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MLS player salaries 2018: How do the Philadelphia Union compare to the rest of the league?

Mar 3, 2018; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Union midfielder Anthony Fontana (21) celebrates his goal with teammates against the New England Revolution during the first half at Talen Energy Stadium. (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

The Major League Soccer Players Association released the year’s first set of salary figures on Wednesday, and as ever, those figures made a lot of news.

For the first time ever, the Union’s payroll exceeds $8 million — and nearly hits $9 million. The team has $8,915,987.84 in guaranteed compensation on its books. That is a major jump from the $7,178,431.71 spent on salaries last year.

Much of the increase in spending went toward the Union’s two big winter signings. Midfield playmaker Borek Dockal is earning $1,714,285.68, while winger David Accam is earning $1,250,000.04. Dockal’s salary is the 19th-highest across MLS this year. Accam’s ranks 35th.

Accam brought that salary with him when the Union acquired the Ghanaian from Chicago in January. Though his salary is well above the Designated Player threshold of $504,375, his salary cap hit was bought down with a large sum of of MLS’ so-called Targeted Allocation Money.

Alejandro Bedoya, the Union’s first ever millionaire, got a small raise this year to $1,266,250.00, putting him 34th in the league-wide standings.

Two other players got big raises with new contracts. Goalkeeper Andre Blake’s pay got bumped up $313,500 in January to $500,000; and striker C.J. Sapong got a $225,000.00 raise in mid-March to $525,000.00 after last year’s 16-goal campaign. (Sapong has scored just one goal since getting that raise, by the way. Dockal has one goal and one assist with the Union, and Accam has no goals and no assists.)

Striker Jay Simpson, signed last year to lead the team’s attack, got a raise in his existing contract of over $115,000. The Englishman has scored just one goal in 24 appearances for the Union, and has played just twice this year — both times as late-game substitutes.

Three Union veterans took pay cuts when they re-signed with the team over the winter: defender Fabinho ($14,579) and midfielders Fabian Herbers ($35,492) and Ilsinho ($191,333.33).

On the whole, the Union’s payroll fulfills owner Jay Sugarman’s offseason promise that he’d provide “significantly more resources” to sporting director Earnie Stewart “than he’s ever had.”
But while salary data is absolute, it’s also relative. As MLS evolves, many other teams are spending more money too — and in many cases, a lot more. The Union’s increase in payroll is the eighth-largest of MLS’ 23 teams, but their total expenditure on payroll ranks just 15th league-wide.

>> Check out Pro Soccer USA’s full searchable, sortable database of MLS player salaries.

Not surprisingly, the teams with MLS’ biggest stars top those standings. Toronto FC is once again No. 1 at $26,167,498.69, thanks to Sebastian Giovinco ($7,115,555.67), Michael Bradley ($6.5 million) and Jozy Altidore ($5 million). Giovinco’s salary is the league’s highest, and Bradley’s is second-highest.

The Los Angeles Galaxy rank second at $17,502,008.29, with Mexico’s Giovani dos Santos accounting for $6 million of that. Superstar striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s salary is officially just $1.5 million.

New York City FC is third at $14,147,632.75, with David Villa’s $5.61 million salary front and center. In Chicago, Bastian Schweinsteiger’s $6.1 million salary accounts for nearly half of the Fire’s $13,824,204.43 payroll.

Expansion team Los Angeles FC ranks No. 5 league-wide at $13,432,052.68. Leading man Carlos Vela is MLS’ top Mexican star, and he commands a salary to match the billing: $6,292,500, ranked No. 3 in the league.

There are 46 players across MLS earning salaries of at least $1 million. That smashes the previous record of 31, set last season.

Below you’ll find the full Union’s full payroll, the league-wide payroll ranking, and other notable facts and figures from around MLS. Click here for our archive of MLS salary data going back to 2010.

Click here to see a full chart of the Philadelphia Union’s payroll.

Teams ranked by payroll

This list comes with the perennial caveat that it isn’t perfect. Some teams’ payrolls include players who are out on loan to other clubs, and some do not. The players union has gotten better about keeping track of this, but some players slip through the cracks at times.

