MLS Salaries 2011: The Surprises and the Shocks

3677941266 6674b25f8d MLS Salaries 2011: The Surprises and the Shocks

Photo by marc-takoma

Ah, the annual rite of spring.  Yesterday, the MLS Players Union released the list of MLS players’ salaries for the year, a great time for fans to see who is making what.  Inevitably, there are surprises that so and so is making a lot less than they are worth while some underachieving star (cough cough Andres Mendoza) is overpaid.  The entire list of salaries by club is here and by name is here.

Below is our analysis of the salaries for each team, listing the most underpaid and overpaid players.  If you agree or disagree, sound off in the comments section below.

Chicago Fire

Highest Paid: Nery Castillo ($1.65m base, $2m plus overall)

Making Too Much: Marko Maric – 1 appearance, $150,000 base salary

Making Too Little: Diego Cháves – 4 goals, 8 appearances, $42,000 salary

Looking at the Chicago salaries it’s easy to see why the team is struggling – their highly-paid players are struggling.  The Croatian duo of Maric and Mikulic are making over $2 million and $116,250 respectively, and have no goals between them (although Maric has been troubled with injury).  Fullback Desan Robinson is making $100,000 this season despite his struggles and own-goal proclivities.  On the other hand, their best signing is making league minimum.

Chivas USA

Highest Paid: Heath Pearce ($247,825 base; $257,325 total)

Making Too Much: Michael Umana ($170k base; $182+k total)

Making Too Little: Nick LaBrocca ($87,000 total)

No real surprises on this list as Chivas is investing in their future right now.  There is the investment in the young players like Valentin, and for the most part their overpaid players are those that have spent time on the injury list, like Jimmy Conrad.

Colorado Rapids

Highest Paid: Conor Casey ($400k total)

Making Too Much: Caleb Folan ($203+k total)

Making Too Little: Omar Cummings ($80+k base, $89+k total)

Conor Casey gets a nice pay raise after a good season last year but his partner up front did not.  It’s easy to see why Cummings was looking to Europe for a time last offseason.  Their salary list is very non-offensive and the team has done a good job of making sure the highest paid players actually produce, save Casey due to injury.  The exception to this is Macoumba Kandji who is exempted due to his injury suffered last year; he is on the books for almost $148k.

Columbus Crew

Highest Paid: Andres Mendoza ($500k base; $595k total)

Making Too Much: Same

Making Too Little: Rich Balchan ($42k base; $58k total)

Looking at the Columbus roster breakdown, it’s intriguing to see how much money is put into the forwards and how little is being put into their strength, the defense.  Reclamation project Julius James is making $68k in base salary and rookie Balchan is making league minimum.  Meanwhile, under-performing players like Jeff Cunningham ($158k total), Mendoza, and Emilio Renteria ($121k) are sucking up cap space.

DC United

Highest Paid: Branko Boskovic ($525k+ total)

Paid Too Much: Same

Paid Too Little: Bill Hamid ($69k total)

Clyde Simms and Joseph Ngwenya should be thankful for Boskovic as his huge salary and disappointing play masks their own large salaries ($179,250 and $156,000 respectively) and disappointing play.  MLS’s leading goal scorer up to this point is making an affordable $244,870, not a terrible burden on United.  The club is certainly paying for some of the mistakes of the past few years, but their salary list is not incredibly offensive and, if they can unload Boskovic’s salary, they have some room to acquire more talent.

FC Dallas

Highest Paid: David Ferreira ($600k base, $705k total)

Making Too Much: Backup keepers ($200k total)

Making Too Little: George John ($42k)

Kevin Hartman is worth every penny, but $200,000 for Chris Seitz and Josh Lambo in base salary?  Seems a bit high.  We also finally know just how much of a raise the reigning MVP got from Dallas and it is a substantial cap hit.  Fabian Castillo and George John at league minimum are both an absolute steal, and both could be getting raises in the near future.

Houston Dynamo

Highest Paid: Brian Ching ($375k base, $412,500 total)

Making Too Much: Eddie Robinson ($120k base and total)

Making Too Little: Tally Hall ($84k base)

Houston only has four players making league minimum or below, but they have a good strategy for paying their players.  I had a hard time picking out the overpaid and underpaid players, and chose Robinson for the former simply because he hasn’t seen much time on the pitch this season.  The team seems to be managing their money well.

