MLS Salaries Compared to other American Sports

By | March 31, 2016


A week ago, ESPN released answers to a survey they conducted with 123 MLS players. Two questions stood out to me. The first, was “You’re commissioner for a day. What’s the one thing you’d change about the MLS?” The top answer? 44 percent of the players said that salaries are the one thing that they would change. The next question stood out as well. “Are MLS players currently being paid fairly?” The answer: 84 percent responded saying no. Player responses were pretty surprising as well. “Guys have to know that if you do well in MLS, it can be a career. Right now, almost every single player in this league knows that this is one of two or four careers that we’re going to have because the wages just aren’t there yet,” one player said. Another player responded, “When you look at guys who leave this league and then they go to Scandinavia and make double or triple what they were making here, obviously the MLS guys are not being paid enough.”

I decided to look into how much players in the MLS make, compared to players in the NBA or NFL, since they are the “premier” sport leagues in the United States. The results were shocking. The minimum salary for a rookie NFL player is $435,000. The minimum salary for a rookie NBA player is $525,093. But the minimum salary for a MLS player? Just $60,000, and this is after it was raised from a paltry $36,000 the year before. Many professional soccer players have to take second or third jobs just to make ends meet if they are not one of the top athletes in the game.

Some arguments have stated that players are motivated by passion, not money, so paying them less is acceptable. Another states that the players should be happy to be a part of the process of building a league, that the reward is the journey itself. However, these are both incorrect. A professional athlete’s career is short, with about 15 years being a long, successful career. If a player stays in the league for 15 years, and only makes the minimum, then he still wouldn’t haven’t even made $1 million dollars. An NFL or NBA player would hit the $1 million mark in his second or third year in the league.

Professional athletes, including soccer players, generate a large amount of revenue. They have the right to be compensated a portion of that revenue, not just a paltry $60,000. Football players get a decent portion. So do basketball players. It’s time for players in the MLS to get the money that they deserve.


ESPN Staff. “MLS Player Poll: Salary Concerns, Promotion & Relegation, Prem Chances.” N.p., 22 Mar. 2016. Web. 31 Mar. 2016. <>.

Ginnitti, Michael. “NFL Minimum Salaries for 2015 and the Veteran Cap Benefit Rule.” The Daily Spot. N.p., 2 Feb. 2015. Web. 31 Mar. 2016. <>.

Gordon, James P. “Six Things We Learned From The MLS Player Salary Data Dump.” N.p., 20 July 2015. Web. 31 Mar. 2016. <>.

Hoopshype Staff. “What’s the Minimum NBA Salary?” HoopsHype. N.p., 12 Oct. 2015. Web. 31 Mar. 2016. <>.

Madu, Zito. “There’s Nothing Charming About Major League Soccer Low-balling Its Talent.” Fusion. N.p., 19 Nov. 2014. Web. 31 Mar. 2016. <>.

2 thoughts on “MLS Salaries Compared to other American Sports

  1. Ben Jackson

    Though I do believe the MLS should raise the minimum wage I highly doubt it will happen any time soon. A lot of the money MLS clubs have allotted to paying players is spent on purchasing and paying for a few, elite, popular usually foreign players. Such a system, the owners feel increases their team’s income, popularity and hopefully on pitch success. In actuality though it works in reverse as 8 of the 20 MLS teams reporting a negative operating income in 2014 according to, and 9 clubs saw average attendance drop from 2014-2015. The only way I could see the owners aborting this system and listening to the players would be if high level, popular players spoke out about the issue and those players are often the high paid players who don’t have to worry about such thing.

    1. Dominic Elzner Post author

      I agree with what you are saying at some level. However, teams losing money is normal for any professional level. Many NFL, NBA, and MLB teams all claim to be losing money, but those clubs give much more to salaries than the MLS does. The fact that “they’re losing money” doesn’t stop the NFL or NBA from being a huge success and letting their athletes get paid, so why should the MLS. Many players have came out and said that they want the MLS to be an upper tier soccer league, but there is no way that they can get to that point without paying their athletes the amount that they rightfully deserve. Those players put their body on the line, along with having long-distance relationships with family, and most likely going through other struggles that many of us will never dream of. Among all of that, they need a second job because professional soccer does not provide enough money. I feel that the owners of these MLS clubs are getting greedy, and do not wish to pay the players the amount of money that they are actually worth, and this will soon lead to a lockout if and when the MLS collective bargaining agreement expires, just like what happened to the NBA and NFL in 2011.


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