With the collective bargaining agreement between Major League Soccer and its players union set to expire Friday, the two sides agreed Thursday to extend the current deal a week in an effort to get a new contract signed.
MLS and the union announced the extension in a two-sentence joint statement Thursday:
“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 declined to elaborate.
“Negotiations are ongoing and we have no further comment at this time,” the union’s Elizabeth Harley said.
Negotiations for a new contract come at a time of rapid growth for the league, which has added 10 teams since the last labor agreement. And the players want to share in that growth, through more liberal free agency and payroll rules, larger salaries and more expansive use of charter flights. MLS is the only major professional league in the U.S. whose teams still travel on commercial airline flights.
MLS has pushed back, claiming the league, which is entering its 25th season, has yet to turn a profit.
The two sides have been discussing the parameters of a new deal for months, and it is believed they are close to a deal but need more time to finalize details. Negotiations for the last two CBAs were contentious, with both nearly ending in a work stoppage.
Thursday’s announcement of an extension means the teams, already in preseason training camp, will continue to abide by the terms of the old agreement. If a new deal isn’t signed by Feb. 7, the union and the league could agree to a further extension. Failing that, the players could decide to stop reporting to practice and preseason games or the owners could lock them out. That could endanger not only the start of the season, which begins Feb. 29, but it could also impact the CONCACAF Champions League, which features five MLS teams and begins Feb. 18.