MLS and its players are once again at odds. The potential labor dispute has been brewing for the last month and the future of the league in 2021 seems like it might be in doubt. However, this week some news broke that the impasse may be breached and America may once again be enthralled by the largest soccer league in the world. That’s right, MLS is BACK II again, maybe, we’ll see.
To catch up, last month Major League Soccer invoked its force majeure notice that would invalidate the Collective Bargaining Agreement that was met last year. The MLS Players Association wasn’t happy about it, responding with this statement.
This was followed by a meeting between the owners and players, the owners presented a plan to the players who decided to think things over. There wasn’t much of any word on the state of the relationship between players and owners for most of January. If there is no agreement made by the end of the month, there is a risk that there will be no MLS season. Neither side really mentioned this until last week when Commissioner Don Garber, who is appointed by the owners, wrote a letter to fans.
In short it says, “thanks fans, 2020 was challenging but there was entertaining soccer and it was fun. Oh, and the owners did this while taking on lots of risk, it was so risky to the money they have, very risky. The players had to be away from their families and do some safety and health protocols, but this letter won’t acknowledge that dozens of players got a virus that has killed nearly half a million Americans.” The MLSPA was not happy about the letter, their only gripe was that they were not @’d by @MLS on Twitter when this happened.
At this point it seemed like a work stoppage was inevitable as MLS and its players had signed a death pact. Predictably, this was virtually ignored by major sports media outlets since, as the letter noted, MLS isn’t exactly well compensated for its broadcast rights and largely needs fans in seats to make money. This widespread media neglect meant that it was a sad and lonely death pact with owners betting that players needed to be paid while the players are betting that owners need to have a product to showcase going into 2022 when MLS is hoping to sign a league-wide and more profitable broadcast deal.
Luckily, it seems like the basement scene in Inglourious Basterds is not going to transpire because yesterday MLS, via a Twitter account that claims to be run by the league and seems to be based on the fact that it’s followed by Garber, announced that meetings with the MLSPA had commenced.
The stakes could not be lower as MLS players and owners have begun negotiating to resume play in 2021. This is clearly a good sign for MLS owners, players, and fans. More potentially good news is that the league released a schedule for 2021 on MajorLeagueSoccerSoccer dot com. The league notes that the season will begin on April 3rd, end on November 7th, and feature MLS Cup on December 11th.
This news will also be welcome for the US Men’s National Team. MLS is finally paying off in the international game for the US as young players are developing and going overseas at a rapid rate. Without a viable domestic league structure to showcase their talents, these moves would not be possible and their progress on the field would be stagnated. In the end, this seems to be less of a death pact and more of a inconvenient suffering agreement, but it should be resolved in the coming days and our young talented American soccer children can once again provide us with hype and joy.