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MLS Player Salaries: 2013


The latest Major League Soccer (MLS) salaries were released recently by the MLS Players’ Union so I thought I would post a quick summary of the data.

Average Salary By Team

The first thing I was interested in was average salaries per team and whether there had been any changes compared with previous seasons (Figure 1).

The trend over the past few years has been pretty constant, with LA Galaxy and New York Red Bulls having the highest outgoings on wages, which again continues for 2013.

Toronto have typically followed in a distant third place but this season sees them overtaken by Seattle following the addition of Obafemi Martins to their roster.

click the legend headers to show / hide each season’s data and hover the data points for more information

Number of Players

Next I looked at the number of players currently playing in each position. The results are pretty much the same as 2012, with a marginal gain in the number of forwards and defenders registered for this season (Figure 2).

click the legend headers to show / hide each season’s data and hover the data points for more information

Average Salary By Position

Next I looked at average salary by position and it is probably no surprise that forwards receive the most remuneration (Figure 3). In fact, the higher up the field you are, the more money you earn, with goalkeepers earning the least followed by defenders, midfielders, attacking midfielders and then forwards.

The only player outside of this trend are defensive midfielders who earn even less than goalkeepers. In terms of salary this appears to be the least appreciated position by quite a large margin. If you are out to make money then you are much better off specializing as either a clear-cut defender or midfielder rather than something perhaps between the two. Or even better, learn to score goals…

click the legend headers to show / hide each season’s data and hover the data points for more information

The Big Earners

Although the average salaries show that forwards earn noticeably more than any other position, the actual value is skewed by a few high-profile players earning big bucks. Table 1 shows the top ten earners in the MLS compared with the overall league average. Of the ten players, eight are forwards and two are midfielders. The highest paid defender is Toronto’s Darren O’Dea, ranked 18th overall and the highest paid goalkeeper is Portland’s Donovan Ricketts, ranked just 41st overall.

Club Last Name First Name Pos Base Salary Compensation
NY Henry Thierry F $3,750,000 $4,350,000
LA Keane Robbie F $4,000,000 $4,333,333
NY Cahill Tim M $3,500,000 $3,625,000
LA Donovan Landon F $2,500,000 $2,500,000
MTL Di Vaio Marco F $1,000,008 $1,937,508
SEA Martins Obafemi F $1,600,000 $1,725,000
TOR Koevermans Danny F $1,250,000 $1,663,323
VAN Miller Kenny F $1,114,992 $1,132,492
SEA Montero Fredy F $700,000 $856,000
DAL Ferreira David M-F $625,000 $730,000
League Average $141,903 $159,849

Since these star players are skewing the averages, we can analyse the median salary instead using box and whiskers plots (Figure 4). These show the distribution of the different salaries for each position where the thick line across the center of the box is the median salary, the top and bottom of the box are the 75th and 25th percentiles and the whiskers represent 1.5x the interquartile range. Outliers outside of this range are then plotted as dots.


Looking at the median salaries there is actually very little difference between the outfield players. The average MLS player’s salary is also clearly nothing like the league’s star players, in fact if we remove the top twenty earners then the overall league average falls from $159,849 to $113,516 with a median of $83,000 and a mode of $46,500, which is the league minimum for first teamers (roster positions 1-24).


This is only a quick overview of the data and there is still a lot more to explore so feel free to get in touch if there is anything in particular you want to have a look at.


Dennis - May 10, 2013

Could you just add in the position-specific medians and averages, as well as both of those without the top-payed players? The last chart does a lot of work but is a little short on the details.

Also, it looks like the median salary for defenders is higher than midfielders. Why is that?


Martin Eastwood - May 10, 2013

Good idea, I’ll take a look!

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