(Sporting) Kansas City

Highest Paid: Davy Arnaud ($250k base, $258,750 total)

Making Too Much: Stephane Auvray ($170k base, $208,125 total)

Making Too Little: CJ Sapong ($42k total)

An interesting salary of note is Teal Bunbury, who’s base salary is only $83,000 but makes $100,000 more in incentives.  Also Omar Bravo’s cap hit is $120,000 which seems low for a designated player.  Thirteen players on KC’s roster makes more than $100,000 in base salary, so it looks like they could have a problem with roster flexibility.

Los Angeles Galaxy

Highest Paid: David Beckham ($5.5m base, $6.5m total)

Making Too Much: Brian Perk ($105,350 total)

Making Too Little: AJ DeLaGarza ($55,110 total)

No surprise here that LA’s roster is full of well-paid players.  Beckham is of course the highest paid player in MLS and Donovan is making $2.3 million.  The third LA DP, Juan Pablo Angel, is making a cool $1.25 million.  Twelve players make over $100,000 in base plus other compensation.

New England Revolution

Highest Paid: Shalrie Joseph ($475k base, $500k total)

Making Too Much: Radivoje Lekic ($275,004 base and total)

Making Too Little: AJ Soares ($42,000 base; $82,000 total)

How does it work out that Levic’s salary is $275,004?  Is there a reason there’s an extra four bucks thrown in?  Is he paid in euros and that’s the conversion?  As expected, Benny Feilhaber is making, with incentives, $346,000 this season which is high but not exorbitant.

New York Red Bulls

Highest Paid: Thierry Henry ($5,600,000.04 total)

Making Too Much: Ibrahim Salou ($264k base and total for former player)

Making Too Little: Tim Ream ($55,125 base; $62,625 total)

Tim Ream and John Rooney are making roughly the same salary.  Mull that over for a bit.  Not surprisingly New York has two of the three highest paid players in MLS with Henry and Rafa Marquez ($4.6m).  Juan Agudelo could have also been considered for the too little award since his base salary is $55k, but with incentives his salary goes up to $85k.

Philadelphia Union

Highest Paid: Carlos Ruiz ($250,004 base; $306,670.67 total)

Making Too Much: Juan Diego Gonzalez ($189k base, $193,462.50 total)

Making Too Little: Sheanon Williams ($42,000 total)

If you look at the payroll and compare it to the clubs they are fighting for first in the East, the Union are getting quite a deal with their players.

Portland Timbers

Highest Paid: Troy Perkins ($250k base; $280k total)

Making Too Much: Same

Making Too Little: Eric Brunner ($70k base)

Kenny Cooper makes the same base salary as Perkins, but loses out in incentives.  Darlington Nagbe shows how MLS wants to treat its rookies – his base salary is $65k but can makes over $200k in total compensation.

Real Salt Lake

Highest Paid: Javier Morales ($400k base; $452,500k total)

Making Too Much: Luis Gil ($90,250 base; $185+k total)

Making Too Little: Fabian Espindola ($75k total)

Another team that does well with its salary cap but you can see that this team is in win-now mode as it has to be butting up against the cap.  Twelve players make over $100k in base salary, thirteen if you include Gil’s compensation.

San Jose Earthquakes

Highest Paid: Bobby Convey ($313k base; 336k total)

Making Too Much: Ike Opara ($100k base; $185,900 total)

Making Too Little: Brandon McDonald ($45k base and total)

Congratulations to Chris Wondolowski, who parlayed his Golden Boot to a raise and a new salary of $175,000.  Potential goal scorers take note.  Spurs man Simon Dawkins is only making $60k this season and might be the steal of the year for San Jose if he stays healthy.

Seattle Sounders

Highest Salary: Fredy Montero ($500k base; $636k total)

Making Too Much: Same

Making Too Little: Steve Zakuani ($90k base)

It may be too harsh to label Montero as being the most overpaid, but his salary is huge for him to have struggled so much.  Steve Zakuani is really underpaid for his talent level, making less than $200k in total compensation.  Want to know why there’s so much pressure on Sigi Schmid?  Ten of his players make over $100k in base salary.

Toronto FC

Highest Paid: Julian De Guzman ($1.8+m base)

Making Too Much: Same

Making Too Little: Danleigh Borman ($42k base and total)

Want to know if your team is rebuilding?  Toronto has ten players making less than $50k this year, and only six making over $100,000.

Vancouver Whitecaps

Highest Paid: Eric Hassli ($660k base; $900k total)

Making Too Much: John Thorrington ($194+k base; $207+k total)

Making Too Little: Blake Wagner ($42k base and total)

How much money did you have in your bank account at 18?  Omar Salgado is scheduled to make $80,000 in base salary and could make over $121,000 in total compensation.

