The Major League Soccer Players' Association says nearly 20% of the league's players tested positive for the coronavirus over the course of the season.
Bob Foose, executive director of the union, revealed the results in a conference call with reporters Thursday.
“During a time when most professionals were working at home, our players were going to work every day, really just about every single day. Almost 20% of the players in the league at one point or another were infected with the virus, which meant that those who became infected and those who didn’t become infected became dangers and dangerous to their partners, their family and their friends just by virtue of doing their jobs,” Foose said.
MLS did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the figure, which would mean about 150 players tested positive. The league's protocols called for several tests to confirm cases. Some of the league's players also tested positive only after international duty.
MLS teams had played just two games before the season was suspended in March. The league regrouped to hold the MLS is Back tournament in a bubble in Florida this summer.
Teams then returned to local markets to complete an abbreviated season. The MLS Cup championship game between the Seattle Sounders and the Columbus Crew is set for Saturday.
The league and the union reached a new five-year collective bargaining agreement in early February, but it had not been ratified when the season was put on hold.
The two sides renegotiated the deal in June ahead of the tournament, agreeing to a new one that included across-the-board pay cuts and reduced bonuses.
Foose said there are fears that MLS could invoke a clause included in the reworked contract that would essentially allow the league to withdraw from the deal and renegotiate if adverse economic conditions exist.
“We negotiated hard for that clause, but at this time, there’s nothing really for me to add as to when and if that clause would be triggered,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said during his annual State of the League address earlier this week.
Foose said invoking the clause “would be a mistake.”
“The force majeure clause was added to the CBA at a time when we didn’t have any idea what 2021 was going to look like, and it was intended to be used in the event of a catastrophic impact on the league’s ability to conduct its business at that point,” he said.
LAFC midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye said a third contract negotiation would be detrimental to the league.
“I think if we go into another situation like that, there’s going to be guys around the world who are going to look at this and be like, we don’t want to come to MLS because it’s too exhausting having to do something like that,” Kaye said.
Foose suggested the planned start of the 2021 season should be pushed back. In his address, Garber said the league planned on an early to mid-March start.
Foose said the season was particularly grueling, both emotionally and physically, with U.S. players away from their families for as many as 75 days, and 120 days for Canadian plyers because of travel restrictions. An early March start date means bringing players back to camp as early as January.
“We’ve made that clear to the league that we’d like to see it pushed back,” Foose said. “At the end of the day, that’s not something that we control. So we’ll have to see where they come out.”