MLS sets new season dates but still has to agree wage deal with players

January 26 – The 26th season of the Major League Soccer (MLS) will kick off on April 3 and conclude in November, though player wage negotiations still hang as a cloud over the competition. 

The coronavirus pandemic truncated last year’s MLS season, the 25th iteration of the competition, but with pre-season to be opened on February 22 the MLS is hoping for an uninterrupted season in 2021. The league says players will have to quarantine and conduct individual training upon reporting back to their clubs.

The regular season will run to November 7 with the MLS Cup final scheduled for December 11. During the season teams will travel on chartered flights. The league had previously said it was targeting a mid-March start to the 2021 campaign.

But a panoply of problems remain to be revolved ahead of the new season. The league and the players union are still locked in a labour conflict after the MLS invoked a ‘force majeure’ clause that requires both parties to negotiate modifications to the existing collective bargaining agreement (CBA) in good faith for 30 days.

“Although no agreement has been reached, MLS is committed to meet as many times as necessary with the MLSPA in the coming days to finalize an agreement,” said the MLS in a statement on Monday.

The MLS has proposed to stop any pay cuts to its players for the 2021 season, but in exchange asked for a two-year extension to the CBA with the league seeking to mitigate the financial fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. In 2020, players had agreed to a 5% cut in salaries and a 70% cut in bonuses.

The pandemic has also lead to uncertainty over the exact fate of the three Canadian franchises in the league, with a marked discrepancy in coronavirus numbers and deaths between the United States and Canada.

In announcing the 2021 dates, the league said it is continuing to work with CF Montreal, Toronto FC and the Vancouver Whitecaps on the issue of travel restrictions between the two countries. Last season, the three Canadian franchises set up shop in the US with Toronto playing in East Hartford, Montreal in Harrison and Vancouver in Portland.

This season Austin FC will debut making it the 27th team in the MLS.

Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1614302239labto1614302239ofdlr1614302239owedi1614302239sni@o1614302239fni1614302239