Major League Soccer announces key dates for 2021 season; CBA negotiations ongoing

Drake Hills, Nashville Tennessean
·2 min read

Major League Soccer has set a schedule for the 2021 season.

The league announced a preseason start date of Feb. 22, which will include initial quarantining and individual training. The regular season will kick off April 3 and includes each club playing the conventional 34 matches during the season, followed by MLS Cup Playoffs beginning Nov. 19 and the MLS Cup Final on Dec. 11.

The schedule release comes during a period of labor negotiations between the league and the MLS Players Association. MLS informed the MLSPA on Dec. 29 it would invoke the force majeure clause of the collective bargaining agreement, which forced both parties back to the negotiation table to discuss modifications.

The current CBA was agreed upon nearly a year ago, on Jan. 30. It was updated and ratified in June in response to the impact of COVID-19 on the league and its players.

In January, MLS submitted an offer to the MLSPA that noted the league would pay its players 100% of their salaries, in exchange for a two-year extension of the current CBA, with hopes of recuperating funds lost during the 2020 season. MLS said its clubs suffered an estimated loss of $1 billion last year.

The force majeure clause, which covers unforeseeable circumstances such as acts of God, opens a 30-day window for negotiations, which is set to close Thursday. Failed negotiations will not immediately bring forth a work stoppage, but if an agreement is not made by Thursday, MLS can unilaterally terminate the current CBA.

An agreement ahead of the 2021 season will ensure the return of the MLS All-Star Game in July, as well as the U.S. Open Cup, Leagues Cup, Campeones Cup and the continental Concacaf Champions League. All competitions but the Champions League did not take place in 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns.

Testing protocol will continue for players, coaches, technical staff and essential club staff during the season, meaning each delegate with be tested every other day for COVD-19. Clubs will travel via charted flights to away matches indefinitely.

The 2021 season also welcomes Austin FC as the league's lone expansion team in 2021. Austin will play in the Western Conference as the 13th team, with 14 teams in the Eastern Conference.

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This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: MLS 2021: League announces key dates for upcoming season