In what might be a dress rehearsal for next season MLS is heading into a lockout. This years version, between the Professional Referee Organization (PRO) and the Professional Soccer Referees Association (PSRA), may not stop games from being played like could potentially happen next spring with the League and the Player's Union set to battle over a new CBA but it will still have some impact on the matches being played.
PRO, which represents the league, and PSRA, which represents the officials, have been meeting over recent months to try and work out the first collective bargaining agreement between the two sides. Those negotiations have not yet concluded so PRO was willing to continue them into the season while implementing a no strike/no lockout agreement that would allow the Referees to continue working games.
The PSRA rejected the no strike/no lockout offer leaving the league with little option but to lock them out and turn to replacement officials. If they did not do that they would have risked the referees going on strike just prior to games leaving the league without time to replace them.
It is unclear how long this lockout could last but at least for the time being it means MLS games will be handled by replacement referees. The replacement referees that PRO have recruited do all have professional experience with some of them being brought in from other countries. The organization seems confident that it will not lead to a drop off in the quality of officiating (insert joke about how it could not get any lower).
On the bright side we can now look forward to even more coaches offering their two cents about how the replacement officials cost them the game. We certainly did not get enough of that in MLS in recent years.
For more on the strike and the official details it is worth reading the release from PRO which is available on their website.