Updated Monday, July 20 with a few minor corrections: the number of players in the pool and the amount of Real Salt Lake's payroll.
TORONTO - This year's initial release of salary data by the Major League Soccer Players Union was delayed until official ratification of the new collective bargaining agreement. On Thursday, that process was completed; a day later, we got the season's first set of payroll numbers. I had heard the figures would be published right after ratification was complete, but it was just my luck that I was in the midst of a vacation day when it happened.
So as I sit at BMO Field watching the Union play Toronto FC, here at last is my analysis of how the Union's spending stacks up with the rest of MLS.
We already knew the 2015 roster rules, as they were released in May. The rules have since been amended slightly to conform to the CBA, and you can read the current version here. It's written in reasonably plain English, so I won't go through a full refresher of the financial elements.
I will only note two things quickly. First, rosters are set at 28 players this year instead of 30. Second, while the formal “salary budget” for each team is $3.49 million, that is not the same as a “salary cap” because of the many ways in which players are classified.
For example, a Designated Player's salary only counts $436,250 against the budget, no matter its actual total. DP salaries for players between the ages of 21 and 23 only count $200,000, and for players 20 or younger it's $150,000. Homegrown Players and Generation Adidas products don't count toward the budget at all.
Teams can also use allocation money to pay down hits against the budget, which means that some players who would otherwise be Designated Players are not.
With all that in mind, I'm not going to try to guess which players on the Union roster are the 20 which officially count against the budget. We can reasonably assume, though, that Andre Blake (Generation Adidas), Jimmy McLaughlin (homegrown) and Zach Pfeffer (homegrown) are outside that group.
Oh, one other thing. A few minutes after the numbers were released, an executive from a MLS club outside of Philadelphia contacted me to express some skepticism about whether the numbers are accurate. I have also heard some salary numbers different from the ones published - most notably that of Rais Mbolhi - but I am not able to confirm which figures are accurate.
Philadelphia Union Payroll
You will see four numbers listed next to each name: base salary, guaranteed compensation, and (where applicable) the changes in each figure from the previous release in September of last year.
GK Andre Blake: $85,000.00 / $123,000.00 (+$10,000.00 / +$10,000.00) 1
GK Rais Mbolhi: $350,000.00 / $350,000.00 (+$110,000.00 / $110,000.00)
GK John McCarthy: $50,000.00 / $56,250.00 (rookie)
GK Brian Sylvestre: $60,000.00 / $60,000.00 (first year in MLS)
D Fabinho: $114,000.00 / $118,500.00 (+$18,000.00 / +$18,000.00)
D Raymon Gaddis: $130,000.00 / $132,500.00 (+$77,687.00 / +$80,187.00)
D Raymond Lee: $60,000.00 / $60,000.00 (rookie)
D Richard Marquez: $60,000.00 / $60,000.00 (+$23,496.00 / +$23,496.00)
D Steven Vítoria: $400,000.00 / $400,000.00 (first year in MLS)
D Ethan White: $125,000.00 / $125,000.00 (+$45,000.00 / +$45,000.00)
D Sheanon Williams: $145,000.00 / $150,500.00 (+$50,000.00 / +$38,500.00)
M Eric Ayuk Mbu: $50,000.00 / $50,000.00 (first year in MLS)
M Eric Bird: $60,000.00 / $60,000.00 0 (rookie)
M Fred: $60,000.00 / $60,000.00 (-$5,460.00 / -$5,460.00)
