MLS players vote to send new proposal to league - sources

The MLS Players Association membership voted late Friday night to send a comprehensive proposal to MLS involving return-to-play, economic concessions for 2020, and modified terms on a collective bargaining agreement (CBA), sources confirmed to ESPN.

The Athletic was the first to report that the return-to-play plan was approved, as well as the players' intention to not head to Orlando unless a CBA has been ratified and an approved health and safety plan was put in place.

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The moves come in response to the coronavirus pandemic that saw the league shut down on March 12.

Both the MLSPA and MLS declined to comment when contacted by ESPN.

The plan will see the players arrive in Orlando on or around June 24, and spend at most six weeks in Central Florida. The teams will be broken into groups and play three group-stage matches -- as opposed to a previous proposal that involved five group-stage games -- with those games counting in the MLS standings. There will then be a knockout stage.

Players will be tested in frequent intervals, including the day before any match. Any positive test would result in the individual's isolation.

The MLSPA held a conference call on Wednesday with top MLS executives, including MLS commissioner Don Garber. Multiple sources have told ESPN that the conversations were heated at times, and that Garber was unable to answer some player questions about such items as how food preparation would be handled and if hotel workers would be subject to the same level of testing as players and staff. One source indicated that more of the player safety issues have now been addressed but that a few issues still need to be finalized. An epidemiologist, Dr. Isaac Bogoch, has been spearheading the MLSPA's efforts in terms of addressing player safety, and has been in steady communication with the league to address the MLSPA's concerns.

There is also concern from players on the league's three Canadian teams and how the league would handle their return to Canada after the tournament is over. Currently Canada requires any international travelers to self-isolate for 14 days upon returning to the country. There are exemptions, but professional athletes aren't included on that list but the hope is that the issue will be resolved by the time the tournament ends.

In terms of the pay cut proposal, sources tell ESPN that the amount of economic concessions remains around $100 million. It includes a pay cut of 7.5% to begin at a date still to be determined. The proposal also involves capping bonuses for 2020. At one point, the MLSPA was considering a bonus cap of around $5m.

In terms of the CBA, salary increases specified by the agreement would be delayed for a year, so that the original 2021 terms would take effect in 2022, with 2022 being pushed back until 2023 and so on. The MLSPA is also keen to keep an agreement on revenue sharing of broadcast rights that would begin in 2023. MLS wants to delay the start of the revenue sharing until 2024 -- the final year of the CBA -- but the MLSPA is insisting the original 2023 start date remains.

One sticking point that remains is the implementation of a force majeure clause, which is an insert into contracts that frees both parties from any liability or obligation in the event of circumstances beyond the control of the parties. Sources say that MLS wants to tie the clause to attendance in 2021, and that if attendance numbers fall enough, the clause can be invoked. The MLSPA is pushing back on such a proposal, though discussions on the clause continue.

Given that the proposed start date for the Orlando tournament is quickly approaching, sources expect the league will respond with either approval or a counteroffer in the coming days.