very specific medical or family-related circumstances such as pre-existing conditions or a pregnant partner at home.

More information regarding how or if players can opt out will be released in the coming weeks along with more concrete details on the 2020 tournament. But for now, MLS fans can take solace in the fact that both MLS and the MLSPA were able to sit down, figure out the terms, and provide fans with a beacon of hope during such dismal times.

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Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

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