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MLS set to return after reaching return-to-play agreement with players

A new CBA has been officially ratified after players, league agree to new terms through 2025

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New York City FC v Toronto FC
Alejandro Pozuelo #10 of Toronto FC celebrates a goal during the 2020 home opener at BMO Field.

TORONTO, Canada—The Reds are returning to action, Disney style.

The MLS Players Association (MLSPA) announced Wednesday that they have voted to approve the Major League Soccer’s latest return-to-play plan, officially ratifying the collective bargaining agreement through 2025.

“MLS Players today ratified a new collective bargaining agreement, which will run through the 2025 season,” the MLSPA released in a statement. “Today’s vote also finalizes a plan to resume the 2020 season and provides players with certainty for the months ahead. It allows our members to move forward and continue to compete in the game they love.”

The new deal comes a few hours before the league was reportedly set to lock out its players after failing to come to an agreement on a return-to-play scenario. After some leeway from both sides, they were able to reach a common ground.

The journey back starts just outside of Orlando, Florida at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

According to The Athletic’s Sam Stejskal and Paul Tenorio, players will depart for a two-week training camp “on or around June 24” before competing in three group-stage matches that will count toward the regular season, of course, without any fans. Following the group matches, there will be a knockout round, though the exact details on how it will work remain vague.

The league is also reportedly creating a $1 million prize pool for the competition, which is nice for the players, but they’re also not leaving them with much choice. According to the aforementioned report, players who refuse to play that don’t have an exemption or excuse from participating (i.e. a legitimate medical or family condition) will apparently face “strict” penalties.

Following the conclusion of the six-week competition in Orlando, Stejskal and Tenorio also mention that the hope for the league is that they resume its regular season in home markets, but of course, that remains dependent on COVID-19.

Either way, for fans eagerly awaiting the return of Toronto FC, here it is. The Reds are coming back.