Which club pays the most? Average Salary for MLS Players in 2024

Major League Soccer (MLS) continues to grow in popularity and attracts talent from around the world. With this rise in prominence, many fans and aspiring players are curious about the average salary for MLS players. In this article, we’ll delve into the financial aspects of playing professional soccer in the United States and Canada, focusing on salary figures and guaranteed compensation.

The average salary in the MLS varies among teams and player positions, with some earning significantly more than others. However, when considering the league as a whole, it’s possible to determine an overall average salary for players. One key factor to consider is the average guaranteed compensation, which takes into account base salaries, signing bonuses, and other forms of income that players may receive.

As the MLS continues to develop and the level of competition rises, it’s important to understand the financial incentives and potential rewards of a career in this quickly evolving league. Stick around as we break down the numbers and gain a better understanding of the financial aspects of being an MLS player.

Overview of MLS Salaries

The average salary for MLS players has seen significant growth over the years, owing to the increasing popularity of soccer in the United States. In this section, we’ll provide a brief overview of the current MLS salaries, covering aspects like base salary, guaranteed compensation, bonuses, and more.

The current minimum wage in Major League Soccer (MLS) is $65,500, while the average income for non-designated players is $438,728. This represents a 10.3% increase from the previous year. The average base salary for Senior Roster Non-Designated Players has also experienced a noteworthy increase, jumping from $397,753 in 2021 to $438,728 in 2022, which equates to a significant double-digit growth.

MLS compensation includes a variety of components such as the base salary, which is the fixed amount paid to a player, and the guaranteed compensation, which covers the player’s agreed-upon salary, bonuses and agent fees. In some cases, a player’s total compensation may also include performance bonuses tied to their individual achievements or team success, as well as guaranteed bonuses and marketing bonuses for those who are involved in promotional activities for the league or their team.

To aid transparency, the MLS Players Association releases a biannual salary guide detailing the salary information of all MLS players under contract. This guide provides valuable insights into how players are compensated, highlighting the different bonuses and incentives that come into play for MLS players.

Top Paying Clubs

average salary for mls player

When looking into the average salary for MLS players, it’s also important to examine the top-paying clubs that contribute to these figures. Let’s take a look at the clubs that are shelling out the most money for their players and explore their payrolls.

Top Paying Clubs per Year (Without Messi):

  1. FC Cincinnati – $12,619,728
  2. Sporting Kansas City – $13,359,204
  3. Philadelphia Union – $13,614,607
  4. New York City FC – $14,292,580
  5. Seattle Sounders FC – $15,060,128
  6. Austin FC – $19,922,021
  7. DC United – $20,016,591
  8. Atlanta United – $21,257,396
  9. LA Galaxy – $23,463,025
  10. Toronto FC – $25,741,930

It’s important to consider that these payrolls don’t solely reflect high average salaries for all the players within the teams. Instead, they highlight clubs willing to invest significantly in their star players, often leading to a higher overall average salary for MLS players.

When discussing the average salary for MLS players, it’s essential to analyze how their earnings have changed over the years. The growth in player salaries reflects the increasing competitiveness and popularity of the league.

In 2021, the average base salary for Senior Roster Non-Designated Players went through a significant growth by reaching $397,753, up from the previous year. This substantial increase played a vital role in making the league more competitive, as more talented players were drawn to Major League Soccer.

Fast forward to 2023, and the average player salary in MLS reached an impressive $312,470. Moreover, the total annual wage bill for all team players now averages at $8,170,454. These numbers exhibit the growth and financial strength of the league, as it continues to develop and attract quality players from around the globe.

How exactly are these salaries calculated? The annualized base salary for a player, as well as all signing and guaranteed bonuses, are distributed evenly over the course of the player’s contract, including any option years. This method of calculation helps establish annualized average guaranteed compensation figures, providing a consistent mechanism for measuring player earnings over time.

Performance Bonuses and Additional Comps

average salary for mls player

When analyzing the average salary of MLS players, it’s essential to take into account the different elements that constitute a player’s overall remuneration. In addition to base salaries, players may also receive guaranteed bonuses, performance bonuses, and other forms of compensation. In this section, we will focus on the role of performance bonuses and additional comps in shaping a player’s earnings in Major League Soccer.

Guaranteed Bonuses are an integral part of a player’s salary package in the MLS. These can include signing bonuses, which are spread out evenly over the term of a player’s contract. For example, if a player with a two-year contract earns a $100,000 signing bonus, their average annual guaranteed compensation would increase by $50,000 each year due to the bonus (source). Other guaranteed bonuses could encompass marketing bonuses and agent’s fees, but these are not always included in the annualized average guaranteed compensation number.

Performance Bonuses, on the other hand, are not included in the annualized average guaranteed compensation figure, as they are contingent on a player achieving specific goals or milestones. These bonuses are based on a player’s individual or team performance and can vary widely depending on a player’s position, experience, and performance metrics. Common examples of performance bonuses include goals scored, assists, minutes played, and team achievements like winning a championship or qualifying for international tournaments.

