Could MLS’ CBA be thrown out before the 2021 season?

Just before the New Year, Major League Soccer (MLS) announced its intentions to invoke a force majeure clause that could render the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the league and the MLS Players Association (MLSPA) null and void. This is very concerning and could be detrimental for both the players and the league. This leads us to the question: Could MLS’ CBA be thrown out before the start of the 2021 season?

CHESTER, PA – NOVEMBER 24: A general view of soccer balls on the field prior to the Major League Soccer the Eastern Conference Round One match between the New England Revolution and the Philadelphia Union on November 24, 2020, at Subaru Park in Chester, PA. (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire)

Could MLS’ CBA be thrown out?

In a story first reported by ESPN, a source close to the CBA situation between MLS and the MLSPA stated the league’s intent to invoke force majeure. This would throw out the current CBA, that the players and league worked hard to come to an agreement on before the 2020 season.

The current CBA was seen as groundbreaking and a huge step up for the treatment of players in MLS. The League’s standing and growth were evident in the agreement as well. As the CBA was about to be ratified last year, the pandemic hit. This postponed its ratification and is the reason why a force majeure clause is an option. But what is force majeure?

What is a force majeure Clause?

A force majeure clause is a provision in a contract that can relieve both parties of their obligations. MLS is stating that clubs lost nearly $1 billion dollars last year due to Covid-19; therefore a restructuring of the CBA is needed. This is why they are invoking the force majeure clause.

For a better understanding of this clause and the MLS’ current CBA agreement, check out our latest Doop by the River Podcast. Start at minute 21 for a visualization of the situation.

Go to the 21 minute mark to see visualization of Force Majeure, and to get more insight on the CBA agreement.

While MLS has invokes this clause, it does not automatically negate the current CBA. The players association and the league now have 30 days to peacefully negotiate a deal before the CBA is null and void.

30 days to peaceful negotiate a deal

The MLSPA and the League now have to look for more common ground given the state of a Covid-affected world. This 30 day period is underway now, and a decision will need to be made by January 28th to avoid throwing out the current CBA. These negotiations will have differing opinions, and a case can be made for both to warrant ratifications to the current CBA.

It is understandable for the League to want to make up its losses. However, throwing out all that had been established before the pandemic is a drastic measure. The monumental strides made in the agreed-upon CBA saw player safety and comfortability as paramount to a growing global soccer league. Now, the MLSPA is in a familiar position to get the most for their players.

2020-2024 CBA Deal Explainer
Here’s an info-graphic on the agreed-upon 2020 CBA agreement. Mandatory Credit: MLSPA.

The MLSPA has seen the league try to throw out this agreement once before. When the pandemic halted all games for almost four months, the league tied to back out of the agreement. Fortunately, the season was able to resume and the league was able to go on. The player’s contributions to play and travel amid a global pandemic is admirable. For the league to turn around and try to get rid of an agreed-upon CBA does not sit well with the players association. So what happens now?

The waiting game

Negotiations will go on until January 28th. Will the MLSPA and MLS come to an agreement that can be ratified, or Could MLS’ CBA be thrown out? We’ll have to wait and see. If a deal does get done, then one thing is certain.

An agreed-upon adjusted CBA that can be ratified will show the league’s commitment to the players’ efforts, and the players’ commitment to make MLS a competitive up-and-coming global soccer league. If no agreement is made, then there could be long-lasting damage in the relationship between MLS and its players.

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Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire