New MLS Salary Numbers Show Who is Getting Best Value for Money


By Liviu Bird

It’s time once again to learn how much your favorite — and least favorite — players in Major League Soccer make. Besides making your own measly salary feel inadequate, the numbers released by the MLS Players Union always give those around the league fodder for conversation.

Before we dive into too much analysis, here are a couple of disclaimers to guide how this should be perceived: This analysis is based on base salary information only, not total guaranteed money, and the information isn’t 100 percent up-to-date because players are constantly signing new contracts and renewing their deals.

Unlike last time the numbers were released, though, this list of players is complete because the MLS roster freeze date has passed.

The usual note on Designated Players also applies: although some players are stated as making more or less than the $350,000 cutoff, the number alone doesn’t qualify or disqualify them as Designated Players. Because of the complicated nature of allocation money rules, there are ways to pay players a hefty sum and still avoid giving them the Designated Player tag.

Basic Salary Information

The released numbers offer salary information for 554 MLS players.

The average base salary is $156,124.18. Not including Designated Players, that number comes down to $96,706.64.

The league minimum continues to be $33,750, and that’s the salary that 43 players make — or nearly 8 percent of the league.

As far as positions are concerned, forwards continue to be the most sought-after players. However, one of the highest paid at that position — Portland Timbers Kris Boyd — has had a sub-par season.

If players are listed as having multiple positions on the MLS Players Union document, they are placed into both categories for analysis.


It is perhaps too early to tell whether his compatriot Kenny Miller will give better value for Vancouver.

However, they have had headline years compared to the New York Red Bulls’ Rafael Marquez, who is still the highest-paid defender in the league.

Salary vs. League Position

At the end of the season, teams will be analyzing their assets, their performances and whether they are getting their value. For MLS clubs, their players are their assets and their end position — both in the table and playoffs — are their performances.

Of course, some clubs are bound to be more pleased than others.

The top three clubs in the current Supporters Shield race will be among the happiest. The San Jose Earthquakes ($2,878,166.29), Sporting Kansas City ($2,893,657) and the Chicago Fire ($3,600,214) are at the top of the heap in points but near the bottom in money spent.

The New York Red Bulls are spending their money (all $15,814,369.46 of it) wisely, it seems, as they are near the top also. Real Salt Lake ($3,206,785.04) is next, where its “team is the star” motto and the amount of money each player demands are in agreement.

At the other end of the spectrum is Toronto FC. The third-highest salary in the league ($5,829,467) did not translate into points for the club this season.

Conclusions and Further Analysis

Coming up in the next few days, you’ll see a more detailed breakdown of each Cascadia team here, but with all of the numbers being released and this short analysis, drawing conclusions could take us in any direction.

So what do you take away from it all? What stands out to you? Which club is the best at spending money? How do you think your team is doing?


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  1. As you’ll hear from some owners such as Merritt Paulson the numbers the players union puts out are not accurate.

    • I’ve got other sources that tell me otherwise.

      If you’re trying to calculate salary cap info and whether some players are Designated Players, then yes. If you’re looking to see how much money players are making, it’s accurate. That’s all I’m trying to do.

      • I think Thunder was basically implying that many owners are lying sacks of doodoo, rather than questioning your info, or on second reading, maybe he Was questioning you! Maybe he’ll clarify his postion. 🙂

  2. How is it even possible for NY/LA to spend that much? Is there some revenue stream I’m unaware of? Seattle sells the most tickets and must be near or at the top with merchandise. I don’t know how tv contracts work, but I doubt there is too much variation there. LA games don’t even make it to San Diego (although they still black out MLS live there). NY has so many freaking teams that their audience must be burnt out on watching sports. Is Seattle sitting atop an unspent mountain of gold or are LA/NY’s owners just dumping money into the system? Or is Seattle spending a ton of money outside of the roster (Clink, Starfire, admin, promotional, travel)?

    • I know LA just signed a huge tv contract for the LA area. Something like $10 million/year I think. So that is how they can afford it plus with all the jersey sales and such. I would assume NY has the same kind of thing going on. No idea how Toronto spends that much but they should stop because it isn’t working.

      • I’m curious to see how the eventual sale of AEG will affect the Galaxy. It depends on the kind of person who decides to take it on, obviously, but if he/she/they have any inclination toward soccer over the other sports, it could make them even more spendy.

    • Michael Ligot on

      New York and Los Angeles can spend that much because they’re in the two biggest media markets, by far. Broadcast, advertising and marketing rights are worth much more in those megalopoli than in soccer-hungry but mid-market-at-best Seattle.

      It also helps that so many people scarf down Red Bull cans and that non-sports fans know who Beckham is, respectively. Ka-ching!