MLS players' union proposal offers $100M in payroll relief

The MLS Players Association has sent a counterproposal to Major League Soccer regarding player salaries for the 2020 season, with the union confirming that the amount of economic relief would exceed $100 million.

- Stream new episodes of ESPN FC Monday-Friday on ESPN+
- Stream every episode of 30 for 30: Soccer Stories on ESPN+

Sources tell ESPN that the proposal -- made over the weekend -- includes salary reductions, salary deferrals and significant reduction of bonuses, as well as future relief due to the suspension in play related to the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement, MLSPA executive director Bob Foose said: "Conversations between the MLSPA and the league about concessions have been challenging, but constructive. Despite the fact that CBA negotiations were just concluded and we anticipated a deal for the next five seasons, to share in the sacrifice caused by the coronavirus crisis, MLS players have stepped up to offer a package that would bring over $100M in economic relief to the league and its owners."

The concessions amount to roughly a third of the league's total payroll of about $310 million. The cuts would impact the entirety of the MLSPA membership.

When these economic concessions would go into effect is still to be determined. MLS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

MLS suspended play on March 12, and at the time instituted a training moratorium as well. Recently, some clubs began having their players engage in individual workouts at team facilities, with stringent controls in place to ensure that they didn't contract COVID-19.

ESPN reported on May 9 that MLS had offered the players a 20% salary cut across the board for the remainder of the 2020 season, plus additional unspecified reductions in overall compensation. That offer was made after MLS floated an offer of a 50% pay cut as it pertained to the entire 2020 payroll, with players under $100,000 not affected.

The negotiations come as MLS is trying to negotiate return-to-play scenarios with the MLSPA. With some teams still not able to begin individual workouts due to local stay-at-home orders, the league has proposed sending all 26 teams to Orlando, Florida, and holding a mini-tournament that would be composed of a group stage and knockout rounds. The teams, players and staff would head to Orlando around June 1 and be sequestered for around two months. The first month would see the teams train, with games taking place in the latter month.

While both sides have characterized the salary and return-to-play issues as separate, there is a sense that the two topics have become intertwined, with some players balking at the prospect of being away from their families for two months in the middle of a pandemic if they have to take a pay cut.

The talks come amid an awkward labor situation for both sides. The league and the MLSPA agreed to a framework for a new collective bargaining agreement in February, but due in part to the ongoing pandemic the agreement was never ratified by either side. There has been speculation that the league might lock out the players if the MLSPA doesn't accede to the league's demands, but sources on both sides have stated that such a scorched-earth policy has not been brought up by the league.