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Sources: MLS, refs near end of lockout

MLS and the union representing the league's referees have reached a tentative deal on a collective bargaining agreement, and the league is now on the cusp of ending a nearly two-week long lockout, sources told ESPN FC.

The CBA, the first between the two sides since the formation of the Professional Soccer Referees Association last year, must still be ratified by the PSRA.

The replacement refs' time in MLS is nearing an end.

A source indicated that a vote by the union membership was imminent, and if approved would allow the PSRA members to return to work in time for this weekend's slate of games.

The referees have been out of work since March 7, when the Professional Referees Organization -- the referee management arm of MLS -- imposed a lockout. PRO took the step after the PSRA declined an offer of a no-strike/no-lockout agreement while negotiations took place.

The PSRA membership had authorized its board back on Feb. 21 to call a strike at any time, and PRO stated that it was concerned the referees might walk off the job without adequate time to find replacements for the opening of the MLS season on March 8.

The major issues being negotiated were payment for games, compensation insurance in case of injury, performance standards and evaluation, fitness and fitness testing, and travel standards.

With both sides filing grievances with the National Labor Relations Board, the two parties engaged the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services in a bid to get the negotiations back on track.

That effort has apparently been successful as the two sides met throughout the week and have now agreed to terms.


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