MLS referees ratify new CBA, ending month-long lockout

SAN JOSE, CA - MARCH 23: Referee Gabriele Ciampi during a game between Seattle Sounders FC and San Jose Earthquakes at PayPal Park on March 23, 2024 in San Jose, California. (Photo by John Todd/ISI Photos/Getty Images)
MLS referees will be back on the job soon after reportedly ratifying a new collective bargaining agreement. (Photo by John Todd/ISI Photos/Getty Images) (John Todd/ISI Photos via Getty Images)

The Professional Soccer Referees Association (PRSA), which represents MLS officials, voted to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement on Monday night, as first reported by The Athletic.

MLS referees had been locked out for the past month, forcing the league's 2024 season to begin with replacement officials. But the real referees will be back on the pitch starting March 30.

MLS released a statement announcing the new deal.

“Major League Soccer has some of the best match officials in the world, and PRO’s new CBA with PSRA recognizes that by committing substantial resources to the referee program – an investment that ranks among the highest for any global soccer league. We’re pleased this agreement provides PRO with a strong, long-term partnership to continue to develop and train the referees to make our officiating even better.

“We thank PRO and the match officials who’ve worked selflessly since the start of the 2024 MLS season. Many of these officials were already advancing toward becoming PRO match officials, and their participation provided important on-field experience, which will continue to benefit PRO, MLS, and all the other leagues in the future.

“We look forward to having the PRO match officials return this weekend, and we thank MLS players, coaches, and clubs for their professionalism, and our fans for their support throughout the opening month of the season.”

The new CBA will last seven years, through the 2030 MLS season. Referees will receive significant raises during the course of the agreement, as will assistant and video assistant referees.

Previously, officials with less than two years calling MLS matches made $50,000 in base pay. Beginning this year, that salary will increase to $85,000. By 2030, referees will make $110,000.

MLS referees with more experience (who have called 200 matches, for example) will see an increase from $108,000 to $142,000 with the new agreement. By the end of the seven-year term, that salary will go up to more than $182,000.

Additionally, the "match fee" referees are paid, intended for travel and accommodations, will increase from $1350 to $1500.

The previous CBA had been in place since 2014. MLS referees were locked out for the first two weeks of that season before the league and PRSA reached an agreement.