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Scott G Winterton, KSL, File

MLS players submit proposal for summer tournament to league, but hurdles remain

By Sean Walker, KSL.com | Updated - Jun. 1, 2020 at 12:23 p.m. | Posted - May 31, 2020 at 10:36 p.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — Major League Soccer may have taken a significant step toward resuming play Sunday with a proposal by the MLS Players’ Association that ratifies the new collective bargaining agreement for another year and paves the way for participation in a mid-summer tournament in Orlando that would signal the season’s reboot from the coronavirus pandemic.

The players’ association announced the new proposal Sunday in a statement, adding that they were sending it to the owners.

“This evening, MLS players voted to approve a package of economic concessions for the 2020 season, modifications to the recently agreed-upon CBA, including its extension by a year, and their agreement to participate in a summer tournament in Orlando,” the players’ association said in a collective statement. "Included were salary reductions across the entire player pool, reduced team and individual bonuses, and additional concessions to existing and future terms of the CBA. 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 package has been formally submitted to the league for a decision by the owners.”

Major League Soccer, which has not played since the season was postponed following similar professional league closures in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, has not commented on the proposal.

There are also issues related to the "force majeure" clause that would allow either side to back out of the future CBA in the case of a catastrophic event, such as a worldwide pandemic, according to ESPN.

But the two sides have been in several negotiations over the past few weeks regarding a return to play. Dubbed the “Orlando Plan” by media and observers, the plan would bring all 26 teams to the Walt Disney World Resort in Central Florida for two weeks of training, followed by a mid-summer tournament to resume play.

As reported by multiple media outlets — perhaps most notably, The Athletic — the plan has gone through a series of negotiations involving items like player safety, testing for COVID-19, a “quarantine bubble” in hotels near the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, and length of stay.

But the approval of several economic concessions by the players association is a significant step forward in resuming play.

The league has already canceled several extracurricular competitions, such as the annual all-star game originally scheduled for July 29 in Los Angeles, Leagues Cup with Mexico’s Liga MX, and the Campeones Cup, pitting the reigning champion of MLS Cup against the winner of Liga MX’s Campeon de Campeones between the Apertura and Clausura champs.

The league's 26 teams were cleared to begin returning to small-group trainings Saturday, after gradually phasing in an approach that included voluntary individual workouts at outdoor training facilities. Strict guidelines for health and safety have been implemented, under the direction of each club's medical staff.

The league-wide moratorium on full-time training originally lasted until Monday.

The next step now lies with the owners. But ESPN’s Herculez Gomez reported Sunday night that the league has given the players a Tuesday deadline to accept the owners’ final proposal or risk being locked out.

ESPN.com reported late Sunday night that "some differences" still remain between the two sides, including salary reductions in light of the long layoff. The site said that players offered a 7.5% salary reduction across the board, while the league's most recent request called for 8.75% in cuts.

NWSL recently announced a return to play in a mid-season tournament of its own, the NWSL Challenge Cup, hosted by Utah Royals FC at Zion’s Bank Stadium in Herriman and Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy.

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