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MLS referee lockout ends with significant pay raise reportedly secured

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Major League Soccer has its referees back.

The Professional Soccer Referees Association (PSRA), which represents all professional MLS match officials, ratified a new collective bargaining agreement on Tuesday, ending a monthslong lockout that forced the league to use replacement referees through the first six rounds of the season.

The match officials will return to work this weekend.

Under the new seven-year deal, referees with less than two years of MLS experience will see a 68% salary increase from $50,000 in annual base pay to $85,150, sources told The Athletic's Pablo Maurer. At the top end, referees who've overseen at least 325 matches will reportedly earn $165,150 per year, up from $108,049.

Nelson Rodriguez, MLS executive vice president of sporting product and competition, said the investment "ranks among the highest for any global soccer league."

During the lockout, players, managers, and the PSRA criticized the replacement referees for a number of botched calls.

"Points were lost, red cards were incorrectly given while other red cards were incorrectly not given, and 'stonewall' penalty kick decisions were missed," the PSRA wrote.

The union voted overwhelmingly against a tentative agreement that the PSRA's negotiating committee had reached with MLS in February.

That left MLS scrambling days before the 2024 season kicked off. It eventually sourced substitutes from various leagues around the world and hired 18 former and current referees from U.S. Soccer.

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