An anonymous survey by ESPN revealed MLS players are dissatisfied with their salaries and the pay gap between the league’s top stars and other players.
Major League Soccer players are unhappy with their salaries… unless their names are Frank Lampard, Michael Bradley or Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite, this last one more commonly known simply as Kaká.
In an anonymous survey conducted by ESPN with 123 MLS players, 84 percent agreed they weren’t being compensated fairly, while eight percent said they were (Is that you Jozy Altidore?).
“When you look at guys who leave this league and then they go to Scandinavia and make double or triple what they were making here, obviously the MLS guys are not being paid enough,” said one of the players according to the ESPN poll.
And they have a point.
According to the Major League Soccer Players Union (MLSPU) website, the average salary for an MLS player in 2015 was $226,454 a year. While that kind of salary represents a lot of money to the ordinary citizen, it still pales to the average from their counterparts at Liga MX. In a study conducted in 2014, the annual wage for the Mexican league was $389,000, making them the 10th-highest-paid league in the world that year.
For MLS, the comparison with other American leagues offers an even less encouraging outlook as the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL are well ahead in terms of compensation for their players. And while MLS has put efforts into refining their performers’ salaries, improving from the 2014’s average that fell below the $200,000 mark, it’s still not enough. The average salary in the NFL was $1,900,000, which is less than the NBA’s and the MLB’s (both over three million).
“Players are getting more money every year,” admits one of the participants in the survey, adding that “we’re still not comparable to other leagues, but we don’t have the TV packages those leagues have.”
The top American leagues are obviously much older and much bigger than MLS, which makes for a pretty unfair comparison. Still, for the players in the United States and Canada, it’s a big reminder that their efforts are not being properly compensated.
“Guys have to know that if you do well in MLS, it can be a career,” another player said. “Right now, almost every single player in this league knows that this is one of two or four careers that we’re going to have because the wages just aren’t there yet.”
Not only are these players less than impressed with their current salaries, the survey also revealed bitterness in the pay gap that exists between Designated Players and their teammates.
“I’d make the commissioner be a player for a day. Then he’d see what it’s like”
“I think it’s just hard to say that it’s fair when you can be making $60,000 and a guy on your team is making $8 million. You don’t see gaps like that in other leagues,” noted one of the participants.
As the 2015 MLS Player Salaries List indicates, the gap is indeed very wide. Orlando City’s Kaká made $7.16 million in 2015, while the team’s top scorer, rookie Cyle Larin, made $167,000. Obviously the amount of revenue brought in by a player of Kaká’s pedigree can justify his salary. Still, it’s a very wide difference, considering the job is the same once the whistle blows and the ball gets moving.
“I’d make the commissioner be a player for a day,” said one participant. “Then he’d see what it’s like.”
The players’ feelings should make for very interesting negotiations for the next Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2020.