38 Responses

  1. joejoe
    May 8, 2011 at 7:33 pm | | Reply

    T date this is the dumbness post you have written. I really don’t see the fixation with attendance and salaries. Professional players usually earn the bulk of their earning during their playing years. Why do you care that a young player earns 100K? They deserve every penny. Who do you think you are claiming someone makes too much money? If the team or owner have a problem with someone’s salary then they can always trade, cut, or renegotiate.

    1. totoro
      May 9, 2011 at 11:18 am | | Reply

      joejoe, T date this is the dumbness post you have written.

      In leagues where there are financial constraints on payroll (so, just about all of them, at least in the US), salaries are always a big deal. If you blow too much on a player who isn’t pulling his weight, it hurts the overall competitiveness of the team. Teams often cannot trade, cut, or renegotiate, because a) who wants to trade for a player with a big contract who is no good, b) most MLS contracts are guaranteed.

      1. joejoe
        May 10, 2011 at 1:11 am | | Reply

        So what, this is a fact of life. In any profession there’s always going to be people not pulling their weight. Some player have up and down periods. Maybe its due to injury or fatigue. Its a team, and when some players loose a step the others need to step it up. If the faltering player doesn’t recover then He gets cut or is traded.

      2. TommyOC
        May 10, 2011 at 7:43 pm | | Reply

        Until the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement, all but a handful of MLS contracts were NOT guaranteed.

        And even after the agreement, a great percentage of them still aren’t.

    2. Charles
      May 9, 2011 at 2:59 pm | | Reply

      I can understand not caring about salaries JoeJoe, but lets face it, this is a parity league and they matter huge ( in any league actually ).

      The Sounders paying Jaqua $211k, while leaving LeToux unprotected is still haunting them a year later.

      BTW, Robert Hay, you are kidding me ?!?! You would pay Jaqua somewhere close to $211K ?!?! I just fired you as my GM, he got a $50k pay raise after he scored ZERO MLS goals….as a FORWARD.

    3. Dave C
      Dave C
      May 9, 2011 at 3:33 pm | | Reply

      T date this is the dumbness post I have read (please please PLEASE can we make this opening line a new recurring internet meme).

      I think Joejoe is reading too much into the article. I get the impression that he thinks the author is making some kind of social/moral judgment on the salaries of players (like when fools ask “pah, why is it fair that player X getting $xxx million per year, when a nurse only gets $y per year?”). I don’t think the author is making that moral call at all – he’s just comparing whether players are good value in comparison to one another. He’s not saying it’s a bad thing that player X is making $100k a year – simply that he’s over-paid if there are better players out there on the market earning less.

      1. joejoe
        May 10, 2011 at 12:39 am | | Reply

        The author doesn’t give any credible reason as to why a player is being paid too much money. There isn’t any. Management doesn’t have to pay the wage if they feel the cost is too high. They can always trade or cut the player. They do it all the time. By the way last year many players were getting payed the equivalent of minimum wage. So if this year they are finally getting a decent paycheck, then good for them.

        1. Dave C
          Dave C
          May 10, 2011 at 11:52 am | | Reply

          OK, you actually have a point that in some cases the author hasn’t really explained why he thinks a particular player is paid too much. But in most cases, it seems to be implied that the person is underperfoming compared to their salary (eg a guy who only has one appearance, or is injury prone, or is generally struggling). I assume in the other cases, it is probably obvious to people familiar with the team/player involved.

          So in short, while the article is not perfect (it probably tries to cover too much ground for a single article), it is not T dumbness post I have ever read.

    4. Prune
      May 9, 2011 at 7:03 pm | | Reply

      As totoro said:
      “joejoe, To date this is the dumbness post you have written.”

      That’s saying something.

  2. Gazza
    May 8, 2011 at 9:04 pm | | Reply

    I think Bruce Arena really blew it this offseason. Paying $1.25m for Angel and add to that Magee and Barrett instead of signing Edson Buddle for less than that (and getting much better production) is going to come back to haunt him.

    1. joejoe
      May 9, 2011 at 12:38 am | | Reply

      Buddle left because he wanted to play in Europe. It wasn’t just about the money.
      If Mr Anschutz doesn’t have a problem paying millions to Beckham, Donovan, Angel, and Arena then why should you? I recommend you worry about supporting your team of choice and let the professionals worry about team operations.

      1. Gazza
        May 9, 2011 at 6:59 pm | | Reply


        Buddle said the only reason he left was because the German side offered him more money. And I’m a Galaxy fan and STH so you can stick it you pompous ass.

        1. joejoe
          May 10, 2011 at 12:59 am | | Reply

          Thanks for the complement.

          I repeat. Buddle left because he wanted to play in Europe. It wasn’t just about the money.

