MLS Salaries

By | February 23, 2015

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.


5 thoughts on “MLS Salaries

  1. Spencer Davidson

    This post is one that points out a very problematic fact within our country; one that definitely deserves more attention as the income to have a decent standard of living continues to rise on a year-to-year basis. However, I would have to agree with Helena in the sense that it is nearly impossible for these players to be paid more than they are at this point in time when revenues for the MLS are significantly lower than any other major sports league in the United States. However, in order to overcome the problem, I feel like the MLS should look into other ways of raising revenues other than advertisements, due to their inability to show commercials during the games. Potentially, as interest in soccer continues to improve in our country, they should look to force viewers to pay to watch certain games, depending on whether or not the population would be willing to do so. At this point in time, however, it is frankly too difficult for the average MLS player to make sign more lucrative contracts.

  2. Ole

    Seems the NHL offers some similarities worth exploring more closely. TV contracts and viewing numbers, stadium size is similar but number of games varies. Is there a salary cap? What is the free agency situation?

  3. Brigid Larkin

    The difference between MLS players and other professional sports players is certainly staggering. However, like you said, most athletes go in at the minimum: $35,000. That’s actually not that far off from the average personal income in the US. That makes them essentially like the average worker in the United States. Personally, I think that means other pro athletes are being paid too much, not that MLS players don’t make enough.

  4. Dylan Newman

    I’ve heard of MLS players having to work in retail along with their MLS job to make ends meet. I believe there is also a story about Graham Zusi, a member of the 2014 US World Cup Squad, who lived on his friend’s couch the first few years he was in the league due to such a small salary. Currently Major League Soccer is facing a potential strike from the players union. The union has not yet signed the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, and the season is supposed to begin in under a month (but obviously hinges on a new CBA being signed). It will be interesting to see if the players sign this new CBA, and if so, what the league minimum salary will be.

  5. Helena Wang

    The difference between the salary made by a professional soccer player and by a professional football/basketball player in the US is quite staggering. According to the NY Times, in 2012, MLS game attendance grew 7% to surpass both NHL and NBA in average attendance (source: However, it seems that the main reason why a MLS player’s salary is much lower is because there is just less TV contracts and revenues to be made. Because of the fact soccer games are uninterrupted for two halves, the media can’t find ways to capitalize on the game. This reminds of the discussion we had in class about how the media and the sport can be in a chicken and egg came first situation. Hopefully increased interest in soccer will help at least with TV ratings which can lead to more lucrative advertisement deals for MLS.


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