MLS players make counteroffer to proposal that would cut their salaries due to COVID-19

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Real Salt Lake midfielder Albert Rusnak (11) gets past Houston Dynamo midfielder Darwin Ceren (24), in MLS action between Real Salt Lake and Houston Dynamo, at Rio Tinto Stadium, Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019.

The COVID-19 pandemic is still prevalent, but there have been signs that sports could make a comeback sooner rather than later. That includes Major League Soccer, which has been in discussions with the players association about a potential tournament in Orlando this summer.

Real Salt Lake players have expressed doubts about the proposal, with forward Giuseppe Rossi on Monday saying he wasn’t a fan of it either because he wants to play “meaningful games.” Those talks are still ongoing between the two sides.

But something else that’s related to the pandemic is the issue of salaries. Some of the league’s top executives agreed to cut their pay by 25% in April. The coaching staff across all RSL’s affiliated teams also recently agreed to a salary reduction, although the figure wasn’t disclosed.

So far, however, the league’s players have not had their salaries decline at all, despite multiple proposals from MLS. First it was a 50% cut for most players, though no players making less than $100,000 would be affected, per ESPN. A little more than a week ago, the proposal from the league included a 20% cut across all players, per ESPN.

The players countered Monday with a proposal that would give the league more than $100 million of economic relief. The counteroffer was first reported by ESPN and confirmed by The Salt Lake Tribune.

The MLSPA sent the league its proposal over the weekend. It includes salary reductions and deferrals, as well as steep reductions in bonuses. Future relief related to the suspension in play is also possible. The cuts would impact every player in the league.

The salary talks are particularly important given that the collective bargaining agreement that was tentatively passed before the season started has yet to be ratified. RSL midfielder Nick Besler, who is one of the team’s representatives with the union, said last week that “everything” was on the table in negotiations.

The MLSPA’s counteroffer signals a desire on the players’ part to meet the league halfway after MLS, like many other sports leagues, has suffered deep financial losses due to the coronavirus pandemic. Two clubs — RSL being the first — have already officially reduced staff and cut executives’ salaries. The Columbus Crew was the other team to do so.

The MLSPA declined comment.


Major League Soccer announced Tuesday that it canceled three events scheduled to take place throughout the summer.

The All-Star Game, Leagues Cup and Campeones Cup won’t occur in 2020, per a news release. All events are expected to return in 2021.

The All-Star Game was to take place in Los Angeles on July 29 and feature the the league’s top talent versus all-stars from Liga MX. Both leagues decided the best course of action due to the pandemic was to cancel the event, including the All-Star Skills Challenge.

The Leagues Cup was headed into its second season of existence. The competition pits MLS clubs against Liga MX Clubs. RSL played in it last season and lost to Tigers UANL, and was scheduled to play in it again this season.

The Campeones Cup would have been in its third season and features the MLS Cup champion versus the Liga MX champion. It was scheduled to take place in Seattle on Aug. 12.

— Alex Vejar