NEW YORK (AP) — Major League Soccer and its players agreed Thursday to extend bargaining through Feb. 12 in an effort to avoid a work stoppage.
The league's five-year labor contract expires Sunday and players have feared management would lock them out the following day in what would be MLS's first work stoppage. The sides negotiated Tuesday and Wednesday at the league's offices without reaching a deal.
"While we still have areas of disagreement, the talks have been constructive and both parties believe it makes sense to continue to work hard to reach agreement," MLS commissioner Don Garber said in a joint statement with the union. "This extension provides both MLS and the players the opportunity to continue our discussions while clubs are in training camps."
As in other sports, expanded movement for players and money appear to be the chief issues.
Income for MLS players averaged $147,945 at the start of last season, according to the MLS union, but the median — the point at which an equal amount make above and below — was $88,000 for 323 players listed.
Players want to modify MLS's single-entity structure, in which all players sign with the league rather than individual teams. The union also dislikes that most players lack guaranteed contracts.
"Both the players' union and MLS have concluded that a new agreement will not be reached by Feb. 1, but we have agreed to continue to talk and we will be meeting over the next two weeks to determine if a new agreement can be reached," union executive director Bob Foose said in a statement. "In the meantime, MLS players are reporting to training camp."
MLS began in 1996, two years after the U.S. hosted the World Cup. The season is scheduled to start March 25 when the expansion Philadelphia Union play at Seattle.