M Brian Carroll: $150,000.00 / $150,000.00 (-$35,220.00 / -$35,220.00)
M Maurice Edu: $700,000.00 / $768,750.00 (+$50,000.00 / +$118,750.00) 2
M Michael Lahoud: $108,900.00 / $112,233.33 (+$9,900.00 / +$9,900.00)
M Sébastien Le Toux: $275,000.00 / $285,228.13 (+$25,000.00 / +$22,415.63)
M Jimmy McLaughlin: $60,000.00 / $60,000.00 (-$6,000.00 / -$15,000.00) 3
M Vincent Nogueira: $330,000.00 / $330,000.00 (no change)
M Zach Pfeffer: $60,000.00 / $60,000.00 (-$15,000.00 / -$25,000.00) 3
M Andrew Wenger: $180,000.00 / $282,000.00 (+$40,000.00 / +$40,000.00)
F Fernando Aristeguieta: $350,004.00 / $350,004.00 (first year in MLS) 2
F Conor Casey: $180,000.00 $180,000.00 (-$12,500.00 / -$12,500.00)
F Dzenan Catic: $60,000.00 / $75,000.00 (first year in MLS)
F Antoine Hoppenot: $60,000.00 / $60,000.00 (+$5,550.00 / +$5,550.00)
M Cristian Maidana: $203,500.00 / $217,250.00 (+$18,500.00 / +$18,500.00)
F C.J. Sapong: $125,000.00 / $142,000.00 (+$30,000 / +$30,000.00) 4
1 - Generation Adidas
2 - Designated Player
3 - Homegrown player
4 - Change from his 2014 salary with Sporting Kansas City
The MLSPU also lists the following players as tied to the Union, even though they are on loan to other clubs at this time:
D Austin Berry: $93,519.00 / $108,519.00 (+$6,525.00 / +$6,525.00, at FC Anyang of South Korea's second division)
D Carlos Valdés: $400,000.00 / $400,000.00 (+$105,000.04 / +$105,000.04, at Nacional of Uruguay's Primera Division)
M Danny Cruz: $125,000.00 / $131,666.67 (no change, at FK Bodø/Glimt of Norway's first-division Tippeligaen)
M Leo Fernandes: $60,000.00 / $60,000.00 (+$11,500.00 / +$11,500.00, at the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League)
Including the four on-loan players, the Union's payroll comes in at $5,269,923.00 in base salary and $5,578,401.13 in guaranteed compensation. Excluding them, the numbers are $4,591,404.00 and $4,878,215.46, respectively.
You might have noticed that goalkeeper Zac MacMath, who's on loan to the Colorado Rapids, isn't listed with the other loanees. The MLSPU counts him as being on the Rapids' books, even though he is officially Philadephia's property. His salary this year is $120,000.00 / $120,000.00 - the same as last season.
Team Payroll Comparison
Before getting into this, another reminder that the numbers can include players loaned out by the clubs in question even if those players aren't officially on those clubs' rosters at the moment.
1. Toronto FC: $20,401,075.00 / $22,774,566.74 (+$4,714,446.50 / +$6,061,963.56, no change)
2. Los Angeles Galaxy: $18,820,008.08 / $19,475,299.75 (+$6,444,535.08 / +$6,315,389.25, no change)
3. New York City FC: $17,347,421.04 / $17,860,367.89 (n/a)
4. Orlando City: $10,577,597.00 / $11,478,787.78 (n/a)
5. Seattle Sounders: $9,866,048.04 / $11,368,380.84 (+$469,414.04 / -$136,380.45, down 2 places)
6. New England Revolution: $5,921,005.08 / $6,566,089.61 (-$441,927.92 / -$691,825.68, up 1 place)
7. Chicago Fire: $5,842,783.00 / $6,341,788.20: (+$2,313,037.00 / +$2,570,656.12 up 9 places)
8. Vancouver Whitecaps: $5,433,490.00 / $6,150,226.67 (+$890,761.00 / $981,618.58, no change)
9. Sporting Kansas City: $5,209,250.00 / $5,610,976.43 (+$1,065,938.00 / $1,212,875.67, up 2 places)
10. Philadelphia Union: $5,269,923.00 / $5,578,401.13 (+$1,196,824.04 / +$1,192,864.67, up 2 places)
11. Portland Timbers: $5,123,133.08 / $5,312,916.41 (-$160,593.04 / -$116,719.82, down 4 places)