1. Toronto FC: $23,480,305.24 base salary / $26,167,498.69 guaranteed compensation (no change)
2. Los Angeles Galaxy: $14,799,179.79 / $17,502,008.29 (up 3 places)
3. New York City FC: $13,249,557.75 / $14,147,632.75 (down 1 place)
4. Chicago Fire: $13,165,346.10 / $13,824,204.43 (no change)
5. Los Angeles FC: $11,254,868.77 / $13,432,052.68 (new team)
6. Portland Timbers: $11,209,418.04 / $12,516,334.71 (up 1 place)
7. Montreal Impact: $7,230,910.72 / $11,888,540.60 (up 12 places)
8. Seattle Sounders: $9,767,458.36 / $11,376,125.36 (down 2 places)
9. Atlanta United: $10,369,120.49 / $11,306,330.49 (down 1 place)
10. Colorado Rapids: $9,981,476.61 / $11,001,331.46 (up 2 places)
11. FC Dallas: $8,239,754.28 / $9,333,819.28 (up 2 places)
12. Sporting Kansas City: $8,825,489.64 / $9,176,166.46 (up 6 places)
13. Orlando City: $8,230,667.88 / $8,981,657.53 (down 10 places)
14. Real Salt Lake: $8,228,527.92 / $8,975,665.57 (down 5 places)
15. Philadelphia Union: $8,492,603.99 / $8,915,987.84 (up 1 place)
16. Vancouver Whitecaps: $7,531,016.48 / $8,233,011.70 (down 5 places)
17. Minnesota United: $7,561,893.83 / $8,152,682.50 (up 4 places)
18. San Jose Earthquakes: $7,116,234.78 / $7,787,252.57 (down 8 places)
19. New York Red Bulls: $7,079,490.20 / $7,689,313.93 (down 4 places)
20. Columbus Crew: $6,632,083.47 / $6,971,083.47 (down 7 places)
21. New England Revolution: $6,139,673.54 / $6,818,556.10 (up 1 place)
22. D.C. United: $6,325,796.94 / $6,744,419.62 (down 3 places)
23. Houston Dynamo: $5,267,338.29 / $5,673,471.62 (down 3 places)

What accounts for all that volatility? Here are a few headline items:

  • Montreal signed playmaker Ignacio Piatti to a big-money new Designated Player contract — but one that’s structured very unusually. His base salary is $500,000.04, but his guaranteed compensation — the metric by which teams are ranked here — is $4,713,333.37.
  • Sporting Kansas City jumped in part because it signed DP midfielder Felipe Gutiérrez for $1,599,999.96 / $1,649,999.96.
  • Orlando City plummeted because of the departure of Kaká, who commanded the biggest salary in MLS history at $6,660,000.00 / $7,167,500.00.
  • Real Salt Lake dropped on what might be a technicality. They loaned Designated Player midfielder Yura Movsisyan to Swedish club Djurgården, so his $1,850,000.00 / $2,073,750.00 salary doesn’t count for these purposes.
  • Portland’s payroll also includes a player who’s out on loan, forward Lucas Melano. His salary is $830,000.00 / $1,050,000.00.
  • Vancouver no longer has Fredy Montero, who earned $1,400,000.04 / $1,800,000.04.
  • Minnesota signed Designated Player midfielder Darwin Quintero for $1,650,000.00 / $1,650,000.00.
  • Columbus’ drop comes from the departure of Ola Kamara ($825,000.00 / $925,000.00), and from Gaston Sauro taking a nearly $400,000 pay cut.
  • San Jose’s drop is mostly because of other teams rising, as you’ll see in the next list.
  • You might be surprised to see the Red Bulls so low, given how much they spent to acquire playmaker Alejandro “Kaku” Romero Gamarra. But while his transfer fee was $6.25 million, his listed salary is just $709,090.80 / $709,090.80.
  • Similarly, while Atlanta United spent a MLS record $15 million on Ezequiel Barco’s transfer fee, his salary is relatively modest for a DP: $1,425,000.00 / $1,425,000.00.

Teams ranked by change in spending

Los Angeles FC is not included because they are an expansion team.

