MLS refs to return to work this weekend with new 7-year pay deal

March 27 – Major League Soccer referees will return to work this weekend after ratifying a new collective bargaining agreement that ends a 37-day dispute which saw replacement referees in place to start the season.

The seven-year agreement between the Professional Referee Organization (PRO) and Professional Soccer Referees Association (PSRA) runs through 2030 and is the longest labour deal for match officials in MLS history

The PRO, which supplies officials to MLS, the NWSL and some lower-tier leagues, locked out officials three days ahead of the MLS opener featuring Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami after the union rejected a tentative five-year deal to replace the expired deal.

At the time, the PSRA cited the compensation and benefits PRO was offering, as well as a lack of improvements to travel, scheduling and other quality-of-life concerns.

“The skyrocketing growth of MLS has significantly increased demands on officials mentally and physically, and as such has increased demands on both our professional and personal time,” PSRA president and lead negotiator Peter Manikowski said in a statement when announcing the lockout.

Replacement officials from the lower divisions of US Soccer, Jamaica, Brazil, Turkey, Spain, Poland, Mexico and Italy were drafted in to cover.

“We look forward to having the PRO match officials return this weekend, and we thank MLS players, coaches and clubs for their professionalism, and our fans for their support throughout the opening month of the season,” MLS Executive Vice President Nelson Rodriguez said in a news release.

Meanwhile Mark Geiger, PRO’s general manager, commented: “We look forward to welcoming our senior match officials back this upcoming match round. It has been a difficult time for everyone as we worked to reach an agreement. This seven-year term provides enhanced pay and benefits for all officials and the stability that will support the growth of the professional game in the United States and Canada.”

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