A federal mediator will be at the bargaining table when Major League Soccer's labour talks resume next week in Washington.

Management and the MLS Player Union have accepted an offer from George H. Cohen, director of the U.S. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

The league's first collective bargaining agreement was to have run out Jan. 31. It was extended twice and then expired Feb. 25 when players balked at adding more time. The sides have not met since Feb. 22.

Players say they want increased free-agent rights within the league and more guaranteed contracts. MLS, a single-entity structure in which the league office negotiates player contracts, opposes additional free agency rights.

The first competitive game of the year for an MLS team is Tuesday, when Columbus hosts the Mexican club Toluca in the quarter-finals of the CONCACAF Champions League.

Red Bull Arena, a $200 million US, 25,000-seat stadium in Harrison, N.J., formally opens March 20 with an exhibition game between the Red Bulls and Brazil's Santos.