Salary figures underscore new wave of heavy MLS spending

The MLS Players Union released the latest player salary figures, reflecting all the players who were signed during the summer transfer window. They underscore the massive increase in spending by clubs in 2015.

Seven of the top eight earners didn't play in MLS in 2014. There are 22 players in all making $1 million or more in guaranteed compensation -- as compared with just nine in 2013 -- and 52 players making above the Designated Player salary threshold -- up from 23 players two years ago. Of those 52 players, 24 didn't play in MLS last year, and 11 registered until the summer window.

Teams are using allocation moneys -- notably Targeted Allocation Money, which was introduced in 2015 --  to sign more high-priced players. Six teams paid down the salaries of Designated Players to allow them to have more than three players making above the $436,250 threshold.

Players over Designated Player threshold:
4-Chicago, LA Galaxy, New York City FC, Sporting KC, Portland.
3-Columbus, Orlando City, Toronto FC.
2-Houston, New England, NY Red Bulls, Philadelphia, Real Salt Lake, San Jose, Vancouver.
Colorado, FC Dallas, D.C. United, Montreal.

The Seattle Sounders signed Nelson Valdez ($1,215,000 guaranteed compensation) and Roman Torres ($513,812) during the summer window to give them five players making above $436,500 -- the most of any team. They used TAM to pay down Osvaldo Alonso's contract and Torres'.

In all, the Sounders took on four players with salaries of more than $200,000 during the summer as they also signed Andreas Ivanschitz ($202,500) and Erik Friberg ($201,250). How could they have room to get all of them under the salary cap?

As mid-season acquisitions, the salary hits of Valdez and Torres are half the DP threshold, and the Sounders could presumably use allocation money from the transfer of DeAndre Yedlin to Tottenham to buy down the salary hits of Ivanschitz and Friberg.

But there is no direct correlation between spending and success. Chicago, which has four players making the DP threshold, is last in MLS, while three of the four teams who have just one player making above the DP threshold are in line to make the playoffs.

Almost all the highest-paid players are attacking players. Just two defenders are making $1 million or more, and only eight are earning above the DP threshold. No goalkeeper makes above the DP threshold. The highest-paid keeper is Bill Hamid, who received a new contract, bumping his guaranteed compensation from $114,750 last year to $405,500 in 2015.

2015 MLS Highest-Paid Players:
1. *Kaka (M), ORL $7,167,500
2. *Sebastian Giovinco (F), TOR  $7,115,556
3. Michael Bradley (M), TOR $6,500,000
4. *Steven Gerrard (M), LA $6,332,504
5. *Frank Lampard (M), NYC $6,000,000
6. *Giovani Dos Santos (F), LA $5,750,008
7. *David Villa (F), NYC $5,610,000
8. *Jozy Altidore (F), TOR $4,750,000
9. Clint Dempsey (F), SEA $4,605,942
10. Robbie Keane (F), LA $4,500,000
11. Jermaine Jones (M), NE $3,052,500
12. Obafemi Martins (F), SEA $3,000,000
13. *Andrea Pirlo (M), NY   $2,315,694
14. *Didier Drogba (F), MTL $2,166,668
15. Omar Gonzalez (D), LA  $1,450,000
16. Pedro Morales (M), VAN $1,410,900
17. Federico Higuain (M), CLB $1,175,000
18. *Kevin Doyle (F), COL $1,170,000      
19. *Innocent Emeghara (F), SJ  $1,300,000
20. *Nelson Valdez (M), SEA $1,215,000
21. Liam Ridgewell (D), POR  $1,150,000
22. Gilberto (F), CHI $1,144,992
23. *Juan Manuel Martinez (F), RSL $1,108,667
24. *Kennedy Igboananike (F), SJ $901,667
25. *Octavio Rivero (F), VAN $890,850
26. DaMarcus Beasley (D), HOU $813,333
27. Osvaldo Alonso (M), SEA $789,667
28. *Lucas Melano (F), POR $799,992
29. Maurice Edu (M), PHL $768,750
30. *Mix Diskerud (M), NY  $750,000
31. *Roger Espinoza (M), SKC $750,000
32. *David Accam (M), CHI  $720,938
33. Kyle Beckerman (M), RSL $700,000
34. Matt Besler (D), SKC $683,250
35. Graham Zusi (M), SKC $682,102
36. Chris Wondolowski (F), SJ $675,000
37. Fanendo Adi (F), POR $664,000
38. Bradley Wright-Phillips (F), NY $660,000
39. *Tranquillo Barnetta (M), PHI 661,500
40. *Gaston Sauro (D), CLB $599,512
41. Diego Valeri (M), POR $550,000
42. Sacha Kljestan (M), NY $537,500
43. *Kei Kamara (F), CLB $536,666
44. Aurelien Collin (D), ORL $525,000
45. *Brek Shea (M), ORL  $520,000
46. Dom Dwyer (F), SKC $518,750
47. *Roman Torres (D), SEA $513,812
48. Alvaro Saborio (F), DC  $493,333
49. Jose Goncalves (D), NE $479,375
50. Mike Magee (F), CHI $467,500
51. Brad Davis (M), HOU $445,500
52. Mauro Diaz (M), FCD $442,400
*Players who weren't in MLS in 2014.

In red are players whose salaries have been paid down with allocation money below the DP threshold of $436,500.

Other players making less money are listed as DPs because of other compensation agreements (e.g. Fabian Espindola of D.C. United) or because of transfer fees prorated over the term of their contract.
2 comments about "Salary figures underscore new wave of heavy MLS spending".
  1. Soccer Madness, September 23, 2015 at 9:41 a.m.

    What if the Fire had invested 1/2 the money spent on Designated players in their Academy program?? WHy isnt anyone stating this?? They never gave Pineda a chance but spending all this $$ to be last place?? If most opf the $$ goes to attacking players why dont our DA's focus more on scouting and developing those players?? By allowing their teams to take more risks in attacking 3rd. Maybe because there is no real profit to be made by individual teams in MLS from a player like this?

  2. aaron dutch, September 23, 2015 at 10:55 a.m.

    Great points Soccer Madness. MLS is run by a bunch of owners who dont understand or care with real football is. They just want to make money in a captive market and ride a bubble up to get their free/low cost stadiums, team valuations (to sell for 10x) or marketing deals. The quality of the product is not what matters. USSF doesnt challenge them on it or make our players play abroad. While G & G (Gulati & Garber) run USSF/SUM/MLS they dont care about wasting the next 25 years of american football. Look at this great article (from socceramerica of course:) on football leagues value MLS is #25 in the world....’s+football+price+index+calculates+the+cost+of+attending+the+top+division+games+in+25+countries+around+the+world

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