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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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The MLS Replacement Ref Nightmare Is Over

  • Referees reportedly voted to ratify a new CBA, ending a monthlong lockout.
  • The league has been using replacement officials that coaches and players dislike.
Christopher Hanewinckel – USA TODAY Sports

MLS is getting its referees back.

The league has used replacements for the first month of its season, but MLS game officials could be back as soon as this weekend after the union representing the referees voted to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement, per reporting by The Athletic and ESPN.

Last month, the union for MLS, NWSL, and USL refs, the Professional Soccer Referees Association (PSRA), rejected a potential CBA with the group that oversees officiating for U.S. and Canadian leagues, the Professional Referee Organization (PRO). PSRA leadership said it likely failed because refs weren’t happy with the PRO’s “economic package” and lackluster “quality of life improvements,” including traveling and scheduling.

The new CBA reportedly lasts seven seasons and includes significant pay raises. The least experienced MLS refs, who were earning about $50,000 per year before the labor deal, would see a 68% pay bump this year, and even more by the end of the agreement. (MLS refs are paid on a sliding scale based on how many games they’ve worked in their career.)

The refs have been locked out for the entire MLS season, which started Feb. 21. The quality of officiating has dropped, coaches and players have said, and the league had an embarrassing incident where it needed to replace a replacement ref for an upcoming Inter Miami match after images surfaced of the official in the team’s jersey.

“Players are very clear that the replacements are under-trained, lack experience and are not nearly at the level that a league of MLS’s stature deserves,” the MLS Players Association posted March 14 on X, formerly known as Twitter.

MLS refs were also locked out during labor negotiations in 2014, missing the first two weeks of the season.

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