CINCINNATI (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER) - An MLS lockout has been dodged after the league announced that a new collective bargaining agreement was completed on Wednesday with the MLS Players Association.
The new CBA, which will run until 2025, included an agreement to resume the 2020 season, which has been suspended since March 12 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"We hope our return to the field will allow fans a momentary release and a semblance of normalcy," a statement by the players' association said. "We are committed as a group to doing all that we can — both as leaders in our sport as well as leaders in our communities — to help carry our countries, our communities, our league and our sport forward."
The MLS said in a statement that details on the Orlando tournament, which is reportedly set to be held in July, will be announced in the coming days.
FC Cincinnati Player Representative and Lakota West product Nick Hagglund said in a Zoom call with reporters Wednesday afternoon that negotiations have been tense and the pandemic added extra obstacles.
"It started with coronavirus and we didn’t have a ratified CBA so we scrapped the CBA to go back to the negotiating table and over a couple months, back and forth between both sides, eventually, we’ve come to this point," the defender said. "There were some boiling points, there were some sticky points. I feel like the pandemic added an extra interesting unpredictability of how this was gonna go.
"Obviously, negotiations are never easy and there’s no winner. Both sides are conceding but ultimately it’s moving forward. Soccer’s gonna be back and that’s the important thing."
On Monday, FC Cincinnati was set to begin voluntary small-group training at the Mercy Health Training Center in Milford, but no players participated amidst rumblings of a potential MLS lockout.
"The threat of a lockout is a scary thing for sure. Ultimately, I think it made the players dig their heels in even more," Hagglund said. "I'm really proud of the players and how they responded to that. There was no panic. Everyone was in together, making sure that they knew what the information was to make sound judgment and it was across the player pool.
"I’m really proud of the guys of FC Cincinnati and what they did to understand and make sure everyone was on the same page."
For most of the pandemic, players struggled with not having a specific date of when soccer would resume. With the Orlando tournament now on the horizon, hope and optimism has returned.
"Going back into early May, guys didn’t really know. Do I need to be within three weeks distance of being match-fit? Do I need to be within eight weeks distance? Within the last few weeks guys, have gotten more of an idea," fellow FC Cincinnati Player Representative Spencer Richey said. "It’s an incredible peace of mind for me personally to know this deal is done and to know that there’s games hopefully coming in the near future and to be able to get back to the training field and enter a preseason phase."
Hagglund added: "Now that this is signed and done, it’s a match, it’s exciting and we’re all ready to get back to competing and being on the field for our supporters, for our city to bring about some light."
Hagglund also mentioned that the new CBA offers players from across the league a chance to shift their attention toward other things, such as the nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“Now guys can use their platform to focus on other areas of the world that are arguably more important than soccer,” he said.