With David Beckham, presumably, set to abdicate as the league's highest paid player, the crown is passed to the Fire's Cuauhtemoc Blanco. After one and a half productive seasons, he signed a new deal worth approximately $2.76 million in base salary and $2.94 million guaranteed.
Another prolific DP, New York striker Juan Pablo Angel, has also been extended for a third, and perhaps, fourth season. His base salary of $1.5 million remains the same, but his guaranteed compensation has been increased to just under $1.8 million, a bump of more than $200,000.
Next on the money list is Landon Donovan, set to earn $900,000, all of it guaranteed, in 2009. This is supposedly the last season he will be "grandfathered" at that rate as a non-Designated Player.
Perhaps the most staggering change came in Kansas City, which negotiated a drastic reduction in salary for attacker Claudio Lopez. A DP at $720,000 base salary last year, he will earn $180,000 - less than three of his Wizards teammates - this season.
A base salary of $720,000 is what Luciano Emilio of D.C. United will earn after the club gave up Christian Gomez to get a second DP slot in a trade last season. He is no longer the second DP on United's roster, with Marcelo Gallardo ($1.5 million base/$1.87 million guaranteed) having left MLS in January. United also re-acquired Gomez, who is third on the non-DP ladder at $385,000 base and $430,000 guaranteed.
Leading that list are two Revs: midfielder Sharlie Joseph ($425,000 base/$450,000 guaranteed) and forward Taylor Twellman ($395,000/$420,000).
New England management has a reputation for squeezing players financially, yet it has eight players earning $100,000 or more; Toronto leads that category with 10 players, and Houston and D.C. United are next with nine, though seven of those Dynamo players are above the $150,000 level.
TFC's largesse had best pay off this season: Right behind the Revs' top earners, Gomez and San Jose livewire Darren Huckerby ($360,000/$385,000) is Dwayne De Rosario at $357,000, all guaranteed, which seems a fair price if not a bit of a bargain. Yet Toronto is also paying new forward Pablo Vitti $288,000 base/$303,000 guaranteed. In MLS, those are big wages, especially in light of what Twellman earns after scoring more than 100 regular-season and playoff goals in MLS, or the salaries being paid to the Fire's Brian McBride ($360,000 base/$385,000 guaranteed), Sounders goalie Kasey Keller ($300,000/all guaranteed), and San Jose midfielder Bobby Convey ($222,000/$224,500) as returning U.S. internationals. Rapids and U.S. midfielder Pablo Mastroeni signed a new deal worth $255,000 base and $303,000 guaranteed.
The league has followed through, somewhat, on a pledge to increase developmental salaries in the wake of slashing the number of such players per team from 10 to four. They will earn at least $20,100 base salary in 2009; last year, they ranged from $12,900 to $17,700. For players on the regular roster - which at the team's discretion can be 18, 19, or 20 players - the minimum salary is $34,000, up $1,000 from 2008.
The collective bargaining agreement between MLS and the MLS Players' Union expires at the end of the 2009 season. With MLS continuing to expand amid deepening economic gloom, those bargaining sessions won't lack for firepower on both sides of the table.