12. Houston Dynamo: $4,504,875.00 / $4,988,491.66 (+$477,506.00 / +$506,610.16, down 2 places)
13. Colorado Rapids: $4,555,502.04 / $4,939,918.71 (+$1,547,961.04 / +$1,425,618.22, up 5 places)
14. Columbus Crew: $4,557,354.96 / $4,925,014.64 (+$1,380,993.46 / +$1,387,187.87, up 3 places)
15. San Jose Earthquakes: $4,557,892.24 / $4,785,380.76 (+$600,816.24 / +$435,875.56, down 2 places)
16. D.C. United: $3,851,509.00 / $4,349,763.83 (+$379,762.08 / +$389,368.05, down 2 places)
17. Montréal Impact: $3,950,868.92 / $4,336,785.60 (-$1,130,045.12 / -$2,242,228.44, down 11 places)
18. Real Salt Lake: $3,888,884.00 / $4,328,253.51 (+$241,369.00 / +$326,289.34, down 4 places)
19. FC Dallas: $3,669,999.92 / $4,098,291.59 (-$371,037.08 / -$473,870.41, down 10 places)
20. New York Red Bulls: $3,437,738.00 / $3,884,228.39 (-$6,831,073.00 / -$7,438,916.69, down 16 places)
I'm sure the New York Red Bulls' numbers stand out for many of you. I was also quite surprised. Obviously a lot of the decline comes from the departures of (and lack of replacements for) Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill, but the change is really made stark now. I checked the numbers multiple times just to be sure I got them right, and I kept getting the same results. So there they are.
I'd venture that you can see a clear impact of the new television deal in the increased spending by clubs such as Colorado, Columbus, D.C., Houston and Philadelphia. Even clubs that fell in the rankings are still spending more than they did last year, with San Jose and Real Salt Lake among the examples.
Seattle, New England and Portland are theoretically spending less than they were, as are the Red Bulls. But that's a relative thing with the big-money Sounders, of course. The Timbers don't lack for resources when they needs them, as evidenced by the recent signing of new Designated Player striker Lucas Melano.
Montreal joins the Red Bulls in taking a big fall, due almost entirely to the retirement of big-money striker Marco Di Vaio.
The Revolution are a talking point. Yes, they've got a lot of young creative talent, but nearly half of their payroll is going to Jermaine Jones. Dallas' numbers are also noteworthy - not as big of a drop in spending as New England, but a huge fall in the rankings because of other teams' increased payrolls.
The Top 26 Richest Players
Also known as the top 25 richest players currently on Major League Soccer rosters plus Toronto FC striker Gilberto, who's on loan to Vasco da Gama in his native Brazil.
1. M Kaká, Orlando City: $6,660,000.00 / $7,167,500.00
2. F Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto FC: $5,600,000.00 / $7,115,555.67
3. M Michael Bradley, Toronto FC: $6,000,000.00 / $6,500,000.00
4. M Steven Gerrard, Los Angeles Galaxy: $6,200,004.00 / $6,332,504.00
5. M Frank Lampard, New York City FC: $6,000,000.00 / $6,000,000.00
6. F David Villa, New York City FC: $5,610,000.00 / $5,610,000.00
7. F Jozy Altidore, Toronto FC: $4,750,000.00 / $4,750,000.00
8. F Clint Dempsey, Seattle Sounders: $3,913,008.00 / $4,605,941.50
9. F Robbie Keane, Los Angeles Galaxy: $4,500,000.00 / $4,500,000.00
10. M Giovani dos Santos, Los Angeles Galaxy: $4,000,008.00 / $4,100,008.00
11. M Jermaine Jones, New England Revolution: $2,800,000.00 / $3,052,500.00
12. F Obafemi Martins, Seattle Sounders: $2,400,000.00 / $3,000,000.00
13. M Andrea Pirlo, New York City FC: $2,000,004.00 / $2,315,694.00
14. M Shaun Maloney, Chicago Fire: $1,550,000.00 / $1,586,000.00
