Major League Soccer Players Union released salaries and compensation for all players earlier this month. There were few surprises throughout the report as well as few additions to the top of the compensation table in the league.
Despite the trend of past seasons, 2011 proves to be the league’s time to take one step back with regards to player compensation as the Reserve League is reintroduced, significantly increasing the pool of available players.
The player pool increased by more than a hundred players with the introduction of the MLS Reserve League and expansion clubs, Portland and Vancouver. Over 11% of the league now earns the minimum of $32,600, which has been designated for players occupying a club’s final six roster spots according to the 2011 MLS Roster Rules. In addition, players noted as part of the top twenty-four roster positions are required to earn a minimum of $42,000. The league minimums combine to account for 29.7% of the Major League Soccer player pool.
The payroll has expanded from 411 players in 2010 to 518 in 2011. The large increase is due to the number of expanded roster size and minimum salary earners as clubs look to provide younger and less experienced players with playing time, even in MLS’s (re-introduced) Reserve League. Fostering the development of players with hopes of playing with the first time will benefit homegrown talent and will likely prevent them from seeking playing time abroad in leagues which may ultimately provide less exposure and limit the potential for being seen.
Based on the growth of guaranteed compensation since 2007, the oldest available salary and compensation information by the MLS Players Union, the league average was anticipated to increase to $199,669. 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.
Despite in the early months of its sixteenth season, the league continues to experience significant variances between the league’s top earners and those earning the league minimum. It is difficult to provide representation of the league’s average compensation. The average is quickly thrown off by the ‘million dollar club,’ which includes six designated players including David Beckham, Thierry Henry, Rafael Marquez, Landon Donovan, Julian de Guzman and Juan Pablo Angel.