The 2020 MLS season came to an exciting end but, as you may know by now, there's not much time to relax, as all franchises are already getting ready to take the pitch once again ahead of the 2021 campaign.
The Seattle Sounders couldn't handle Columbus Crew in one of the most lopsided MLS Cup finals we've seen. Now, the league is ready to bring some changes, one more team and more players to the league next year.
After a tumultuous 2020 season, everybody is placing their attention on the next season, which is expected to be quieter than this one and will also bring the addition of another team to the competition. The MLS 2021 is going to be the 26th season of the league and now we’re going to see when it will start.
When does the new MLS season start?
MLS Commissioner Don Garber talked about the start of the league in his State of the League address, revealing that they have already identified a tentative date to start the new campaign of the competition. Garber explained that they’re thinking of a March start to the 2021 season.
"Although we have one game left to play, the preparations for the 2021 MLS season are ongoing," Garber told media during his virtual address. "While some uncertainty remains as the pandemic continues, we are reviewing different models and timeframes for the start of the season. As of today, we continue to target early-to-mid March to open the season."
Given how complicated the calendar will be at that time of the year, it would be a little early to reveal a concrete date right now. Garber explained that is uncertain right now, but the league is working to find a date that fits.
"Nobody has that magic date, and it will vary state by state and province by province," Garber said of having full capacity in stadiums again. "So we need to make a schedule. ... We obviously have a lot of work to do. What we can say today, we’re evaluating as we speak. We’re going to need some flexibility, but we won’t be able to wait to make a decision until someone decides fans will be able to attend stadiums. That’s a date that is so uncertain at this point.”
The league will have another addition with Austin FC, making it 27 teams in total across two conferences. It’s unclear what is going to happen now but they’re ready to start the new season in March. As for now, we only know that a champion will be crowned this Saturday and everybody will try to defeat them next year.
MLS and MLSPU CBA Issues
While the start of the MLS season is pending how things shape up in regard to the pandemic, the league has another issue on the table, a restructuring of the current CBA with the MLS Players Union. According to the league, a restructuring is required given the economic losses the league suffered during the 2020 season. The losses were at an estimated $1 billion dollars.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber provided an update on talks with the players union, stating: "We understand that the MLSPA need some time to review the proposal that we made last week," he said. "But as of today, we have 20 days to work together to reach an agreement, and we are laser-focused to reach an agreement with our players, ready to sit down with them, day or night, to try to reach an agreement. So there has to be a real sense of urgency from both the MLS league office, our ownership and certainly from the player pool and the MLSPA."
The proposal put forward by the league is to extend the term of the existing CBA by two more years rather than seeking any salary reduction. According to MLS it would allow players to retain 100% of their salaries and the same free agency laws would still apply. The MLSPU will be commenting on said proposal shortly.