15. D Omar González, Los Angeles Galaxy: $1,200,000.00 / $1,450,000.00
16. M Pedro Morales, Vancouver Whitecaps: $1,190,000.00 / $1,410,900.00
17. F Gilberto, Toronto FC: $1,145,000.00 / $1,205,000.00
18. M Federico Higuaín, Columbus Crew: $1,175,000.00 / $1,175,000.00
19. F Kevin Doyle, Colorado Rapids: $1,125,000.00 / $1,170,000.00
20. F Innocent Emeghara, San Jose Earthquakes: $988,000.00 / $1,040,000.00
21. D Liam Ridgewell, Portland Timbers: $1,000,000.00 / $1,000,000.00
22. F Kennedy Igboananike, Chicago Fire: $800,000.00 / $901,666.67
23. F Octavio Rivero, Vancouver Whitecaps: $890,850.00 / $890,850.00
24. D DaMarcus Beasley, Houston Dynamo: $750,000.00 / $813,333.33
25. M Osvaldo Alonso, Seattle Sounders: $748,000.00 / $789,667.00
26. M Maurice Edu, Philadelphia Union: $700,000.00 / $768,750.00
The highest-paid player who is not a Designated Player is Omar González. As has been widely reportedby now, his salary was paid down with the new “Targeted Allocation Money” program introduced by MLS this month in order for the Galaxy to sign Giovani dos Santos.
Historically when I have crunched these numbers, I have made a point of noting players whose salaries are above the DP minimum but who are not classified as DPs. That is a little tougher to do now because as I mentioend above, MLS has tiers of DP salary threshholds based on players' ages. Fernando Aristeguieta is one example: only $200,000 of his salary counts against the Union's budget because he's 23 years old.
It remains the case, though, that the really big paychecks go to players older than 23 who cost the full DP charge of $436,250. And they're the ones who get the headlines, so let's focus on them.
A total of 39 players earn more than the Designated Player threshhold in base salary. Seven are not DPs; González, Fanendo Adi (Portland), Aurélien Collin (Orlando), Mix Diskerud (New York City FC), José Gonçalves (New England), Roger Espinoza (Kansas City) and Brek Shea (Orlando).
(I leave it up to you to judge whether I am biting my tongue on the subject of the new CBA being an insufficient reflection of the amount of money in MLS right now for players and owners alike.)
With changes from the last round of data.
Overall expenditure: $147,260,732.44 / $159,662,055.18 (+$30,568,327.36 / +$30,130,215.71)
Total players: 566 (-5)
Mean (average) salary: $260,177.97 / $282,088.44 (+$56,170.27 / +$55,634.18)
Median (middle) salary: $97,500.00 / $110,000.00 (+$17,500.00 / +$18,000.00)
Mode (most common) salary: $60,000.00 / $60,000.00 (+$11,500.00 / +$11,500.00)
Minimum salary: $50,000 / $50,000, 29 players (+$13,500.00 / +$13,500.00, +9 players)
Orlando and the New York Red Bulls are tied for the most players on the absolute minimum salary with four each. Ten players make barely above the minimum at $50,000.04 base and guaranteed. New England is paying five players $50,000.04 per year or less.
As always, I save the end of these posts for players who often get overlooked.
League-wide goalkeeper pool
Trey Mitchell: $50,000.04 / $50,000.04
Union fans might remember that Mitchell was summoned to back up Brian Sylvestre for a game at Vancouver in May when Andre Blake and John McCarthy were injured.
D Jhon Kennedy Hurtado: $230,000.00 / $230,000.00
D Tony Lochhead: $134,375.00 / $134,375.00
M Blake Smith: $60,000 / $93,750.00
Hurdato and Lochhead were most recently with Chivas USA. They have both been off the field since the end of the 2014 season. Smith was most recently with the Montréal Impact. He was waived on May 7.