On my way home from a game of pickup soccer I was talking to a friend about what it takes to be a professional. We discussed the ultra tracked life of European soccer players, elite soccer academies, and reserve teams. However we also discussed the options for American soccer players, especially those who elected to go through college before making a move to the MLS. After this discussion I thought about professional soccer in America and how much these players get paid.
One of the first things that I noticed after starting to research these questions was that being a professional athlete does necessarily ensure fame and fortune. High salaries come to people, or sports that are popular, without popularity its hard to raise money through fans or sponsorships. In the MLS the average salary in 2014 for an MLS player is $80,000, a far cry from many other professional sports teams in the United States, and an income that is not terribly far off from that of a college graduate. There are also players such as Clint Dempsey, who, according to ESPN “will make $6.695 million this season – more than the TOTAL payrolls of 15 out of 19 MLS teams.” However Dempsey is a star, the highest paid player in the MLS, and most notably an exception. Even so, Dempsey’s salary is dwarfed by those of other American athletes such as Cliff Lee (Baseball) who earns $25 million per year, and Kobe Bryant who earns $23 million per year.
As a rookie, most players come in earning the minimum salary of $35,125, a rather slim paycheck for anyone, and generally have to supplement their income with a day job that they can work around their soccer schedule. As soccer picks up in popularity in the United States salaries will surely rise, but for now, the salary of a typical MLS player is not as grand as one may think.