April 13, 2024

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MLS commissioner makes harsh comments about referees and US Open Cup ahead of season

MLS commissioner makes harsh comments about referees and US Open Cup ahead of season

Just hours before the start of the 29th Major League Soccer season in Fort Lauderdale, MLS Commissioner Don Garber criticized the Professional Soccer Referees Association for their approach to collective bargaining. He also provided the league's perspective on its role in the US Open Cup, saying that MLS has “supported and supported that tournament for a long time.”

The Professional Referees Organization (PRO), the group that manages match officials in American and Canadian professional leagues, has shut down the referees, resulting in MLS using replacement referees in the interim period after members of the referees union voted overwhelmingly to reject the initial plan to lead it with the PRO, for an agreement New collective bargaining (CBA) through a 95.8 percent “no” vote.

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Garber said he could not recall the union rejecting the agreement negotiated by its elected leadership and questioned whether the negotiations and votes that led to the lockout in the days before the season began were “deliberate.”

“They (PRO) reached an agreement with the PSRA before the start of the season, and their membership did not support that agreement,” Garber said. “I cannot remember in nearly 40 years in sport, there has been a bargaining unit that reaches an agreement and then has its members not support it. Very disappointing. The process, in my opinion, was either intentional or there was a disconnect between the members and their elected negotiators.” “So hopefully they can come to an agreement. We're ready. “This is not the way MLS was hoping to start the season, but you can't really negotiate with an entity that, in my opinion, hasn't really negotiated with the professionals fairly.

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Union members and other supporters protested outside the MLS and PRO offices in New York and also protested in the Dallas area on Wednesday ahead of the opening match between Inter Miami and Real Salt Lake in Florida.

Garber said he wasn't able to predict when the shutdown might end because “we don't even know what they're looking for, because we agreed with their elected representation.”

“I was hoping they would come and tell us what officials were looking for that their elected representatives couldn't give them instead of spending their time protesting outside our offices and doing whatever else needed to be done.” “To motivate everyone,” Garber said. “I've been through countless labor negotiations since I've been commissioner. We've extended the bargaining window several times, which the PSRA asked for, and we proposed a no-lockout, no-strike clause, but they rejected that. So (I'm) sitting here today, not quite sure what to move next.

“I'm sure at some point, they'll let the PRO know what their expectations are and we'll have to manage that process.”

When asked again what he thought the two sides could bring together, Garber said that from his perspective, it was difficult to give an answer.

“It's very difficult to predict the solution if you don't even know what you're negotiating for,” Garber said. “And that's why I think it seems like it was intentional. I don't know how you get to a point where there's a shutdown and I don't know what you don't agree to. It's frustrating, I imagine it's frustrating for the fans, it's definitely frustrating for us, but we'll see how it goes.” “Things.”

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Garber also addressed questions about the league's participation in the U.S. Open Cup in the future.

MLS announced in December its intention to use MLS Next Pro teams in the Open Cup, but that request was denied by US Soccer. But in recent weeks, reports have suggested that MLS is still looking for ways to reduce its involvement in the Open Cup.

Only eight MLS teams are expected to compete in the 2024 Open Cup, sources told The Athletic on Wednesday.

The US Open Cup, founded in 1913, is administered and governed by the US Soccer Federation. It includes teams from every level of soccer in the United States, from the amateur level to the lower divisions of American soccer to Major League Soccer.

Garber began his answer about the tournament by rejecting the idea that MLS does not support the lower divisions, specifically the USL.

“We put a tremendous amount of effort into supporting the pyramid,” Garber said. “Had it not been for the second MLS teams participating in the USL when it relaunched, I'm not sure the USL would be where it is today. We would have been more than happy to stay in the USL if we hadn't been asked to leave. So I want to keep in mind our commitment to the lower professional levels of soccer in America.” Our investment is in MLS Next Pro, which is almost unprecedented in professional soccer, where one league can launch 30-35 teams developing players who will eventually be involved in the US National Team, and help shape our top teams in time. That's a massive investment in the pyramid. But the question is, “Should that investment be with another league that we may not have the best relationship with in the end?” Not through our actions, by the way.

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Garber said the league is dealing with schedule congestion, not only from the League Cup, a tournament it created with Liga MX, but also from the CONCACAF Champions Cup and upcoming summer tournaments over the next three years — the Copa America and the Club World Cup. And the 2026 World Cup.

Garber said Major League Soccer is “committed to participating, and to what level has yet to be determined.”

“We will continue to do everything we can to support the US Open Cup, but we will not do so in a way where the entire burden of making this tournament a success is on MLS,” Garber said. “It needs support from our federation, they have pledged to show more support for that. It should make more sense for our players and our clubs. At this stage we are supporting that tournament.”

(Photo: Omar Vega/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)