MLS and referees reach 7-year labor deal, ending 37-day lockout that led to replacement officials

Replacement referees are coming to an end.

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Major League Soccer and its referees announced a seven-year labor contract Tuesday, ending a 37-day lockout that led to the use of replacement officials.

Match officials will average a 28.36% increase this year, followed by hikes of 3% in 2025, 6% in 2026, 3% each in 2027 and 2029, and 4% apiece in 2029 and 2030, according to Peter Manikowski, president of the Professional Soccer Referees Association. He said a top-scale referee will earn a minimum $200,000 starting in 2028.

The Professional Referee Organization, which supplies match officials to MLS, the NWSL and some lower-tier leagues, locked out officials on Feb. 18, three days ahead of the MLS opener, after the union rejected a tentative five-year deal to replace the expired deal.

PRO and the union, which has about 260 members, said they had ratified an agreement reached last week that runs until Jan. 31, 2031.

Replacement officials were used in the first 69 games over the opening five weeks of this season, drawing some criticism.

“Human beings make individual mistakes, but it’s the avoidance of mistakes and it’s the situational awareness that make our officials the most experienced and the best ones in North America, in some cases in the world,” Manikowski said. “It’s not what happens on an individual call, but what leads up to that which is, I think a big change that folks will see on the field of play this coming weekend.”

PRO did not have any comment beyond a prepared statement.

MLS also used replacement officials for the first two weeks of its 2014 season before reaching a five-year contract after the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service entered talks.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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