          Maybe Bruce Arena and Tim Leiweke didn’t think Buddle was worth the asking price. So buddle left. The whole point of having players making too much money is defeated by this example. If management doesn’t want to pay, then they wont. Simple as that.

  3. Alan
    May 8, 2011 at 9:58 pm | | Reply

    I disagree with you about San Jose. Opara is a great talent, but McDonald is “eh”! I am really glad to see the Wondolowski got a BIG raise. Went from less than 50k to over 150k.

    1. Alan
      May 8, 2011 at 11:46 pm | | Reply

      Another great article from Robert Hay. One of the main reasons I read MLS Talk.

      1. montana lucky
        montana lucky
        May 9, 2011 at 12:09 am | | Reply

        This was a great article. I haven’t seen a look at salaries on any other site like this. I really appreciate the angle and looking at every team.

        1. totoro
          May 9, 2011 at 11:19 am | | Reply

          The players association just released the salary list for this season, so keep looking around, you should see other articles as well.

          1. montana lucky
            montana lucky
            May 9, 2011 at 4:18 pm |

            I guess I should have elaborated more and said I haven’t seen an article taking this angle on any other sites. It was more interesting then listing the top paid players and few of the lowest for the whole league. I like his take.

    2. SJsmurf
      May 9, 2011 at 6:55 pm | | Reply

      But Opara is generation addidas so most of that doesn’t go against the cap!

  4. ExtraMedium
    May 9, 2011 at 1:53 pm | | Reply

    Seriously, you didn’t list Beckham as the most over-paid…What did Garber give you?

  5. ExtraMedium
    May 9, 2011 at 1:56 pm | | Reply

    Lucas Pratto! He’s 80% owned by Boca and 20% owned by U Catolica (he plays for Catolica). He’s been one of the stars of the Libertadores and is drawing Martin Palermo comparisons. His transfer fee is only $2M. DP!

  6. ExtraMedium
    May 9, 2011 at 2:04 pm | | Reply

    “Rizespor returned to the promotion play-off zone with a resounding win thanks to a game-winning header from Freddy Adu…Adu saw a full ninety as a starter and notched his fourth goal of the season in the 29th minute.”

    And someone just became too expensive for MLS.

  7. Charles
    May 9, 2011 at 3:02 pm | | Reply

    You see why NY got good so quickly. Ream and Agudelo paid under $100k. Nice to get players like that. Not going to build a future like that probably, huh ?

    They need more money and they are paying DeRo, Henry, and Co.

  8. Dave C
    Dave C
    May 9, 2011 at 3:23 pm | | Reply

    Just a minor note – Caleb Folan’s last name is FOLAN (an Irish name) not FORLAN (a Spanish name). The guy is such a donkey that confusing his last name with Diego Forlan’s is probably the closest thing to a compliment he has ever received.

    Sorry if that’s a little harsh on the guy….but I’m a Hull City fan, and I remember a fellow fan describing him perfectly when he was at the Tigers: Caleb Folan is about as useful as Anne Frank’s drumkit. Harsh, but so true.

    1. Dave C
      Dave C
      May 9, 2011 at 3:35 pm | | Reply

      Also, you could pay Caleb Folan the minimum hourly wage, and he’d still be overpaid.

      1. Robert Hay
        May 9, 2011 at 4:22 pm | | Reply

        Thanks Dave C! My Irish relatives are likely going to be ashamed of me.

        1. Dave C
          Dave C
          May 10, 2011 at 11:58 am | | Reply

          He really was a love-hate figure at Hull City. He seemed to have the tools to be a decent player (tall, strong, quick), and he scored a few vital goals at the Championship. But he never seemed to recover his confidence after getting a severe head/neck injury shortly after signing. So he spent most of the time chickening-out of challenges, ducking out of headers, and generally standing in an offside position waving his arms around and complaining at the ref. I had hoped he would do OK in MLS, since he seems like a decent guy who just needed to rediscover some mental strength, but from what I hear, he hasn’t fared any beter.

  9. Dave C
    Dave C
    May 9, 2011 at 3:26 pm | | Reply

    I wish this kind of info was readily available for other leagues. It would actually be an interesting study in sociology/politics/economics to examine whether teams with more egalitarian payrolls provide a better end product than a team with a contrasting mix of high earners and low-earners, even when the total annual payroll is the same.

  10. Rex
    May 9, 2011 at 3:35 pm | | Reply

    Dynamo strategy, shop Jamaican. They have three quality players for cheap.

