There’s a new highest paid player in Major League Soccer and yes, your first guess is correct.
When the LA Galaxy re-signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic to a Designated Player contract before the season, they made the Swedish icon the highest paid player in the league. Ibrahimovic makes $7.2 million in 2019, according to the latest numbers released Wednesday by the MLS Players Association.
It’s about $100,000 more than last year’s highest paid player, Toronto FC’s Sebastian Giovinco, pulled in.
With his play on the field — Ibrahimovic has 11 goals and three assists in 12 matches this season after 22 goals and 10 assists in 27 appearances a year ago — as well as his effect on the box office, especially for road games and his overall marketability, it’s clear Ibrahimovic is worth the hefty price tag.
Across town, LAFC’s Carlos Vela is on track to set a new single-season record for goals scored and run away with the league’s MVP trophy, but he’s somewhat of a bargain at $4.5 million base salary and $6.3 in guaranteed compensation.
That’s not the second highest salary, though. Toronto FC’s Michael Bradley ($6,428,571) and Jozy Altidore ($6,332,250) both bring in more guaranteed money.
A year ago, Josef Martinez shattered the league’s single-season goal record with 31 in 34 appearances, won the MVP and helped lead Atlanta United to the MLS Cup title. He signed a five-year contract extension in January that pays him $3 million in base salary with another $58K in guaranteed compensation
Among the new big signings to the league in 2019, Toronto FC playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo is pulling in $3.8 million this season, Orlando City SC’s Nani is earning $2.4 million in guaranteed compensation
Perhaps another sign of their youth movement, previous big spenders New York City FC have just one millionaire on their roster — Maxi Moralez, who is making $2M in 2019. Their big signings, Heber, who has six goals and three assists in 10 appearances, and Alexandru Mitrita, who was signed to a Designated Player contract, are making $788,750 and $500,000, respectively.
According to the MLSPA, the average base salary for non-Designated Players has increased 150 percent over the last five years, from $138,140 in 2014 to $345,867 in 2019. It is the eighth consecutive year the average base salary increased.
For senior roster spots 10 through 18 on an MLS roster, salaries grew more than 10 percent per year over the last five years, according to the MLSPA.