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MLS and players extend bargaining to Feb. 25

NEW YORK (AP) — Prevented from bargaining face to face because of snow, Major League Soccer and its players have agreed to extend labor talks through Feb. 25 in an effort to avoid a work stoppage.

Three days before the expiration of their five-year agreement, the sides announced Jan. 28 that they were extending talks until Feb. 12.

Negotiators had planned to meet earlier this week in Washington, but management was unable to travel there from New York because of a storm.

Before the extensions, players had been fearful of a preseason lockout. Teams have gathered and started preparations for the season, which begins March 25 when the expansion Philadelphia Union play at Seattle.

In addition, New York has a high-profile exhibition when it meets Brazil's Santos on March 20 in the official opener of Red Bull Arena, a $200 million, 25,000-seat stadium in Harrison, N.J.

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.

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.