  11. The original Tom
    The original Tom
    May 9, 2011 at 11:29 pm | | Reply

    I’ve said it before, Omar Cummings of the Rapids should make more money; he is one of our better players. I like Kanji and Forlan, but Cummings is more productive and proven.

  12. Pedro
    May 10, 2011 at 11:30 am | | Reply

    Only 4 teams have someone earning more than $1M, with a number of teams not dipping into their own pockets for salaries at all, based on having no players paid over $400K.

    When you’re only spending $2.7M or whatever it is for a whole team, that seems really low, but then again, maybe because of single-entity, the true value of the labor (in a free labor market) they are getting is actually much higher than what they pay. (“You’ll take what we offer or you can have fun moving abroad and learning another language!”)

    The fact that only a small number of teams pay extra for DP’s shows that there’s very little incentive to win in this league. (You could argue the reason they spend the extra $ for the Henry’s and Beckham’s is in large part for other financial reasons, but I’ll leave that alone for the moment).

    If soccer wasn’t a worldwide sport that gives fans lots of options, then this situation wouldn’t be problematic, and we’d be forced to accept it. But with more televised EPL than MLS in the States as an example, MLS execs can’t ignore the reality of the situation, which is “you get what you pay for”.

    Hats off to the players and coaches for doing their best on the field, but it’s obvious that the owners believe it’s not in their interest to provide much financial incentives to teams to strive to win, because they don’t want teams to compete for talent – and to extent teams do, they’re punished for doing so (pay salary out of pocket and make a chunk of it count against the salary cap to squeeze salaries of other players).

    I know that the MLS brass is made up of people from the NFL, but by now they should be adjusting to the fact that they aren’t the only game in town — we have choices of whom. You get what you pay for, and although I try to be excited, being aware of other leagues dampens enthusiasm. (AKA, I feel I’m being taken for a sucker)

  13. darkwave999
    May 11, 2011 at 11:26 am | | Reply

    I love your site, good sirs. I look forward to the MLS salary release every year…’s a funny thing! I continue to be baffled how poorly some of these men are being paid. Not Becksy, Henry, Rafa, Bravo, Donovan….I’m talking the grunts on the front lines, toiling for mere pennies on the dribble. Sad…..these guys are clearly risking potential lifelong loss of limb and career, playing in MLS, and they should absolutely be paid in a more sensible and fair manner.

  14. Bolacuadrada
    May 12, 2011 at 2:31 am | | Reply

    I do not think it is that bad at all. At least these guys have a paycheck for sure. I know of other leagues that have been around for decades and some of their clubs cannot even pay what they agree to the players. Some players in those leagues wait for months to be paid and some of then spend years waiting. Some of those leagues are made of players that do not even have a union to represent them. I would like to see the average salaries in Mexico, Brasil and Argentine to compare. If someone has a reliable source where we can find that information please share.

  15. Youth nfl jerseys
    May 13, 2011 at 2:21 am | | Reply

    NFL jerseys, MLB jerseys, NBA jerseys sale on An adage, yes, but still true: They all look the same in the box score.

  16. Brent
    May 14, 2011 at 10:13 pm | | Reply

    The best example of a player being overpaid is Andres Mendoza! The Crew are paying him $595,000 to sit the bench and when he gets a few minutes on the field in garbage time he gives the ball away more than everyone else combined! Perfect example of being heavily overpaid!

  17. Lafemme_Loca
    June 6, 2011 at 4:40 pm | | Reply

    I think for San José the ‘wasted’ highest paid should either go to Scott Sealy ($150K for missing every shot) or Andre-Luis getting $75K for being injured two straight seasons and not playing a single match.

  18. Jeromy
    September 11, 2011 at 3:34 pm | | Reply

    Actually you got the post wrong with Sounders. Rosales was making
    league base minimum, but that was due to the fact the sounders had
    no salary space when the season started, but by far he is the most
    under paid sounder on the team and montero over paid. NO way, he
    leads the teams in goals and second o nly to rosales in asst. the
    team is much better with him on the field. Montero isn’t even being
    paid a milliion dollars, so to say he is over paid is just harsh.
    Zak got that salary when he was drafted, when his contract comes up
    at the end of the season he will get his paycheck that he
    deserves….. most overpaid player on the sounders is simple JAQUA.
    way over paid for the amount we get for him on the field.

  19. Charles
    May 17, 2011 at 8:43 pm | | Reply


    You must be new to the site.
    Have you seen what some of the soccer fans write about US Soccer ? They are morons. MLS is fighting an uphill battle, no doubt. Inspite of that the salaries have gone up.

    Not saying I disagree with you, but getting a soccer fan to watch soccer is in this country is harder than turning straw into gold.

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