Diving Into The 2011 MLS Player Salaries

Diving Into The 2011 MLS Player Salaries

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On May 9, 2011
  • 2011 MLS Season, 2011 Player Salaries


Omar Cummings continues to be one of the most underpaid players in MLS. (Getty Images)

I mentioned on Saturday a few items on the salaries that were released but I wanted to take it a step further today and go with a team-by-team approach here to see who’s doing things right and who’s wasting their money. Sometimes the Players Union’s data makes perfect sense as you know what to expect out of some player’s numbers. Other times, it can be a bit confusing.

The New York Red Bulls are spending the most (total payroll is nearly $13.4 million) and the Portland Timbers are the least ($2.67 million). The Philadelphia Union have the highest median salary ($125,000) and the Colorado Rapids have the lowest ($62,081.50).

When the league added Portland and Vancouver it meant adding more money to the pool on players and thus the payroll on players went up. In a big way too. According to the figures released, all but one team is spending more than the $2.675 million salary cap.

Now for the team-by-team look. I’ve listed the highest player, a player I see as overpaid and one as underpaid. Plus I threw in some notes about how teams stand up for this summer’s transfer window.

Chicago Fire

Highest Paid: Nery Castillo, $1.65 million base, $2 million+ overall*

Overpaid: Marko Maric, $150k base salary

Underpaid: Diego Chaves, $42k base salary

Notes: First of all I earmark Castillo’s numbers here as the club as an option to purchase him for good that will be “on the books” until the middle of this month. No way on earth the Fire will use that option here. So come next month that figure will be off the books and will make the Fire look very different in terms of salaries. It is easy to look at the Fire’s figures and understand why they are struggling on the year. The top paid players aren’t living up to their billing while guys like Chaves are drastically underpaid. Based on production (four goals in eight games) Chaves could easily be one of the most underpaid players in the entire league.

Chivas USA

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

Overpaid: Zach Thornton, $155k base

Underpaid: Ben Zemanski, $42k base

Notes: Chivas is clearing saving cash and building for the future here. Only seven of guys make over the $100k mark and couple of them aren’t of any real value here. This team is very young and their salaries prove that.

Colorado Rapids:

Highest Paid: Conor Casey, $400k total

Overpaid: Mac Kandji, $120k base

Underpaid: Omar Cummings, $80k base

Notes: It is easy to see why Cummings wanted to bolt over the winter to England. He’s vastly underpaid when he is healthy. Casey got a nice bump in salary from last year and is now sitting outside the DP zone in terms of salary. I put Kandji as the overpaid over a couple guys mainly for the fact that he’s out and really before his injury at the MLS Cup last year he wasn’t that special of a player for the Rapids. Still, this very veteran team looks that way with their salaries, lots of guys making nearly the same amount.

Columbus Crew

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

Overpaid: Mendoza

Underpaid: Rich Balchan, $42k base; $58k total

Notes: The defense that has been so strong for the Crew is proving to be a very cheap one. Rookie Balchan is dirt cheap, while Julius James is at a cool $68k for the year. Amazing that they are getting so much out of guys making so little compared to those playing up top for them. Mendoza is on the books as a DP and is basically a waste at this point, sucking up tons of salary. Same could be said for Jeff Cunningham who’s on the books for $158k. It was good to see Emmanuel Ekpo get a nice bump in pay (he’s at $200k).

D.C. United

Highest Paid: Branko Boskovic, $525k

Overpaid: Boskovic

Underpaid: Ethan White, $55k base, $72 total

Notes: Had Boskovic not gotten hurt he wouldn’t be listed as the overpaid player for me. That honor easily goes to Joseph Ngwenya ($156k). Other that that, really this club has turned the tide from their years of wasted salaries on South American players that didn’t pan out. Charlie Davies is cheap based on his production and this young club will only continue to get better.

FC Dallas

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

Overpaid: Milton Rodriguez, $198k

Underpaid: George John, $42k

Notes: Interesting that the club is spending about $400k on keepers (thankfully two of them are off the books) so it doesn’t look as bad. Ricardo Villar’s salary is baffling as it is close to what Dax McCarty was making a year ago (one of the reasons why they were quick to dump him in the expansion draft). So far he’s a close second to Rodriguez for overpaid player with this club. On the other end guys like John and Andrew Jacobson are grossly underpaid. No doubt both will be in for a big bump next year. Same will be said about Fabian Castillo, who’s only on the books for $42k, he’s a DP only based on his transfer fee, something I believe more clubs will be doing here.

Houston Dynamo

Highest Paid: Brian Ching, $375 base, $412 total

Overpaid: Ching maybe? Or Eddie Robinson, $120k

Underpaid: Tally Hall, $84k base

Notes: Houston is an interesting team to look at when it comes to salary. They got Koke at a bargin ($153k) and the rest are paid pretty well. They could easily be the hardest club to find an overpaid/underpaid player on. Their management and coaches definitely do a good job at their budget. It was also good to see Geoff Cameron get a nice bump in pay too. He’s now no longer the most underpaid player in the league in my books.

Sporting Kansas City

Highest Paid: Davy Arnaud, $250k base

Overpaid: Stephane Auvray, $170k base

Underpaid: CJ Sapong, $42k

Notes: For all the good moves this club made surrounding their stadium, their rebranding, etc., their salaries make absolutely no sense. They have 13 players making over $100k in base salary, which means they’ll have no wiggle room for big moves this summer, unless they have a stock pile of allocation sitting somewhere. Omar Bravo’s salary cap hit of $120k seems really low for a DP but I’m sure there is more to that story than what that number suggests.

