With multiple reports recently outlining a return to play proposal for MLS with a centralized competition in Orlando for up to 10 weeks, a new report says the league has shortened the proposed length of the kickoff tournament as a response to player pushback.
With more states reopening to an extent and allowing teams to hold some kind of training, the latest plan would be for teams to convene in Orlando for the tournament for about a month, basically to come into the market to play games and bounce back home in a much shorter timeframe, according to ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle on Wednesday.
It sounds as though both the rank-and-file players and stars, including reigning MVP Carlos Vela and huge offseason signing Chicharito, pushed back on the plan for teams to arrive, train in Florida for 3-4 weeks, and then play games over 4-6 weeks in Orlando, with the teams being housed in a Disney resort throughout. As a result, the proposal to shorten the time away from family for players seems to be a counteroffer on the part of the league.
There are two complications in all of this, referenced by Carlisle. First, MLS is asking players to take pay cuts, and negotiations with the MLS Players Association ongoing. In contrast, the NWSL announced Wednesday they would return to play at the end of June with a similar tournament held in Utah, players will receive full pay and health insurance coverage this year even amid the disruption in normal business due to the coronavirus pandemic, and players have the option to opt out of the Utah tournament while still keeping their pay and health insurance this year.
The scale likely will lead to different outcomes for MLS and NWSL — MLS teams have more players and the players make more money, so the expenditures and possible savings are substantially larger than in the NWSL context — but it still appears MLS owners are determined to both get back to play and also get players to take pay cuts, which players are pushing back on.
The other factor that complicates the possible plan a bit is a few teams, including the San Jose Earthquakes, have not been officially cleared to begin training at all yet. Carlisle reports those teams could go to Orlando early to get training time in, but it’s unclear if those players would just have to suck it up or if forcing them to be away for two months or longer would grind the entire plan to a halt for the league.
It sounds like talks continue apace. We’ll have to see what happens and if a set plan becomes reality in the coming days or weeks, and we’ll keep you posted.
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