The new collective bargaining agreement will last until 2031, putting an end to a 37-day lockout Morgan Tencza/USA TODAY Sports/

SEATTLE - After more than a month of negotiations, the lockout of MLS referees has come to an end as the Professional Soccer Referees Association (PSRA) voted to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement with their employer, the Professional Referee Organization (PRO) that will guarantee an increase in wages, more benefits and improve travel accommodations for referees.

The previous collective bargaining agreement between the two entities expired in Jan. 15, and after a month-long battle between both sides, the new deal was approved by 77% of the eligible voters, according to ESPN sources. This new deal will last until at least 2031 and PRO senior officials will be able to make a return to Major League Soccer as soon as March 30.

In a statement made by PSRA, the organization said they were happy to reach a new deal that will see match officials benefit from "much-needed improvements" that will subsequently only benefit Major League Soccer. PRO also sent out a statement ratifying the agreement, with general manager Mark Geiger declaring that "this seven-year term provides enhanced pay and benefits for all officials and the stability that will support the growth of the professional game in the United States and Canada."

With this new agreement, the base pay and match fees will see a 68% increase in pay, while probationary assistants will receive an 88% increase. According to ESPN's Jeff Carlisle's sources, the overall compensation for the first year is 28.36%, with substantial increases between 3-7% in the next six years.

As the news broke, MLS also chipped in issuing their own statement with MLS Executive Vice President of Sporting Product & Competition Nelson Rodríguez saying that MLS was "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." Rodríguez also added that "MLS 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."

With this new agreement, replacement referees will no longer be necessary as senior match officials are expected to make their return as soon as this weekend. With more experienced officials in charge of matches, fans are hopeful that the number of controversial calls can be reduced. So far, consistency in officiating dipped in the first five match weeks of the 2024 season. A total of 35 VAR interventions were seen across the 70 games played so far this campaign, an increase of 51% such incidents compared to last season.

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