Contracts and Option Years

The average salary for MLS players has been steadily increasing over the years, thanks in part to enhanced contract structures and provisions like option years. In this section, we’ll delve into some key elements regarding these aspects, shedding light on their overall impact on player earnings.

When it comes to professional soccer contracts, a significant attribution of an MLS player’s compensation is the base salary itself, which may further comprise signing and guaranteed bonuses. These bonuses are annualized over the entire length of the player’s contract, including any option years. An option year refers to a provision in the contract that allows a team to extend the player’s agreement for a predetermined additional time, often at a pre-established salary rate.

Option years can be beneficial for both players and teams. For the player, it provides some form of job security, knowing they have a strong chance of being retained by their current team. In return, teams can secure the player’s services for a longer period at favorable terms, avoiding the need to renegotiate contracts frequently.

Salary growth in MLS has also been positively influenced by the league’s collective bargaining agreements (CBA). In recent years, the league has committed to increasing the spending on salary budgets, General Allocation Money (GAM), and performance bonuses, propelling players’ earnings to new heights.

As a result, the Average Base Salary for Senior Roster Non-Designated Players has experienced substantial growth, rising from $397,753 in 2021 to $438,728 in 2022. This illustrates the positive trend in MLS player compensation and underscores the relevance of factors such as contracts and option years in shaping these earnings.

Player Agents and Fees

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The influence of player agents and their fees should be taken into account when examining the average salary of MLS players. Agents are instrumental in negotiating contracts for players and ensuring they receive fair compensation. In this section, we’ll delve into the aspects of agent fees, how they factor into a player’s negotiation process, and their influence on a player’s overall income.

Agents are responsible for managing and advocating for their clients within Major League Soccer. They negotiate on behalf of the players to secure the most favorable terms for their contracts. In exchange for their services, agents receive a fee, typically a percentage of the player’s salary or contract.

Agent’s fees can vary significantly based on factors such as experience, success, and the value they bring to their clients. They usually range from 1% to 10% of the player’s salary or contractual bonuses. It’s important to note that these fees are usually deducted from the player’s earnings; therefore, the higher the agent’s fee, the lower the player’s take-home pay.

My Opinion on the Average Salary for MLS Player

In 2023, the average salary MLS player stands at $530,262, marking a 3.5% increase from the previous year. This growth in player earnings signifies the league’s evolution and its growing prominence in the world of soccer.

It’s important to acknowledge that the MLS has come a long way since its inception in 1996. The growth in average salary for mls player reflects the league’s increasing popularity and the quality of talent it attracts. In fact, it’s estimated that the average basic wage for a senior-roster non-designated player stands at $438,728 as of May 2022. This is a significant increase from previous years and shows the league’s commitment to investing in its players.

However, it’s also important to note that the average salary for mls player is still falls short of the European soccer leagues’ standards, such as England’s Premier League or Spain’s La Liga. For instance, the average salary in the Premier League for the 2021-22 season was around $3.5 million, while the average salary in La Liga was around $2.5 million. This is not surprising, given the differences in revenue and fan base between the MLS and these leagues. Nevertheless, the upward trajectory in player wages indicates that the MLS is working its way up in the global soccer market.

One thing to keep in mind is that player salaries in the MLS can vary significantly, just like in any other sports league. The league consists of several high-profile players who earn millions, as well as those who earn much less. For example, Josef Martinez of Atlanta United enjoys a salary of $4,141,667, whereas other players may not make even one-tenth of that amount.


How much do MLS players get?

The average salary for an MLS player has seen significant growth over the years. In 2022, the average base salary for senior roster non-designated players increased to $438,728, displaying a double-digit growth from the previous year. This figure further increased in 2023 as each player’s salary was updated in the MLS Players Salary Guide released by the MLS Players Association.

Is there a salary cap for MLS?

Yes, MLS operates under a salary cap system, limiting the total amount that clubs can pay players. This system is put in place for competitive balance and economic stability. The salary cap is adjusted each year to account for changes in the league’s financial status and aims to keep teams on a level playing field. Specific details about the 2023 salary cap can be found in the MLSPA releases.

Where do MLS players get paid the most?

Though the highest-paid players in MLS are distributed across various teams, the biggest spenders tend to be in major cities like Los Angeles, New York, and Atlanta. These teams include but aren’t limited to LA Galaxy, New York City FC, and Atlanta United. Top earners in the league according to the 2023 player salaries guide are Xherdan Shaqiri, Lionel Messi, and Chicharito.

How much did Beckham make in MLS?

David Beckham, one of the most iconic MLS players, signed with LA Galaxy in 2007. Though his base salary at the time was reported to be around $6.5 million, his total earnings were estimated to be much higher due to endorsements, image rights, and revenue shares, potentially exceeding $50 million per year during his time in the league. Keep in mind that Beckham’s salary was an exceptional case and far above the average salary for MLS players at the time.

What’s your opinion on average salary for MLS players? Let us know in the comments!

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