MLS Salaries 2011: The Surprises and the Shocks

Wahl and Cummings

Photo by marc-takoma

Ah, the annual rite of spring.  Yesterday, the MLS Players Union released the list of MLS players’ salaries for the year, a great time for fans to see who is making what.  Inevitably, there are surprises that so and so is making a lot less than they are worth while some underachieving star (cough cough Andres Mendoza) is overpaid.  The entire list of salaries by club is here and by name is here.

Below is our analysis of the salaries for each team, listing the most underpaid and overpaid players.  If you agree or disagree, sound off in the comments section below.

Chicago Fire

Highest Paid: Nery Castillo ($1.65m base, $2m plus overall)

Making Too Much: Marko Maric – 1 appearance, $150,000 base salary

Making Too Little: Diego Cháves – 4 goals, 8 appearances, $42,000 salary

Looking at the Chicago salaries it’s easy to see why the team is struggling – their highly-paid players are struggling.  The Croatian duo of Maric and Mikulic are making over $2 million and $116,250 respectively, and have no goals between them (although Maric has been troubled with injury).  Fullback Desan Robinson is making $100,000 this season despite his struggles and own-goal proclivities.  On the other hand, their best signing is making league minimum.

Chivas USA

Highest Paid: Heath Pearce ($247,825 base; $257,325 total)

Making Too Much: Michael Umana ($170k base; $182+k total)

Making Too Little: Nick LaBrocca ($87,000 total)

No real surprises on this list as Chivas is investing in their future right now.  There is the investment in the young players like Valentin, and for the most part their overpaid players are those that have spent time on the injury list, like Jimmy Conrad.

Colorado Rapids

Highest Paid: Conor Casey ($400k total)

Making Too Much: Caleb Folan ($203+k total)

Making Too Little: Omar Cummings ($80+k base, $89+k total)

Conor Casey gets a nice pay raise after a good season last year but his partner up front did not.  It’s easy to see why Cummings was looking to Europe for a time last offseason.  Their salary list is very non-offensive and the team has done a good job of making sure the highest paid players actually produce, save Casey due to injury.  The exception to this is Macoumba Kandji who is exempted due to his injury suffered last year; he is on the books for almost $148k.

Columbus Crew

Highest Paid: Andres Mendoza ($500k base; $595k total)

Making Too Much: Same

Making Too Little: Rich Balchan ($42k base; $58k total)

Looking at the Columbus roster breakdown, it’s intriguing to see how much money is put into the forwards and how little is being put into their strength, the defense.  Reclamation project Julius James is making $68k in base salary and rookie Balchan is making league minimum.  Meanwhile, under-performing players like Jeff Cunningham ($158k total), Mendoza, and Emilio Renteria ($121k) are sucking up cap space.

DC United

Highest Paid: Branko Boskovic ($525k+ total)

Paid Too Much: Same

Paid Too Little: Bill Hamid ($69k total)

Clyde Simms and Joseph Ngwenya should be thankful for Boskovic as his huge salary and disappointing play masks their own large salaries ($179,250 and $156,000 respectively) and disappointing play.  MLS’s leading goal scorer up to this point is making an affordable $244,870, not a terrible burden on United.  The club is certainly paying for some of the mistakes of the past few years, but their salary list is not incredibly offensive and, if they can unload Boskovic’s salary, they have some room to acquire more talent.

FC Dallas

Highest Paid: David Ferreira ($600k base, $705k total)

Making Too Much: Backup keepers ($200k total)

Making Too Little: George John ($42k)

Kevin Hartman is worth every penny, but $200,000 for Chris Seitz and Josh Lambo in base salary?  Seems a bit high.  We also finally know just how much of a raise the reigning MVP got from Dallas and it is a substantial cap hit.  Fabian Castillo and George John at league minimum are both an absolute steal, and both could be getting raises in the near future.

Houston Dynamo

Highest Paid: Brian Ching ($375k base, $412,500 total)

Making Too Much: Eddie Robinson ($120k base and total)

Making Too Little: Tally Hall ($84k base)

Houston only has four players making league minimum or below, but they have a good strategy for paying their players.  I had a hard time picking out the overpaid and underpaid players, and chose Robinson for the former simply because he hasn’t seen much time on the pitch this season.  The team seems to be managing their money well.

