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Major League Soccer union counters league plan to resume play in Orlando: report

If the players’ proposal is approved by MLS, teams would gather in Orlando on June 24 for two weeks of training before a tournament restarts the season.
Fireworks explode before the MLS All-Star Game at Exploria Stadium in Orlando on July 31, 2019.
Fireworks explode before the MLS All-Star Game at Exploria Stadium in Orlando on July 31, 2019. [ STEPHEN M. DOWELL | TNS ]
Published May 31, 2020

ORLANDO — Major League Soccer players have approved a plan to resume play in Orlando, asking the league to agree to significant changes to its initial proposal, according to The Athletic website.

The MLS Players Association submitted the proposal to the league’s owners Friday after receiving enough votes from players, The Athletic reported. The league will now review the players’ proposal and decide whether to accept it or counter.

The players previously had reportedly sent more than 100 questions to the league for review, with many speaking out against being isolated at ESPN Wide World of Sports at Disney World, away from their spouses and young children for more than two months.

The players’ vote on a revised plan is progress and could lead MLS resuming this summer after suspending competition due to the coronavirus pandemic on March 12.

If the players’ plan is approved, teams would arrive in Orlando on June 24, then train for two weeks. After this mini-preseason, a tournament would commence with a three-game group stage followed by a single-elimination knockout round. Teams would leave Orlando immediately after being eliminated.

This would keep teams in Orlando for six weeks, at most, instead of the league’s previous plan, which would have lasted more than 10 weeks. This addresses widespread concerns from players throughout the league about extended separation from their families.

The players rejected a key point in the latest league proposal — a one-year delay of a revenue-sharing agreement secured in the players’ most recent collective bargaining agreement. The two sides agreed to a new CBA before the season, but it was never ratified, complicating return-to-play negotiations.

MLS and the players have been negotiating a 10 percent pay cut and other cost-saving changes to compensation, as first reported by ESPN.

However, the players declined to delay the revenue-sharing agreement. The agreement would direct 25 percent of the increase in media revenue after 2022 into salary budget and General Allocation Money (GAM) for each team. The league’s proposal would delay the start of this revenue sharing from 2023 to 2024.

If the league counters the players’ proposal, The Athletic reported that the MLSPA will repeat the process of asking player representatives on every team to discuss options with their peers to help the MLSPA bargaining committee — which consists of three players from every team plus the union executive board — develop a response.

Any response to a potential MLS counterproposal would then have to be approved via a vote by all players.

Major League Soccer is expected to finalize the CBA, the plan for the Orlando tournament and the final compensation reduction within the next week, according to The Athletic.