LA Galaxy

Highest Paid: David Beckham, $5.5 million base, $6.5 million total

Overpaid: Chad Barrett, $192 base

Underpaid: Miguel Lopez, $42k

Notes: I believe I recall reading that Barrett’s salary is some what less for LA’s books and that Toronto is picking up some of that tab. Either way, its still too much. Same goes for keeper Brian Perk, very shocked to see them spending a little over $100k on a third string keeper. The rest isn’t really shocking, we know LA spends lots of money and somehow is at the salary cap each season. I’m not math major or anything but their figures (along with New York’s) never add up to me.

New England Revolution

Highest Paid: Shalrie Joseph, $500k total

Overpaid: Didier Domi, $150k

Underpaid: Bobby Shuttleworth, $42k

Notes: They have some big numbers at the top with Joseph, Benny Feilhaber ($346k) and Radic Lekic ($275k), while other numbers are pretty average. Tough to pick out an underpaid guy on this team, which seems weird for the Revs. It was a toss up between Shuttleworth and AJ Soares. One is a rookie, so that is obvious and the other is a backup keeper that seems to see plenty of time on the field with the aging Matt Reis. This is definitely another club that probably has little wiggle room for this summer.

New York Red Bulls

Highest Paid: Thierry Henry, $5.6 million

Overpaid: Ibrahim Salou, $264k (ugly #s for a former player)

Underpaid: Tim Ream, $55k base

Notes: Don’t get how Tim Ream is making such a low figure, sure that will change before long. He is only a second-year player. The rest isn’t shocking though with this club. I don’t get how they fit Dwayne De Rosario’s salary in but hey, I’m sure it fits in the eyes of the league front office. Some will also lump Juan Agudelo into that underpaid category, his base salary is only $55k but his incentives push his salary up to $85k. Not bad for a Home Grown player.

Philadelphia Union

Highest Paid: Faryd Mondragon, $230k base, $399k total

Overpaid: Juan Diego Gonzalez, $189k base

Underpaid: Sheanon Williams, $42k

Notes: Another smart money team. Definitely one that is getting a lot of bang for their buck with guys like Williams, the Farfan twins, and a couple others. Not sure what kind of room they have for an upgrade this summer but you can see they have wisely spent their money on quality players.

Portland Timbers

Highest Paid: Troy Perkins, $250k base, $280k total

Overpaid: Kevin Goldthwaite, $110k

Underpaid: Kalif Alhassan, $62k

Notes: You can tell this expansion team is taking it slow in terms of spending. We knew that going into the year really as they were quick to deal for allocation in trades. Being on the lowest end of the pay scale in the league, the Timbers are investing in the future with young guys. Only six guys make over $100k in base salary, that’s impressive in this league. It is interesting to point out that rookie Darlington Nagbe’s base salary is only $62k but his total salary with incentives comes to a little over $200k. Not a bad way to go for a rookie pay.

Real Salt Lake

Highest Paid: Javier Morales, $400k base

Overpaid: Luis Gil, $185k total

Underpaid: Fabian Espindola, $75k

Notes: Another club that is wise with their money. A lot of their key guys are locked into long-term deals while their young players are paid modestly. It was really hard to find an overpaid player, Gil was really the only choice since his total compensation is pretty high compared to others around him that are used more like Espindola, who is much more of a bargin that what I had originally thought he’d be.

San Jose Earthquakes

Highest Paid: Bobby Convey, $336k total

Overpaid: Scott Sealy, $150k base

Underpaid: Brandon McDonald, $45k

Notes: Nice to see Chris Wondolowski get a huge bump in pay after his Golden Boot season. Other than that this club was fairly predictable to look at. They have a couple guys making more than they should so the wiggle-room for later on this season could be interesting to see. It isn’t hard to see why this club is struggling right now too, lots of overpaid guys that are underperforming.

Seattle Sounders FC

Highest Paid: Fredy Montero, $500k base, $626k total

Overpaid: Nate Jaqua, $200k

Underpaid: Steve Zakuani, $90k base

Notes: Tough to find one underpaid guy on this roster, Zakuani was listed solely based on his base salary, his total numbers come around the $188k range. Montero could be considered overpaid but I’m sure his production will go up before long to make up for things. Lots of guys making plus $100k numbers right now, which means come summer there won’t be a lot of space for adding players. Still wonder if they’ll go for another DP too, I think they will.

Toronto FC

Highest Paid: Julian de Guzman, $1.8million base

Overpaid: de Guzman

Underpaid: Joao Plata, $42k

Notes: Only a handful of players making over the $100k mark and lots of guys making sub-$50k. From the looks of things they have room to play come summer time but there is also the thought of how much they’re still paying for former guys like Dwayne De Rosario and Chad Barrett. Either way, this club has a ways to go regardless of their salary numbers.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Highest Paid: Eric Hassli, $660k base, $900k total

Overpaid: John Thorrington, $197k base

Underpaid: Jay Nolly, $65k base

Notes: Nearly put Joe Cannon on the overpaid side as he’s making a little more than Thorrington, but I’m holding out for him to work himself back into the lineup. Instead the guy beating him out for the starting spot, Nolly, is easily the most underpaid guy on this roster. Not sure what kind of room this club has to make any big moves this summer, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see them add another DP if they can fit it in.



  • May 9 2011
Re: the Union ... hindsight being 20/20 and all, the group of players consisting of Ruiz, Miglioranzi, Mapp, and Gonzalez represents the way-overpaid. Gonzo hasn't played a league match this season (only 1 reserve match so far) and didn't even travel w/ the team when he's the only "true" backup defender on the roster; I'd be shocked if he's still with the team after the transfer window closes in July. It's nice to see Le Toux having received a pay increase, although he needs to start jump-starting his production on offense. If Williams keeps playing the way he does, I'll hope he gets compensated accordingly as well.
Peter C
  • May 9 2011
How long with Chirgadze and Salou remain on RBNY's books?