(Sporting) Kansas City

Highest Paid: Davy Arnaud ($250k base, $258,750 total)

Making Too Much: Stephane Auvray ($170k base, $208,125 total)

Making Too Little: CJ Sapong ($42k total)

An interesting salary of note is Teal Bunbury, who’s base salary is only $83,000 but makes $100,000 more in incentives.  Also Omar Bravo’s cap hit is $120,000 which seems low for a designated player.  Thirteen players on KC’s roster makes more than $100,000 in base salary, so it looks like they could have a problem with roster flexibility.

Los Angeles Galaxy

Highest Paid: David Beckham ($5.5m base, $6.5m total)

Making Too Much: Brian Perk ($105,350 total)

Making Too Little: AJ DeLaGarza ($55,110 total)

No surprise here that LA’s roster is full of well-paid players.  Beckham is of course the highest paid player in MLS and Donovan is making $2.3 million.  The third LA DP, Juan Pablo Angel, is making a cool $1.25 million.  Twelve players make over $100,000 in base plus other compensation.

New England Revolution

Highest Paid: Shalrie Joseph ($475k base, $500k total)

Making Too Much: Radivoje Lekic ($275,004 base and total)

Making Too Little: AJ Soares ($42,000 base; $82,000 total)

How does it work out that Levic’s salary is $275,004?  Is there a reason there’s an extra four bucks thrown in?  Is he paid in euros and that’s the conversion?  As expected, Benny Feilhaber is making, with incentives, $346,000 this season which is high but not exorbitant.

New York Red Bulls

Highest Paid: Thierry Henry ($5,600,000.04 total)

Making Too Much: Ibrahim Salou ($264k base and total for former player)

Making Too Little: Tim Ream ($55,125 base; $62,625 total)

Tim Ream and John Rooney are making roughly the same salary.  Mull that over for a bit.  Not surprisingly New York has two of the three highest paid players in MLS with Henry and Rafa Marquez ($4.6m).  Juan Agudelo could have also been considered for the too little award since his base salary is $55k, but with incentives his salary goes up to $85k.

Philadelphia Union

Highest Paid: Carlos Ruiz ($250,004 base; $306,670.67 total)

Making Too Much: Juan Diego Gonzalez ($189k base, $193,462.50 total)

Making Too Little: Sheanon Williams ($42,000 total)

If you look at the payroll and compare it to the clubs they are fighting for first in the East, the Union are getting quite a deal with their players.

Portland Timbers

Highest Paid: Troy Perkins ($250k base; $280k total)

Making Too Much: Same

Making Too Little: Eric Brunner ($70k base)

Kenny Cooper makes the same base salary as Perkins, but loses out in incentives.  Darlington Nagbe shows how MLS wants to treat its rookies – his base salary is $65k but can makes over $200k in total compensation.

Real Salt Lake

Highest Paid: Javier Morales ($400k base; $452,500k total)

Making Too Much: Luis Gil ($90,250 base; $185+k total)

Making Too Little: Fabian Espindola ($75k total)

Another team that does well with its salary cap but you can see that this team is in win-now mode as it has to be butting up against the cap.  Twelve players make over $100k in base salary, thirteen if you include Gil’s compensation.

San Jose Earthquakes

Highest Paid: Bobby Convey ($313k base; 336k total)

Making Too Much: Ike Opara ($100k base; $185,900 total)

Making Too Little: Brandon McDonald ($45k base and total)

Congratulations to Chris Wondolowski, who parlayed his Golden Boot to a raise and a new salary of $175,000.  Potential goal scorers take note.  Spurs man Simon Dawkins is only making $60k this season and might be the steal of the year for San Jose if he stays healthy.

Seattle Sounders

Highest Salary: Fredy Montero ($500k base; $636k total)

Making Too Much: Same

Making Too Little: Steve Zakuani ($90k base)

It may be too harsh to label Montero as being the most overpaid, but his salary is huge for him to have struggled so much.  Steve Zakuani is really underpaid for his talent level, making less than $200k in total compensation.  Want to know why there’s so much pressure on Sigi Schmid?  Ten of his players make over $100k in base salary.

Toronto FC

Highest Paid: Julian De Guzman ($1.8+m base)

Making Too Much: Same

Making Too Little: Danleigh Borman ($42k base and total)

Want to know if your team is rebuilding?  Toronto has ten players making less than $50k this year, and only six making over $100,000.

Vancouver Whitecaps

Highest Paid: Eric Hassli ($660k base; $900k total)

Making Too Much: John Thorrington ($194+k base; $207+k total)

Making Too Little: Blake Wagner ($42k base and total)

How much money did you have in your bank account at 18?  Omar Salgado is scheduled to make $80,000 in base salary and could make over $121,000 in total compensation.


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