Sebastian Giovinco is new MLS top earner Ignacio Piatti cracks top-10
Sebastian Giovinco topped the list of Major League Soccer’s highest earners, replacing 2017’s best-paid player Kaka, who is no longer in the league.
The MLS Players Association released its salary data on Wednesday — a twice annual practice for the union — which showed the Toronto FC striker was guaranteed $7.1 million this season. He’s followed by TFC teammate Michael Bradley ($6.5m), LAFC’s Carlos Vela (just under $6.3m), the Chicago Fire’s Bastian Schweinsteiger ($6.1m) and the LA Galaxy’s Giovani dos Santos ($6m).
One of the biggest movers on the list was the Montreal Impact’s Ignacio Piatti, who saw his annual compensation jump to $4.7m — a $4.2m increase from his 2017 salary that puts him eighth overall on the list.
The list presented an interesting snapshot in terms of how teams spend their available funds.
This year’s numbers are influenced by several league-wide spending controls. The salary budget for each team is $4,035,000 to be spread out over 20 senior roster players. There are 10 additional roster spots, but those slots do not count against a team’s salary budget. Teams can have up to three Designated Players that incur a charge of $504,375 against the cap.
In addition, teams can buy down a player’s cap hit by using General Allocation Money (usually $200,000 per year) as well as Mandatory Targeted Allocation Money ($1.2m per year) and Discretionary Targeted Allocation Money ($2.8m).
The total compensation for players, especially those from outside the U.S., is oftentimes higher than what is listed, with items such as image rights not always being accounted for. Transfer fees are also not included in these numbers.
The influx of TAM has had a significant effect on the average and median salaries. The average salary increased 14.4 percent to $373,325.14 compared to one year ago, while the median increased 13.7 percent to $153,541.67.
All told there are 46 players in the league earning at least $1 million in guaranteed compensation, up from 28 a year ago. The number of players making at least $200,000 now stands at 280, up from 219 at this time last year. There are 44 players in the league — including Seattle Sounders’ 18-year-old Bwana Handwalla, who scored the winner against Toronto FC on Wednesday night — that make the league minimum of $54,500.
The data indicates that Toronto remains top of the heap in terms of spending, with a payroll of $26.17m, followed by the LA Galaxy ($17.50m), New York City FC ($14.15m) and Chicago ($13.82m). Newcomers LAFC checked in at $13.43m, good for fifth on the list.
Houston ranked last in the league checking in at $5.67m, with D.C. United ($6.74m) and the New England Revolution ($6.82m) next in line. Orlando City sustained the biggest drop in terms of dollars, shedding $5.6m from its payroll, thought that was largely due to the retirement of Kaka, who last year made over $7m in guaranteed compensation.
The Montreal Impact saw the biggest increase, both in places (up 12 spots to seventh) and money (an increase of over $5.5m) thanks in large part to the signing of Piatti as a Designated Player.
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.