1. Montréal Impact: +$1,385,231.60 / +$5,563,924.30
2. Los Angeles Galaxy: +$2,857,307.67 / +$4,628,449.15
3. Toronto FC: +$3,275,350.24 / +$3,615,458.48
4. Sporting Kansas City: +$2,652,317.14 / +$2,766,407.84
5. Colorado Rapids: +$2,552,727.82 / +$2,744,826.25
6. Minnesota United: +$2,261,208.79 / +$2,399,247.62
7. D.C. United: +$1,917,661.46 / +$1,929,870.55
8. Atlanta United: +$1,933,496.45 / +$1,910,814.23
9. Philadelphia Union: +$1,922,723.99 / +$1,737,556.13
10. FC Dallas: +$1,519,170.84 / +$1,386,429.17
11. Portland Timbers: +$1,430,215.36 / +$1,147,019.53
12. Chicago Fire: +$672,718.10 / +$734,630.59
13. New York Red Bulls: +$419,187.96 / +$402,251.86
14. Real Salt Lake: +$369,733.48 / +$394,497.65
15. Columbus Crew: +$302,850.99 / +$200,038.49
16. Houston Dynamo: -$86,715.69 / -$98,174.03
17. Vancouver Whitecaps: $257,150.32 / -$208,374.46
18. Seattle Sounders: -$585,259.53 / -$444,123.44
19. San Jose Earthquakes: -$643,335.22 / -$656,993.55
20. New England Revolution: -$725,890.75 / -$677,660.94
21. New York City FC: -$4,249,567.97 / -$3,960,499.64
22. Orlando City: -$5,181,506.92 / -$5,603,079.84

  • Toronto gave playmaker Victor Vázquez a raise to $1,365,000.00 / $1,500,000.00, and signed fellow Spanish midfielder Ager Akexte for $1,190,000.04 / $1,295,000.04.
  • The Galaxy’s additions include Jonathan Dos Santos ($4,250,000.00 / $6,000,000.00) and Zlatan Ibrahimovic ($1,500,000.00 / $1,500,000.00, at least officially).
  • D.C. United’s jump is because its big signings in the second half of 2017 weren’t included in last September’s data. Zoltan Stieber is earning $999,999.96 / $999,999.96; Paul Arriola is earning $624,999.96 / $638,999.96; and Yamil Asad is earning $436,363.56 / $520,522.65. 
  • New York City shed $5,600,000.00 / $5,915,690.00 from its books when Andrea Pirlo retired.

The MLS millionaires club

There are a record 46 players on Major League Soccer’s books making at least $1 million in guaranteed salary now. That blows away the previous record of 31 set last year. Two come with caveats, though. Yura Movsisyan counts as unsigned

1. F Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto FC: $5,600,000.00 / $7,115,555.67
2. M Michael Bradley, Toronto FC: $6,000,000.00 / $6,500,000.00
3. F Carlos Vela, Los Angeles FC: $4,500,000.00 / $6,292,500.00
4. M Bastian Schweinsteiger, Chicago Fire: $6,100,000.08 / $6,100,000.08
5. F Giovani dos Santos, Los Angeles Galaxy: $4,250,000.00 / $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: $5,000,000.00 / $5,000,000.00
8. M Ignacio Piatti, Montreal Impact: $500,000.04 / $4,713,333.37
9. GK Tim Howard, Colorado Rapids: $2,000,000.00 / $2,475,000.00
10. M Diego Valeri, Portland Timbers: $2,320,000.00 / $2,380,000.00
11. M Nicolas Lodeiro, Seattle Sounders: $1,800,000.00 / $2,302,500.00
12. M Miguel Almirón, Atlanta United:: $1,912,500.00 / $2,297,000.00
13. F Yura Movsisyan, unsigned: $1,850,000.00 / $2,073,750.00
14. M Jonathan dos Santos, Los Angeles Galaxy: $2,000,000.04 / $2,000,000.04
15. M Maxi Moralez, New York City FC: $2,000,000.04 / $2,000,000.04
16. F Fanendo Adi, Portland Timbers: $1,275,000.00 / $1,933,333.33
17. F Nemanja Nikolic, Chicago Fire: $1,700,000.04 / $1,906,333.37
18. M Romain Alessandrini, Los Angeles Galaxy: $1,539,996.00 / $1,869,996.00
19. M Borek Dockal, Philadelphia Union: $1,714,285.68 / $1,714,285.68
20. F Shkëlzen Gashi, Colorado Rapids: $1,575,000.00 / $1,668,750.00
21. F Clint Dempsey, Seattle Sounders: $1,100,000.04 / $1,650,000.04
22. F Darwin Quintero, Minnesota United: $1,650,000.00 / $1,650,000.00
23. M Felipe Gutiérrez, Sporting Kansas City: $1,599,999.96 / $1,649,999.96
24. F Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York Red Bulls: $1,500,000.00 / $1,635,000.00
25. F Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Los Angeles Galaxy: $1,500,000.00 / $1,500,000.00
26. M Victor Vázquez, Toronto FC: $1,365,000.00 / $1,500,000.00
27. M Valeri “Vako” Qazaishvili, San Jose Earthquakes: $1,325,004.00 / $1,454,042.36
28. M Ezequiel Barco, Atlanta United: $1,425,000.00 / $1,425,000.00
29. F Josef Martínez, Atlanta United: $1,270,008.00 / $1,387,318.00
30. F Dom Dwyer, Orlando City: $1,200,000.00 / $1,383,333.33
31. M Sebastián Blanco, Portland Timbers: $1,300,008.00 / $1,375,008.00
32. M Ager Aketxe, Toronto FC: $1,190,000.04 / $1,295,000.04
33. M Aleksandar Katai, Chicago Fire: $1,140,000.00 / $1,276,333.33
34. M Alejandro Bedoya, Philadelphia Union: $1,200,000.00 / $1,266,250.00
35. M David Accam, Philadelphia Union: $1,250,000.04 / $1,250,000.04
36. F Alfredo Ortuno, Real Salt Lake: $990,000.00 / $1,162,500.00
37. M Osvaldo Alonso, Seattle Sounders: $1,100,000.04 / $1,141,667.04
38. M Federico Higuaín, Columbus Crew: $1,100,000.04 / $1,100,000.04
39. M Sacha Kljestan, Orlando City: $1,025,000.04 / $1,100,000.04
40. M Victor Rodríguez, Seattle Sounders: $999,999.96 / $1,087,499.96
41. F Diego Rossi, Los Angeles FC: $1,000,000.08 / $1,052,000.08
42. F Lucas Melano, Portland Timbers: $830,000.00 / $1,050,000.00
43. M Damir Kreilach, Real Salt Lake: $900,000.00 / $1,013,333.33
44. F Krisztián Németh, New England Revolution: $900,000.00 / $1,007,666.67
45. F Kei Kamara, Vancouver Whitecaps: $1,000,000.00 / $1,000,000.00
46. D Jørgen Skjelvik, Los Angeles Galaxy: $900,000.00 / $1,000,000.00

