TORONTO, Canada—A lockout may not have been the only the thing Toronto FC avoided Friday night when Major League Soccer (MLS) and its Players Association struck a deal on a new tentative collective bargaining agreement (CBA).
According to multiple reports, reigning MVP Alejandro Pozuelo was in talks with Saudi Arabia side Al Ahli over a loan move as negotiations between MLS and MLSPA went down to the wire.
Exclusive: @MLS almost lost its MVP Alejandro Pozuelo amid last night's CBA talks. The #Toronto striker was discussing a loan move to #AlAhli in Saudi Arabia until the deal was struck: https://t.co/jAAZKKlaGH— Lyall Thomas (@SkySportsLyall) February 6, 2021
The two sides were less than three hours away from the league’s imposed midnight deadline on Friday when they announced they reached a deal. Had the two parties been unable to come to terms, the league and its owners had already voted unanimously to lock out the players.
“The agreement, covering the next seven years from 2021 through 2027, is subject to the approval of the MLS Board of Governors and the membership of the MLSPA,” the league released in a statement late Friday night.
Amid fears of a player lockout and the league being suspended, many players had already made the jump from MLS clubs to overseas. An actual work stoppage likely would have resulted in several more transfers outbound—including a possible one for the league’s best player in 2020.
But that appears to be avoided as players around the league will vote this weekend on the new CBA that was negotiated by the MLSPA on their behalf. According to The Athletic’s Sam Stejskal, a simple majority will be enough to get the go-ahead from the players side, essentially ratifying the CBA through 2027.
Pozuelo, 29, started all 23 games for TFC last season, becoming the only player in franchise history to do so, chipping in with nine goals and 10 assists en route to winning his first MLS MVP award. He has scored 21 times in 50 matches since arriving from Belgium side KRC Genk.
Fellow designated player Jozy Altidore was also linked with a move away from Toronto FC as negotiations came down to the wire, though his transfer rumours were much more high-profile.