Players from several Major League Soccer teams skipped voluntary workouts Monday after the league and the players’ association hit an impasse on an agreement that would clear the way for a tournament this summer in Florida.
A person with knowledge of the negotiations said the talks between the two sides were ongoing and a deadline has been pushed to Wednesday. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the negotiations were not being made public.
The Major League Soccer Players Association had voted to approve economic concessions for this season, including across-the-board salary cuts. The proposal, made public by the union Sunday night, was sent back to the league for approval by team owners.
“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 union said in a statement.
The season was suspended March 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic. Teams had played just two games.
The league gave its teams the go-ahead last week to begin small voluntary group training sessions outdoors. They must follow a strict protocol, as well as local public health and government restrictions. Not all the teams have returned to training.
On Monday, players from a number of teams including Atlanta United, Inter Miami, Vancouver Whitecaps and Minnesota United did not report to voluntary training.
“Players made a CHOICE to focus their time and energy on an important decision which includes the threat of a lockout instead of volunteering to attend on-field training for a tournament we already agreed to attend. Refuse is not the word I would use,” Minnesota midfielder Ethan Finlay posted on social media. Finlay is on the executive board of the players’ union.
Details of the Florida tournament were still under consideration but the league’s 26 teams and limited staff would be sheltered at hotels with games played without fans at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World.
In addition to salary cuts, the union’s proposal includes reduced team and individual bonuses, as well as concessions to the existing and future terms of the collective bargaining agreement. Details were not immediately available.
MLS did not comment on the proposal.
MLS first announced last month it was exploring possible “changes to player compensation” because of the financial hit the league and teams were facing with the extended suspension in play. The sides have since gone back and forth.
“We are seeking to work collaboratively with the MLSPA to find a solution that provides a safety net for all players, opportunity to earn full salary in the scenario where all matches are played with fans, and in particular provides protection for the players at the lower end of the salary scale,” the league said in a statement at the time.
MLS and the players’ union agreed to terms of a new contract in early February, but it had not been ratified when the season was put on hold.