League-wide statistics

With changes from the last round of data.
Overall spending on salaries: $222,868,038.99 in base salary, $249,608,265.28 in guaranteed compensation (+$3,662,754.40 / +$4,030,912.66)
Both of the overall spending figures are new record highs. It’s the first time in MLS history that the base salary total has surpassed $200 million.
Total players: 669 (+15)
Mean (average) salary: $333,354.69 $/ 373,325.13 (-$1,821.59 / -$2,175.41)
Median (middle) salary: $140,004.00 / $153,541.67 (+$1.98 / +$1,326.67)
The median figures are new record highs.
Mode (most common) salary: $67,500.00 / $67,500.00 (+$14,496.00 / +$14,496.00)
Lowest salary: $54,500.00 / $54,500.00 (+$1,500.08 / +$1,500.08)
The minimum wage is a new record high. Two players make the absolute minimum: Seattle’s Nouhou Tolo and Dallas’ Jesus Ferreira. 42 players make within a few dollars of the absolute minimum. Only one is on the Union, Matthew Real. Four are on the Vancouver Whitecaps, and three each are on the Seattle Sounders and San Jose Earthquakes. All the other teams in MLS have two or fewer.

Last September, 56 players league-wide earned a salary at or very near the minimum.
It’s also worth noting that on many occasions over the years, the mode salary has been at or close to the minimum. This time around, the mode is much higher.

The overlooked

As always, the end of this post is reserved for for players who spend the least time in the spotlight: players who have contracts with MLS, but don’t have a club. The old league-wide goalkeeper pool no longer exists, so the unsigned player group includes all positions.

F Yura Movsisyan: $1,850,000.00 / $2,073,750.00 (loaned from Real Salt Lake to Swedish club Djurgården)
F Muhamed Keita: F $324,999.96 / $367,291.71 (last with the New York Red Bulls)
F Jacob Peterson: $173,568.00 / $180,818.00 (last with Atlanta United)
D Chance Myers: $175,008.00 / $175,008.00 (last with the Portland Timbers)
D Wandrille Lefèvre: $109,999.92 / $119,499.92 (last with the Montreal Impact)
M Jose Leiton: $67,500.00 / $83,000.00 (last with Minnesota United)
D Rennico Clarke: $67,500.00 / $72,500.00 (last with the Portland Timbers)
GK Tyler Deric: $67,500.00 $67,500.00 (last with the Houston Dynamo; technically he still is, but he’s suspended by MLS due to a domestic violence trial)

Graphics

Click here for the latest versions of the charts I use to show key MLS salary metrics and changes over time. I’ve removed the data from earlier this year, as I try to keep consistency across years by using only the last dataset issued each season.
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(c)2018 Philly.com
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