MLS Player Salaries: Best And Worst Values

Amazingly enough, we did have a photo of Juan Diego Gonzalez from 2011. Of course, it came from a friendly. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

With MLS player salary data recently being updated, we take a look around the league to see who is getting the most and least for their money.

Juan Diego Gonzalez was officially unveiled as a member of the Philadelphia Union on Aug. 5, 2010. At the time, he was heralded for having a wealth of experience throughout Latin America that included stints in Argentina and Mexico. The defender started seven matches, with the Union going 1-2-4. 

Gonzalez did not necessarily stand out, but the Union weren't exactly awful either. They surrendered 10 goals in those seven matches, actually a better per-match average (1.42) than the Union averaged in their other 23 matches (1.70).

Whatever he did, though, it was enough to convince Peter Nowak to bring him back, while also earning himself about a $10,000 a year raise. Interestingly enough, that raise did not mean that Nowak actually wanted to play the Colombian.

Despite a comically thin backline that has been made even thinner through the trade of left back Jordan Harvey, Gonzalez has not played a single minute in a regular-season MLS games this year. Combined with his reported guaranteed compensation of $193,462.50, that makes Gonzalez the worst value in all of MLS.

Of all the players in MLS these are the ones giving their teams the least bang for their buck, as measured by playing time and salary:
Team Player Pos Salary Mins.
DAL Josh Lambo GK $133000 0
DAL Chris Seitz GK $100000 0
HOU Luiz Carmargo M $178000 0
PHI Juan Diego Gonzalez D $193462.5 0
TFC Dasan Robinson D $100000 0
CHI Marko Maric M $200000 19
CLB Danny O'Rourke D $133500 21
DAL Andrew Wiedeman F $118000 32
KC Shavar Thomas D $174375 35

In all of MLS there are only five players being paid at least $100,000 who have yet to play a single minute this year. Two of them (FC Dallas' Josh Lambo, who's also Generation Adidas, and Chris Seitz) are backup goalkeepers, which gives them a pretty valid excuse. Another one of them (the Houston Dynamo's Luiz Camargo) only signed in August. That leaves Toronto FC's Dasan Robinson and Gonzalez as the only two MLS players making six figures who have no valid excuse for their inability to contribute to their teams. 

It's little nuggets like this that make sorting through the recently updated MLS player salaries so much fun. Of course, we can also find data that's a little more flattering.

Most bang for their buck

As I detailed in an earlier story, no one can come close to producing as much for as little as Seattle Sounders midfielder Mauro Rosales. The MVP candidate is making just $42,000 this year, while scoring five goals and picking up 10 assists. Put another way, he has produced 3.57 goals+assists per $10,000 (GA10k). No other MLS player averages as much as 3.0.

But there are plenty of other good values out there.

Sporting Kansas City's Graham Zusi is chief among them. The rocket-footed midfielder has emerged as one of the best long-range threats in all of MLS this season, scoring five times (most notably from midfield against FC Dallas). Combined with his six assists, he's producing 2.62 GA10k.

Interestingly enough, Zusi and Rosales each have a teammate joining them in the top 5 efficient players list. Sporting KC's CJ Sapong is No. 3 at 1.90 and the Sounders' Lamar Neagle is No. 4 at 1.84. Rounding at the top 5 is FC Dallas' Marvin Chavez, 1.80.

As a point of comparison, DC United gets about .38 GA10k from Dwayne DeRosario and his nine goals and 10 assists and the Los Angeles Galaxy get about .07 GA10k for Landon Donovan's 12 goals and three assists.

Team spending

With those numbers in mind, maybe it should not come as a huge surprise that the Sounders and Sporting KC are both among the more efficient spenders team-wide. Based on total payroll, the Sounders are getting the most points per dollar spent, spending about $71,000 for each of their 48 points. Sporting KC ranks sixth by that metric, spending about $82,000 for each of their 40 points.

FC Dallas (about $72,000 per point), Real Salt Lake ($74,000) and the Colorado Rapids ($77,000) have also been particularly thrifty.

It should also not come as a huge surprise that the five highest spending teams have also been least efficient with their spending. Interestingly enough, though, the Los Angeles Galaxy have spent nearly $140,000 less per point than the New York Red Bulls, even though the Galaxy's total payroll is about $1.3 million more than their cross-coast spending rivals.

