MLS avoids lockout, clear path for Orlando tournament this month

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Soccer in the United States will not be locked out this season. 

The Major League Soccer Players’ Association (MLSPA) voted to approve a return-to-play option that will begin with a summer tournament in Orlando, FL.

The agreement comes just two days after a lockout looked like a legitimate possibility as the league and players could not see eye-to-eye on CBA stipulations and pay cuts. 

In their statement confirming that there will be soccer this season, the players’ association also commented about the death of George Floyd and the widespread protests that have swept throughout the United States. 

“We recognize that we are all moving forward — as players, as fans, as societies, as a world — into a future that looks much different than the one we envisioned a few months ago. There are problems we face collectively that are both more urgent, and more important, than competing on the field. We are grieving, we are fed up, we expect change, and we expect action. This change won’t come on the field, but it will come partly through the force and determination of all who seek justice and equality. We hope our return to the field will allow fans a momentary release and a semblance of normalcy. We are committed as a group to doing all that we can — both as leaders in our sport as well as leaders in our communities — to help carry our countries, our communities, our league, and our sport forward.”

According to Sam Stejskal and Paul Tenorio of The Athletic, MLS removing “language from a force majeure clause that was tied specifically to attendance decreases in MLS markets,” helped move negotiations in the right direction in the last few days. 

In its original proposal, MLS wanted an escape clause from the CBA if five teams suffer an attendance drop of 25% or more from the previous season.

The league also agreed to the players’ proposal of a 7.5% pay cut rather than an 8.75% pay cut. 

Play had suspended since March 12 due to the coronavirus outbreak, just two weeks into the league’s 2020 season.

The Orlando-based tournament will host all 26 teams and is expected to begin later this month.