The New York Red Bulls club payroll is first in the league at $13,397,087, almost a full million more than the Los Angeles Galaxy who come in at second with $12,419,679. Both teams are well above the league average of $4,451,621. Thierry Henry ($5.6 mill) is the second highest paid player in MLS behind only David Beckham ($6.5 mill) of the Galaxy. Rafa Marquez of the Red Bulls is the third highest player ($4.6 mill) well ahead of American superstar Landon Donovan who comes in at fourth ($2.3 mill). It is no surprise that the top four highest-paid players are from the Galaxy and the Red Bulls, more interesting is the fact that Rafa and Henry make up about 2/3rds of NYRB's payroll and David Beckham takes up half of the Galaxy's payroll. Join me for more after the jump...
Player salaries and compensation have since increased at a rate 15.1% over the past four seasons. However, 2011 saw the average salary and compensation decline 11% from the previous season. Last season’s average compensation was $173,491. The median compensation declined in 2011 as well, falling 13.3% to $80,050.
Looking at the median salary and compensation for MLS players is very deceptive because of players like Beckham, Henry, Marquez, Donovan, Julian de Guzman, Juan Pablo Angel, and Eric Hassli who throw the average by being outliers. David Beckham earns more than 168 times the average MLS player salary and compensation. It is unfortunate to see that the median compensation has declined despite the fact that the sport is growing in popularity and expanding and looks to continue to expand next year with the addition of new team(s). It is also important to keep in mind that the re-introduction of the Reserve League has lowered the median compensation and salary, which almost completely explains why the average salary and compensation is in decline for the first time in five years. I only wish we had access to all the numbers.
When you look at the money guaranteed to players like Henry, Beckham, and Marquez you can't help but wonder are worth it? Looking at the salary of Marquez ($4.6 mill) and Henry ($5.6 mill) compared to the payroll of a hugely successful team like Real Salt Lake which is at $3,517,956 or a promising team like the Seattle Sounders who have a payroll of $3,465,629 you begin to question how money is being spent in the league and especially in the Red Bulls organization. Of course it is almost impossible to factor into the equation the value of a marketable player that will put fans in the seats, jersey sales, media attention, etc.
Still, one can't help but wonder how long the trend of seducing aging stars in the twilight of their careers away from the big leagues in Europe will continue. Eventually clubs in MLS will have to start investing in home-grown talent and young players like Juan Agudelo, Steve Zakuani, Freddy Montero, and Tim Ream for the health and stability of the league. A never-ending carousel of overpaid, aging stars showing up to play for clubs for two or three years is no way to build a team or a league.
So... does money buy success in MLS? I suppose we will just have to wait and see.
Top Ten Player Earnings
- David Beckham (LA) $6.5 mill
- Thierry Henry (NYRB) $5.6 mill
- Rafa Marquez (NYRB) $4.6 mill
- Landon Donovan (LA) $2.3 mill
- Julian de Guzman (TOR) $1.91 mill
- JPA (LA) $1.25 mill
- Eric Hassli (VAN) $900k
- David Ferreira (DAL) $705k
- Freddy Montero (SEA) $636k
- Andres Mendoza (COL) $595k
Top Five Team Payrolls
- NYRB $13,397,087
- LA Galaxy $12,419,679
- Chicago Fire $4,794,742
- Toronto FC $4,262,444
- Vancouver Whitecaps $3,570,853
Note: All data is correct as of May 1, 2011
Source: Business of $occer