Rounding out the Top 5 of our inefficient spenders are Toronto FC (about $247,000 per point), the Vancouver Whitecaps ($182,000) and Chivas USA ($126,000). Toronto FC is annually among the biggest spenders, and this year they are spending about $2.7 million than the next closest team. The Whitecaps are guilty of spending a lot on a few players (a league-leading six players make at least $200,000), while not being particularly effective at spreading the wealth (16th in median salary). Chivas USA is a bit of an outlier in this area, mainly because Juan Pablo Angel and his $1.25 million salary are included on their ledger, even though at least half of that was paid by the Galaxy.

Team Average rk Median rk Total rk pts $ per pt rk
LAG $488,732.63 1 $91,000.00 5 $14,661,978.00 1 55 $266,581.42 17
NY $431,217.66 2 $93,500.00 4 $13,367,747.00 2 33 $405,083.24 18
TFC $201,806.63 3 $81,670.67 7 $6,659,618.84 3 27 $246,652.55 16
VAN $133,499.55 7 $64,062.50 16 $4,004,986.38 4 22 $182,044.84 15
CHV $135,342.00 5 $74,000.00 11 $3,924,919.30 5 31 $126,610.30 14
PHI $148,749.22 4 $130,208.34 1 $3,569,981.17 6 36 $99,166.14 9
CLB $118,380.49 10 $66,520.84 15 $3,551,414.79 7 40 $88,785.37 7
KC $117,175.30 11 $78,663.34 9 $3,515,259.06 8 40 $87,881.48 6
HOU $134,313.66 6 $98,106.50 3 $3,492,155.24 9 35 $99,775.86 10
DC $128,719.08 8 $72,000.00 12 $3,475,414.17 10 34 $102,218.06 11
SEA $109,681.72 13 $60,638.00 18 $3,400,133.23 11 48 $70,836.11 1
DAL $111,024.30 12 $88,333.34 6 $3,330,729.00 12 46 $72,407.15 2
RSL $127,757.49 9 $108,675.00 2 $3,321,694.76 13 45 $73,815.44 3
COL $105,769.29 15 $62,081.50 17 $3,173,078.72 14 41 $77,392.16 4
CHI $100,422.77 16 $80,916.67 8 $3,012,683.04 15 27 $111,580.85 13
NE $109,162.46 14 $66,666.67 14 $2,947,386.34 16 27 $109,162.46 12
SJ $98,400.13 17 $72,000.00 12 $2,853,603.71 17 29 $98,400.13 8
POR $92,782.45 18 $75,000.00 10 $2,690,690.92 18 33 $81,536.09 5
 Avg.: $162,056.14  Med.: $79,764.38  Total: $85,079,475.81    Avg:  $133.329
New blood, good values

Among the players signed during the summer, a few of them have stood out above the rest. Chief among them is Toronto FC's recently signed Designated Player Danny Koevermans is not exactly a bargain at more than $1.4 million, but his four goals in 437 minutes make him one of the most efficient players in the league. In fact, no player with at least 400 minutes played is more efficient.

The other newly signed values were not nearly as expensive. The Chicago Fire's Pavel Pardo has registered a goal and three assists in just 585 minutes, while being paid just a shade under $160,000. The Philadelphia Union's Veljko Paunovic has three goals and three assists in 883 minutes at a downright reasonable price tag of $90,000 a year.

General observations

Now that we have as up to date data as we're ever going to get for the 2011 season, it's probably a good time to look at some of the overall numbers. One that really jumps out is that all 18 teams currently have more than $2.67 million salary budget on their ledgers. The Portland Timbers are the league's lowest spending team and their total salary budget is $2.69 million. The only other teams below $3 million are the San Jose Earthquakes ($2.83 million) and the New England Revolution ($2.95 million). Most teams fall between $3 million and $4 million in total salary, with 14 teams essentially fitting in that range. The only two huge outliers are the Red Bulls ($13.4 million) and Galaxy ($14.6 million), who each spend twice as much as any other team and at least three times as much as 15 teams.

Curiously, neither of them are among the top 3 when it comes to median salaries. In that department, no one comes close to the Philadelphia Union's $130,000 median. They have a league-leading 14 players making at least $100,000 on their roster. The only other team with a median about $100,000 is RSL ($109,000), with 13 players making at least six-figures.

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