The Yanks: making soccer better

Corey Hertzog reacts to news that his $75k remuneration package comes with added health insurance

Fed up of pouring your money and passion into a football league full of overpaid prima donnas? Looking for a domestic competition full of home-grown talent playing every day for their careers? Well, of course, you could go and support your nearest League Two team, or… get immersed in the wonderful world of Major League Soccer.

Unlike in the Premier League, the MLS has transparency on the salaries of all professional players. The most recent publication shows that marquee players like Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill and – ahem – Kris Boyd, are all paid base salaries in excess of $1m. While Henry tops the tree with $5m, poor old Becks doesn’t quite have to make ends meet on a paltry $3m of course, he gets oodles of green from his club via that modern legal invention; ‘image rights’, as well as hawking his own lines of watches, perfume, undies, etc and so on.

MLS players earning over US$1m a year

Team Player Base Salary
NY Thierry Henry $5,000,000
NY Rafael Marquez $4,600,000
NY Tim Cahill $3,500,000
LA David Beckham $3,000,000
LA Robbie Keane $2,917,241
LA Landon Donovan $2,400,000
TOR Torsten Frings $2,000,000
DAL Julian de Guzman $1,863,996
POR Kris Boyd $1,250,000
VAN Kenny Miller $1,221,816
TOR Danny Koevermans $1,150,000
MTL Marco Di Vaio $1,000,008

Source: Major League Soccer Players Union, October 2012

However, it’s in looking beyond the seven figure salaries that the real tale of this league emerges. No less than 57 players out of 553 are on a base salary of $33,750. That’s less than the starting wage of a postman in the States. I know what you’re thinking, these are all youth team players supplementing their pocket money. Well, no. The squad lists contain an average of 30 players so while some minimum-wagers are third-choice goalkeepers, there are also players like Blake Brettschneider, a 23 year-old forward who played 17 games for New England this season. The draft system is also prevalent in US soccer, meaning youth players are expected to ply their trade in College soccer before graduating to the professional league.

The average annual salary in the MLS is $156k. In other words, the same amount that Wayne Rooney is reported to earn every 4 days. If you take out the millionaire players, the average sinks to $105k. Of more statistical significance, the median salary is $74k. Ex-Tottenham left-back and South Korean international Lee Young-Pyo is on $140k at the Vancouver Whitecaps. At the other end of the Spurs career trajectory, Simon Dawkins is on loan to San Jose and earns $50k a year.

Sure, by getting all your football sustenance from the MLS you sacrifice some skills, thrills and spills along the way. Not having relegation must be a limitation, but the play-off system largely addresses the need for splitting the league between losers and relative winners, while also guaranteeing end of season drama.

What the players lack in their bank balances, they often make up for on their birth certificates. Some of the names are incredible. Ball Control’s favourites are Tiago Ulisses, Bobby Burling, David Junior Viana, Corey Hertzog, Sal Zizzo and Josh Wolff. Anyone who’s even half followed golf down the years will know that US sport is blessed with some superbly monikered individuals. It’s not like the team names are boring either – step forward San Jose Earthquakes and Houston Dynamo.

It comes as no surprise that there’s increasing speculation that the 37 year-old David Beckham will see out his last playing days in Australia’s A-League. The domestic competition down under is the MLS on a mini-scale. It too has top dollar players lining up alongside colleagues on a fraction of their salaries in their pursuit of making their version of the play-offs. After LA Galaxy, Becks can choose between the likes of Brisbane Roar, Perth Glory and Melbourne Heart. He’ll feel right at home.

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