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MLS season features replacement refs; Reynoso injury concern for MNUFC

Reynoso left MNUFC's practice early Tuesday ahead of Saturday season opener

Lionel Messi's Inter Miami are set to host the MLS season opener Wednesday night against Real Salt Lake, but after the Professional Referees Organization (PRO) locked out MLS officials over the weekend, the season will start with replacement referees.

The union that represents MLS refs overwhelmingly rejected the latest proposal from PRO and MLS with a 98.5% 'no' vote, according to The Athletic.

“Rather than taking care of some very basic needs that officials have, MLS and PRO are willing to hurt the quality of the game. That should alarm every player, coach and fan, and it’s devastating to our officials, who have dedicated their entire lives – mind, body and extensive experience – to this game,” PSRA president Peter Manikowski said in a press release. “We stand for the game.”

The MLS Players Association (MLSPA) released a statement Tuesday saying they are "disappointed" the two sides failed to reach a deal.

"The lockout imposed on PSRA members and deployment of replacement referees is a step backwards for MLS," continued the MLSPA. "All workers deserve a fair wage, safe working conditions and the ability to collectively bargain in good faith."

"The use of replacement referees will not only negatively impact the quality and results of our matches, it may also jeopardize the health and safety of players. We urge PRO and MLS to return to the table and bargain in good faith with PSRA to work."

The previous CBA between the players union and PRO, an MLS-funded body that manages professional officiating in the United States and Canada, expired Jan. 15. Leadership of both groups reached a tentative agreement last week that was rejected by PSRA members.

The Loons are set to begin their season Saturday night in Texas against Austin FC before returning to Minnesota for their home opener March 2 against defending champion Columbus Crew.

MNUFC will start the season with interim-manager Cameron Knowles on the sideline guiding the team. But for how much longer is the question after reports from The Athletic's Tom Bogert and the Pioneer Press' Andy Greder stated that club was closing in on an agreement with Manchester United first team coach Eric Ramsay. At 32 years old, Ramsay would be the youngest full-time head coach in league history.

Knowles is the club's second interim manager after MNUFC fired Adrian Heath last October with two games left to go in the season. Assistant coach Sean McAuley stepped in as interim manager for the following two games, winning one and losing one, before leaving in December to take the head coach role for USL Championship side Indy Eleven.

While the team will certainly be without a new head coach for the season opener it looks like star playmaker Emanuel Reynoso could be in doubt for Saturday's game as well. Greder reported Reynoso exited the team's Tuesday training session with an injury. Earlier in the team's training camp Reynoso suffered a knee injury that set the Argentine back in preseason preparation.

Minnesota United and Austin FC are set for a 7:30 p.m. CT kickoff Saturday.

Oct 4, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Minnesota United midfielder Emanuel Reynoso (10) takes a corner kick against Los Angeles FC during the first half at BMO Stadium.