Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber provided an update on plans for the start of the 2021 season and negotiations over a Collective Bargaining Agreement with the MLS Players Association, stressing that there are now just 20 days remaining to reach an agreement, during a Tuesday conference call with media members.
As a result of fan attendance at MLS stadiums expected to be heavily restricted for most — if not all – of 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the continued financial impact on the league and its clubs, on Dec. 29 MLS invoked a Force Majeure clause as provided for in the CBA negotiated last year.
The league subsequently announced that in order to reduce the impact on players, it had proposed extending the current CBA by two years, rather than requesting any reduction in player salaries for 2021. The agreement, said Garber, provides a 30-day window in order to successfully negotiate changes to the CBA.
"We understand that the MLSPA need some time to review the proposal that we made last week," he said. "But as of today, we have 20 days to work together to reach an agreement, and we are laser-focused to reach an agreement with our players, ready to sit down with them, day or night, to try to reach an agreement. So there has to be a real sense of urgency from both the MLS league office, our ownership and certainly from the player pool and the MLSPA."
Garber also explained that the league remains intent on starting the 2021 season in mid-March.
"All of you know that we have an unbelievably crowded calendar this year," Garber said of the importance of the mid-March start date. "We have World Cup qualifiers, we have the Gold Cup, we have the Concacaf Champions League, the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup that was delayed a year, we have the Canadian Championship. We have a schedule that is as crowded and as busy as any, perhaps in the history of the league.
"And as we learned from last year, and as we're seeing play out with the other North American leagues and even now with the Premier League and other European leagues, our schedule must provide us with the opportunity to make up any matches in the event that we have postponed games due to positive COVID tests."
While the commissioner said the league had yet to receive a response from the MLSPA on the proposal, he remained optimistic that an agreement would be reached before the end of the 30 days.
"We've got to solve this together and I think we did solve it together last spring, and we've been able to work through difficult CBA negotiations since the first one that we had 15 years ago," he said. "So, I'm confident that we'll get together and we'll do the work, and then hopefully we'll be able to get an agreement after that work has been done."