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Report: MLS threatens lockout as league, players fail to reach return-to-play agreement

MLS is trying to strong-arm its players, who don’t appear to be backing down as a 12 pm EST Tuesday deadline quickly approaches.

Toronto FC midfielder Alejandro Pozuelo holds the ball during the 2020 home opener at BMO Field.
(Sean Pollock/Waking The Red)

TORONTO, Canada—It’s been a wild 24 hours in Major League Soccer.

Late Sunday evening, the MLS Player’s Association (MLSPA) released a statement giving fans an update on the status of the latest negotiations between them and the league. It came with promise.

“This evening, MLS Players voted to approve a package of economic congressions for the 2020 season, modifications to the recently agreed-upon CBA, including its extension by a year, and their agreement to participate in a summer tournament in Orlando,” the MLSPA wrote in a statement.

Following the release of their statement, it appeared that there was significant progress made towards reaching an agreement on the heavily-discussed Disney World return-to-play plan. The players were down to take a pay cut and resume action in Orlando, but first, the league would have to approve the MLSPA’s counter-proposal.

“The package has been formally submitted to the league for a decision by the owners.”

Unfortunately for the MLSPA, they’re in an unfavourable position entering negotiations. Here’s why: while the players and the league did in fact agree to a new CBA until 2025 prior to the start of the season, the deal itself was only tentative. It wasn’t officially ratified before Mar. 12, the date MLS officially suspended their season due to COVID-19.

So what does this mean?

Well, essentially the league has the ability to lockout its players—withholding pay—a tactic that they’re reportedly threatening after receiving the MLSPA’s latest proposal.

According to multiple reports that surfaced late Sunday night, the league is now giving the MLSPA until 12 p.m. EST on Tuesday in order to accept their original offer or face a lockout.

There are various factors in play here, which (if you’re interested) you can read about in ESPN’s Jeff Carlyle’s latest.

As expected, the league has received tremendous kickback from various media outlets and even its players.

The players, as mentioned, don’t seem like they’re backing down.

According to The Athletic’s Paul Tenorio, players were expected to return for voluntary small-group training sessions on Monday but, in a sign of unity, have all refused in light of the league’s recent stance.

This is getting ugly, but we’ll keep an close eye on this front as the 12 p.m. EST deadline on Tuesday quickly approaches.