MLS CBA update: 'Positive movement' between players, owners

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Montreal Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush is optimistic that MLS and its players' union can agree to a new collective bargaining agreement and avoid a work stoppage. (Kyle Ross/Getty)
Montreal Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush is optimistic that MLS and its players' union can agree to a new collective bargaining agreement and avoid a work stoppage. (Kyle Ross/Getty)

MONTREAL — With Major League Soccer’s collective bargaining agreement set to expire at the end of this month, the MLS Players Association and league brass are well into negotiations on a new deal between the sides.

And to hear one MLS veteran tell it, those conversations have been productive so far.

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“I think there’s been positive movement on both sides,” Montreal Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush — who serves as his club’s union representative — told reporters on Tuesday following the team’s first training session of 2020, without getting into specifics. “There was a big break in the last few weeks of December, going into the first week of January. I thought there was some good movement at that point. We’ll see from both sides how it plays out.”

Montreal is one of just five MLS clubs that has already kicked off its preseason. The Canadian champions join MLS Cup holders Seattle Sounders, Supporters’ Shield winner LAFC, U.S. Open Cup champs Atlanta United and Eastern conference regular season champion New York City FC in the CONCACAF Champions League round of 16, which is to be played next month.

Barring a complete breakdown in discussions between management and labor, those two-leg, home-and-home series would almost certainly go ahead even if a new CBA hasn’t been finalized by then, as would training camps across the league. The hard and fast deadline is Feb. 29, when the league’s 25th regular season begins.

“We’re going forward in good faith that something will get done.” Bush said. “In 2015 it was very similar, where [the CBA] expired in he middle of camp. As long as you see a pathway to a deal on both sides, I think it wouldn’t be good for either side to pull out when you think there’s positive momentum. But once again, that’s a couple of weeks down the line. Things can certainly move and turn in different directions quickly.”

The last two CBA deals were reached just days before the start of the 2010 and 2015 seasons, respectively, narrowly avoiding a strike by the players each time. The conversations this time around appeared to be more amicable, even before this latest update.

But as Bush suggested, that could change as the 11th hour approaches. The 33-year-old did note one key difference from the last CBA negotiation five years ago: how engaged players across the league are in the process.

“There’s a lot of communication between the guys,” he said. “There’s multiple messages back and forth between guys throughout the league every day, whether they’re in the meetings [or] not. 

“I think that this year compared to what it was in 2015, there’s certainly a lot more information on our side, which makes it a lot easier to have a solid group. In the end nobody want to be in a work stoppage, whether that’s our side or the MLS side.

“But there’s still some work to do.”

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