Negotiations between MLS and the players’ union were at an impasse early Monday, jeopardizing plans to resume competition in July, people close to the situation said.
The sides have reached agreement on salary reductions and the details of a summer tournament in greater Orlando, Florida, in which all 26 teams would be housed in a "controlled environment" at a Disney hotel for several weeks.
However, one person said, two major sticking points remain: the players accepting a lower share of TV revenue starting in 2023 and the language in a force majeure clause, which would allow the owners to withhold salaries and suspend contracts in the case of another major national crisis.
League owners do not appear willing to negotiate any further and, as first reported by ESPN's Herculez Gomez, the MLS Players Association must decide by midday Tuesday whether to accept MLS's terms. Otherwise, Gomez reported, the owners would lock out the players.
Some players are expected to skip voluntary group workouts Monday to reassess the situation, said one person familiar with the talks.
MLS has been grounded since March 12, when the novel coronavirus took hold across the country. The league is aiming to restart play at the Orlando tournament and perhaps resume the regular season with no spectators or few fans late this summer or fall.
MLS officials said they did not want to comment. The players' union announced Sunday night that its members voted to approve a package of economic concessions.
"While a difficult vote in incredibly challenging times, it was taken collectively to ensure that players can return to competition as soon as they are safely able to do so," the MLS Players Association said in a statement.
MLSPA members agreed to a salary reduction - 7.5%, one person familiar with the talks said - as well as reduced team and individual bonuses. It also said it accepted modifications to the collective bargaining agreement, including a one-year extension through the 2025 season and “additional concessions to existing and future terms of the CBA.”
This winter, the sides agreed to a five-year labor agreement. However, it was never ratified.
Facing the prospects of lost game-day revenue for perhaps the entire year, MLS owners have sought economic concessions from the players. The sides exchanged proposals multiple times in recent weeks.
MLS has been seeking to join several other leagues around the world in restarting their seasons. The German Bundesliga was the first major circuit to resume and, in the coming weeks, England, Italy and Spain will return.
In the United States, the National Women’s Soccer League last week announced all nine teams would gather in greater Salt Lake City in late June and compete in the Challenge Cup. The NWSL would become the first U.S. team sport to return from the pandemic shutdown.