Major League Soccer’s players association voted to ratify a new collective bargain agreement with the league Wednesday, clearing the way for MLS to become the first major league in the U.S. to come back from the coronavirus pandemic that shut down professional sports in March.
The deal includes significant economic concessions from both sides but removes the threat of a lockout, an action the owners had threatened to take this week.
“Today’s vote also finalizes a plan to resume the 2020 season and provides players with certainty for the months ahead,” the union said in a statement. “It allows our members to move forward and continue to compete in the game they love.”
The vote will allow the league to go forward with a plan for all 26 teams to gather later this month in Orlando, Fla., where they would be quarantined at a Disney resort and play a televised tournament behind closed doors at ESPN’s sprawling Wide World of Sports complex beginning in early July.
According to the Athletic, the deal nearly fell apart over the league’s proposal that a force majeure clause tied to attendance decreases be added to the CBA. The union favored more standard language that would allow either side to back out of the CBA under unforeseen circumstances such as a global pandemic.
The union had previously approved a series of financial proposals including pay cuts of 7.5% across the player pool, a reduction in bonuses and changes in revenue sharing negotiated in the previous CBA, which was to run through 2024. The CBA approved Wednesday won’t expire until 2025.
With an accord in place, the players are expected to report to Orlando later this month and would be quarantined from family and friends for up to six weeks.