MLS discusses pay-cuts with players, even considers pushing MLS Cup into 2021

Like other U.S. pro sports leagues, Major League Soccer is facing the reality that it might not be able to complete its 2020 schedule in its entirety with fans in the stands or if it can return to play behind closed doors if might be with a substantially altered or perhaps reduced schedule.

MLS confirmed that reality of the 2020 pandemic with a statement that covered three main points:

1. The moratorium on games was extended until at least June 8;
2. It is considering various formats to complete the 2020 season that include pushing back MLS Cup, currently scheduled for Nov. 7, in December 2020 or into 2021;
3. It is negotiating with the MLS Players Association on pay-cuts.

MLS statement:
"Major League Soccer remains focused on exploring a wide variety of formats for playing the entire 2020 season including pushing back MLS Cup into December or later. Based on the most recent government guidance, we have extended the moratorium on matches until at least June 8. Like all Leagues, we are in discussion with our players about changes to player compensation due to the financial impact on the league and our clubs from the COVID-19 Crisis. 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."

ESPN reported on Friday MLS commissioner Don Garber and deputy commissioner Mark Abbott held a conference call on Thursday with the MLSPA executive board about a variety of league issues -- scenarios for returning to play and scenarios for potential pay-cuts.

Sources told ESPN the outline of what MLS is looking at included:

-- Paying a minimum of 50 percent of the annual salaries of players. Higher payments would depend on how many games were actually played and how they were played (with fans in the stands or behind closed doors);
-- Paying players making less than $100,000 their entire salary; and
-- Paying players making $100,000 or more no less than $100,000.

The math of the MLS proposal: players have been paid in full through the first four months -- January-April -- so to be paid for 50 percent or one half of the year -- six of 12 months -- a player would only need to be paid for two of the eight remaining months -- or 25 percent of his remaining salaries if the season doesn't resume.

MLS and the MLSPA reached a tentative agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement to begin with the 2020 season and run through January 2025, replacing the agreement reached in 2015 that expired on Jan. 31, 2020. But the agreement has yet to be ratified.

(MLS has already come up with a plan to reduce the pay of many of its staff members at the league headquarters in New York. So far only one club -- Real Salt Lake -- has announced its laying off or furloughing some staff.)

Here's what the other three U.S. pro leagues that would be playing right now but for the current pandemic and their players have agreed to ...

NBA. The 2015 MLS CBA contained no force majeure clause similar to the one in the NBA agreement with its players that allows the NBA to reduce the pay to its players based on the number of games that are wiped out because an event like an "epidemic," one of the events specifically mentioned in the agreement.

On Friday, the NBA and the NBPA announced an agreement on cutting salaries by reductions of 25 percent, beginning with the players’ twice-a-month payment due on May 15, and putting the moneys in escrow. If play doesn't resume and the force majeure clause is enforced, players will lose about a quarter of their salaries. If the season is completed, the players will receive the money that was in escrow.

MLB. MLB, which was suspended without a game being paid, put $170 million into a pot for players to share for April and May. It was part of an agreement reached in late March. But that is all the players are guaranteed to receive in the event of the cancellation of the 2020 season, less than 5 percent of the $4 billion in total payroll MLB clubs are on the hook for if the 2020 season is played in full. (MLS total payroll -- guaranteed compensation, per the MLSPA fall release -- was $294,000,000.)

MLB has no force majeure clause in the collective bargaining agreement with the MLBPA, but baseball's uniform player contract has a clause that gives its commissioner power to "suspend the operation of this contract during any national emergency during which Major League Baseball is not played."

NHL. The NHL has paid players through the rest of the 2019-20 season, which was suspended after teams played an average of 70 of 82 games, though it didn't have to.

The NHL's standard player's contract contains a clause that a player's salary is automatically suspended or canceled if it is advisable to suspend or cancel the season because of "a state of war or other cause" beyond the NHL's control.
3 comments about "MLS discusses pay-cuts with players, even considers pushing MLS Cup into 2021".
  1. Andrew Megas, April 18, 2020 at 6:59 a.m.

    If MLS can complete at least 75% of its schedule plus playoffs I don't think the players should take any cut. This will be interesting to follow. If they have to push the season into 2021 perhaps MLS could adopt split apertura/clausera seasons with a grand finale June 2021. Going forward MLS should consider shifting to August-June.

  2. Albert Harris replied, April 18, 2020 at 10:35 a.m.

    Lots of luck scheduling matches in Montreal in January and February then

  3. Paul Berry, April 18, 2020 at 2:02 p.m.

    I'm sure MLS has considered August-June and quite sensibly said no.

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