Coronavirus: MLS to cut employees' salaries up to 25 percent, per source

MLS commissioner Don Garber will take a 25 percent pay cut, a source told Yahoo Sports. (Jennifer Buchanan/USA Today)
MLS commissioner Don Garber will take a 25 percent pay cut, a source told Yahoo Sports. (Jennifer Buchanan/USA Today)

Major League Soccer will decrease the salaries of most of its 300 New York City-based employees in response to the financial impact caused by the coronavirus pandemic, a source with knowledge of the situation told Yahoo Sports on Wednesday.

MLS, which will also temporarily freeze new hires, follows countless other sports leagues and industries in reducing compensation for executives and rank-and-file employees during the COVID-19 crisis. However, the top soccer circuit in the United States and Canada has decided not to furlough or lay off any full-time workers for now.

The extent of the individual cuts will be determined via a tiered structure, the source said. MLS commissioner Don Garber and top deputies Mark Abbott and Gary Stevenson will take a 25 percent reduction of pay. Managers and most of the league’s other full-time staff will see decreases of 10 to 20 percent, while “a couple of dozen” entry-level and lower-compensated workers won’t see any reduction at all, according to the source, who noted that slashing those employees’ wages could result in severe hardship given the high housing costs in the New York metropolitan area. MLS’s headquarters are based in midtown Manhattan.

Idle MLS players will continue to be paid their full salaries by their clubs, the source said. The league is still hoping a full slate of games can be played. It has targeted May 10 as a potential return date, although that projection seems increasingly unrealistic as the health emergency continues to worsen in North America. MLS halted its 25th anniversary season on March 12 after just two rounds of matches.

A early-tomid-June restart would probably be necessary for each of the league’s 26 teams to play the usual 34 regular season games. Yahoo Sports reported last month that MLS was willing to push its 2020 championship back more than a month and stage it in a domed stadium or a warm-weather city in order to accommodate a full campaign. MLS Cup was hosted at a neutral site during the league’s early years, but has taken place at the home stadium of the highest-seeded finalist since 2012.

If the 2020 MLS season can’t resume until deep into the summer and the full slate can’t be played, players would almost certainly have their salaries slashed. The average salary of an MLS player was $345,867 last year, although the league minimum was $70,250.

Players and coaches in some of Europe’s top-paying leagues have already taken voluntary pay cuts so their clubs can continue to pay front-office personnel.

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