MLS player salary breakdown: Charts and tables
by Liviu Bird
When the Major League Soccer Players Union released a list of 2012 player salaries yesterday, fans and journalists started talking about good values, poor values and everything in between. After all, there’s nothing quite as tangible for fans and writers as hard numbers.
As such, I spent the better part of the day poring over this list, and I made some observations and visuals to help us make sense of all the digits involved.
A couple disclaimers: This analysis is based on base salary information only, not total guaranteed money; not all players are in the document, as new designated players Marco Di Vaio and Barry Robson are missing, among others; and the information isn’t 100 percent up-to-date because players are signing new contracts constantly (such as Omar Cummings).
Also, a note on designated players: Yes, some of the guys in the document make over $350,000 but are not designated players. MLS roster rules are complicated to say the least, but in most cases, these players don’t count as designated players because allocation money can be used to buy down how much the player counts against the salary cap.
Basic salary information
Let’s start simple.
Information for 550 players was listed on the MLS Player Union’s document. The average MLS player will make $143,503.14 this year, while the 43 lowest-paid players make $33,750.
Taking designated players out of the equation, the average player will make $93,550.03 in 2012. Making the federal minimum wage, working 40 hours per week, it would take over 80 months (almost seven years) to make that amount.
Using MLSPU data, we can also take a look at the progression of average salaries over the last few years. What you see might surprise you: the average salary peaked a couple years ago, and it’s been trending downward since 2010.
Salary versus points
One of the more interesting calculations that can be made with these numbers is to look at points in the standings versus salary.
The blue text denotes the column by which the table is sorted, while the red text in the table to the right denotes a couple of the more interesting pieces of data.
At the top of the average-salary table and the bottom of the points table are the Los Angeles Galaxy and Toronto FC, while Sporting Kansas City and the San Jose Earthquakes are just the opposite.
Player pay by position
As expected, forwards are paid the most out of all four positions, and as you move closer to your own goal, the amount on the player’s paycheck decreases. This is no new phenomenon, and it’s like this all over the world. Still, it’s worth taking a look at the actual numbers.
All of these breakdowns tell stories by themselves. However, total payroll is the “money” number (pun absolutely intended) that fans want to know. Just how much is the first-place team spending on its players? The last-place team?
Well, the two major-market teams — New York and Los Angeles — lead the league in total salary. Look at the No. 3 spot, though.
That’s right; Toronto FC spends 6.9 million more dollars on its players than the amount of points they’ve been able to deliver so far this season.
The Reds also have some of the league’s most expensive players, namely Danny Koevermans, Julian de Guzman and Torsten Frings. The Galaxy is in much the same boat with David Beckham, Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan.
After Toronto, the gap widens, with Vancouver spending more than $3 million less on payroll than the team it lost to in the Canadian Cup final this week.
Finally, just as they do in the average-salary table, San Jose and Kansas City hang out in the bottom half of the payroll chart despite also being at the top of the standings. Those two teams probably get the best value for their money, with only Sporting goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen in the top five in the league at his position in terms of pay.
I leave this part up to you. What do you take away from the MLS salary numbers? Does it ultimately mean anything? Did I waste a day going through this document from top to bottom? Let me know what you think.