June 3, 2020 / 4:32 PM / a month ago

MLS players ratify labour deal, finalise plan to resume season

(Reuters) - Major League Soccer (MLS) avoided a lockout after its players ratified a new labor agreement that paves the way for the milestone 25th season to resume in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the two sides said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: Mar 14, 2020; Cincinnati, OH, USA; A view of an MLS patch on a jersey in the team store following the suspension of Major League Soccer regular season due to COVID-19 concerns. FC Cincinnati was set for the home opener against D.C. United prior to the season suspension. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The deal, which ensures labour peace until at least the end of the 2025 MLS season, includes a restart plan that begins with a tournament at Orlando’s Walt Disney World and will see players take a 5% pay cut for the rest of the 2020 season.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber, speaking on a video call with media, did not disclose specifics of the tournament since the details have not yet been finalised.

“Bear with us for a bit while we continue to finalize all the details of the Orlando project,” said Garber.

“As it relates to returning to our stadiums ... I cannot tell you today when we will be returning to our stadiums to play games. That has overshadowed the process.”

The league and union had agreed to a new labor deal ahead of the 2020 season but it was not ratified before the COVID-19 outbreak shut down the league.

All 26 MLS teams had played two of their 34 scheduled regular season games when action was suspended in mid-March because of the virus, which Garber said will deliver a $1 billion hit to the league.

According to reports, the Orlando tournament would see each teams play three group stage matches as part of the regular season before 16 teams advance to a knockout stage, which would not count toward the regular season standings.

Earlier this week, players who had been taking part in voluntary training sessions skipped workouts as the league and union tried to iron out their differences.

“We hope our return to the field will allow fans a momentary release and a semblance of normalcy,” the MLSPA said in a statement.

Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond and Pritha Sarkar

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