MLS and its collective bargaining agreement with the players association was set to expire on Friday, but as labor talks go on, the sides have pushed that goalpost by a week.
The two sides have agreed to extend the terms of the current CBA by a week until Feb. 7, while they continue to hammer out the issues that remain in the balance before signing a new deal.
The league and players released a joint statement Thursday, citing "productive discussions" while announcing the new development.
"Major League Soccer (MLS) and the Major League Soccer Players Association (MLSPA) today announced that they have agreed to extend the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) through February 7, 2020. The two groups have engaged in productive discussions and will continue to negotiate a new CBA," they said.
While the players have been strong in their unified, determined rhetoric, it does appear as if talks have largely been amicable and that an agreement–and not a work stoppage–is in the offing. The players, naturally, want an increase in earnings, while also seeking to simplify allocation money mechanisms, have access to more charter flights and better travel accommodations and secure more freedom to move throughout the league.
Even if an agreement isn't reached by Feb. 7, there's still some leeway to avoid a strike. MLS's season doesn't begin until Feb. 29, while five MLS teams are slated to begin play in the Concacaf Champions League between Feb. 18 and 20.
“I feel good about the tone of the league and the way that they've handled these negotiations,” MLS Players Association team rep Dax McCarty recently told SI's Grant Wahl. “I think one very big positive that has happened, as opposed to the last negotiations [in 2015], is we're not starting late. You know, we have started these negotiations almost a year and a half ago because we didn't want to have to come down to a deadline. But ultimately, look, these labor negotiations are never easy. Both sides never want to budge too much, and it's always a little bit of give and take. So the tone from the meetings has been very positive. Obviously, we're still far apart on a few different issues, but to me, where we were at last negotiation and where we are in this negotiation is a lot more positive.
“I'm very optimistic that an agreement can be reached. But I would be remiss if I didn't say that the players have never been stronger, and the players have never been more on the same page and more in line with how we communicate and where we want this league to go. And so the power of the players association is extremely strong, and we are ready to do whatever it takes to get what we feel is a fair deal.”
That, evidently, includes extending the current CBA terms and moving the target for a do-or-die date.