Earlier this week it was presumed by this writer that the death of the death pact between MLS players and owners had occurred. It in fact had not, this was reported prematurely. In fact, the death pact is still very much alive and kicking. The hope that the season would be in doubt has dwindled in recent days. First, the two sides failed to reach an agreement on a new CBA and then MLS announced that it would extend the deadline to February 4th, but if there was no agreement met, players would be locked out.
As the new deadline was announced, the MLSPA issued a statement about the negotiation detailing their concessions.
Their offer included extending the new CBA to include the 2025 and 2026 seasons as the owners wanted, which would include the 2026 Men’s World Cup and potential increase in profit sharing that the players could have negotiated had the original CBA agreed to in 2020 that would expire in 2025 been left in place, but was still rejected.
Aside from that, how much are the owners really bargaining over? Paul Tenorio of the Athletic broke it down:
When MLS opened talks it said a 2-year extension saved $100-110 million. Roughly $536k per team, per season over the life of the deal.— Paul Tenorio (@PaulTenorio) January 29, 2021
With one year concession from the MLSPA, MLS, per its own math, has voted to lock players out over less than $500k per team per season.
This certainly makes Don Garber’s letter to fans look like a pure public relations play to somehow gain billionaire owners of soccer teams fan favor ahead of them effectively issuing an ultimatum to players to either take or leave their original proposal. Garber’s words, “reach an agreement that works for the short- and long-term benefit to all” seems to ring hollow.
It seems like this was either mis-reading the fans of MLS, who skew more progressive than fans of other sports in the US, or of the general climate of economic strain that the whole country is under as layoffs, furloughs, and wage cuts have been rampant since last March while billionaires who weren’t trying to short GameStop just get wealthier. In any case, the comments section on the MLSsoccer.com website has been shut down.
For its part, the US Soccer Federation has not commented on the issue despite preparing to hold a friendly featuring players entirely from MLS. With the USSF Board of Directors including Don Garber, what that statement would say is another issue. In any case, MLS owners are once again proving that they hold all the cards, but it also seems like they’re somehow overplaying their hand. The issue will be resolved, one way or another, by the middle of next week.