MLS Salaries 2014: The Rich Get Richer (A Look At Income Inequality)

IMAGE, NEWYORKREDBULLS.COM

By BILL REESE
Staff Writer

Earlier this year, Empire of Soccer examined “income inequality” in the salaries of Major League Soccer players and compared them to other major North American sports leagues with salary caps.

With today’s release of the 2014 salaries, we compared the new figures to last season and found that the rich are getting richer — while the rest of the league lags behind.

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The top seven highest salaries in MLS combined – Michael Bradley, Jermain Dafoe, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane, Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill — account for 31% of all player salaries. The top seven players accounted for only 24% of all salaries last fall.

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The top 5% of earners in MLS this season make a whopping 45% of all player salaries. Those top 5% earners accounted for 37% at the end of 2013. This 8% increase for the highest salary bracket came at the expense of players in the other 19 salary levels. The hardest hit were players in the 80-85%, who make an average of about $263,000 a year.

The average player salary is higher, however, though this probably artificially inflated by the high-profile additions of Defoe and Bradley. The average MLS salary for 2014 is $207,831 — up from last fall’s average of $165,066. However, in 2013, 76% of players made less than the league average. In 2014, that number has risen to 83% of the league making less than the league average.

The current MLS collective bargaining agreement — which dictates the salary cap — expires at the end of the 2014 season. With player salaries so dynamically uneven, the labor negotiations are bound to get ugly.