Sunday, May 22, 2011

Salaries Don't Always Add Up In MLS

A few weeks ago when the salaries of MLS players were released by their union many in the media started analyzing the numbers and wondering who was overpaid and who was a bargain.  When it came to the bargains for the Whitecaps, many pointed to Terry Dunfield ($65,000), Alain Rochat ($150,000) and Russell Teibert ($55,000).  On the other hand many were surprised at the salary of Alex Morfaw ($90,000) and the fact that so much money was being paid to backup goalkeeper Joe Cannon ($210,000).  

There were some questioning by fans that the Whitecaps were not using the salary cap effectively and overpaying some players that were barely making it to the pitch.  Cannon seems to have lost the battle to Nolly for the starting goalkeeper position as the MLS vet has been healthy for weeks yet has only started the second game of the season when Nolly picked up a minor injury the day before.  The Cameroonian midfielder Morfaw has only seen action in the PDL with residency squad and seems to be sixth or seventh on the center midfield depth chart.  In addition to those players John Thorrington, who was selected last in the expansion draft, has only seen half a game and is on the payroll for over $200,000 as well.  At the time when the salaries were posted Captain Jay DeMerit had only played a match and a half and was the second highest paid Whitecap on the roster behind Hassli.  When you include Thorrington and DeMerit, before he returned from injury, with Cannon and Morfaw the Whitecaps had 33% of their senior roster’s salaries only playing three games.

Adding the totals of the twenty players from the senior roster, with the estimation of Vagenas being paid around $60,000, the Caps have about $150,000 in cap space available for this season.  With two international spots available to use there is no doubt that there will be additions made to the roster when the transfer window opens in the summer.  There are rumours already out there that the Whitecaps will sign at least another designated player whose salary would be at $167,500 when it comes to the cap.  This fact is what makes many worry of how the Whitecaps can afford to bring additional players when the time comes.

This is where the mystery of the MLS salary cap keeps everyone guessing of what their club can afford unlike other sports where it is more straight forward to figure out the numbers.  The unknown factor is how much allocation money the Whitecaps were assigned with and how much they traded for during the expansion draft.  Allocation money is assigned by the MLS to help all teams lower salary numbers get under the cap limit and in addition to the amount given to each club there is extra amounts given to expansion teams, to clubs for winning titles as well as other reasons.  The Whitecaps added to their initial amount of allocation by trading for additional amounts from Chivas USA and Seattle at the expansion draft.  MLS doesn’t release the amounts that clubs get or trade for so it makes it difficult for both media and supporters to understand where their club stands.

We can use Jay DeMerit’s salary as an example to describe how allocation works.  The central defender’s salary is listed at $350,000 by the union which is what he makes this season with the Whitecaps.  At the time of the signing the Caps can assign an amount to reduce the number when it comes to the salary cap.  So DeMerit’s number against the cap could be anywhere between $50,000-$150,000 less than what he’s being paid this year.  Unfortunately there is no way for anyone outside the organization to know exact numbers.

With their latest signing of Peter Vagenas, the Whitecaps have now thirty players on their total roster but this should not be an obstacle for them during the transfer window either.  Unlike other North American leagues the contracts in MLS are not guaranteed as players can be waived by the club.  Of course the Caps can make trades as well as there might be another MLS team looking for a veteran player like John Thorrington or Joe Cannon.  All these salaries would be taken off the books giving the Whitecaps more space to work with when adding players.

While it may a surprise to some fans to see some of those salaries when they were first released, there are ways to manipulate those numbers to work for the club and fit under the cap.  Among the majority of MLS teams there are many examples where a star player makes less than someone who starts on the bench.  There is no way for someone outside the club to know how much is towards the salary cap and how much is off the books.  And because all the info is not readily available, there is no need for the typical supporter to worry about what player ‘A’ has signed for or player ‘B’ makes as long they perform on the pitch.


Position Player 2011 Guaranteed Salary
FW Eric Hassli $900,000
DF Jay DeMerit $350,000
MF Davide Chiumiento $280,000
GK Joe Cannon $209,756
MF John Thorrington $207,200
DF Alain Rochat $150,000
DF Mouloud Akloul $150,000
FW Camilo $130,420
MF Alex Morfaw $90,000
FW Atiba Harris $80,590
MF Gershon Koffie $79,764
MF Terry Dunfield $65,000
GK Jay Nolly $65,000
MF Peter Vagenas $65,000 (est.)
DF/MF Wes Knight $50,000
DF Greg Janicki $45,000
MF Shea Salinas $44,000
DF Jonathan Leathers $42,000
DF/MF Blake Wagner $42,000
MF/DF Kevin Harmse $42,000
2011 MLS Total $2,522,730


Position Player 2011 Guaranteed Salary
FW Omar Salgado $130,420
MF Michael Nanchoff $95,000
MF/FW Nizar Khalfan $61,250
MF Russell Teibert $55,604
MF Jeb Brovsky $42,000
DF Michael Boxall $42,000
GK Brian Sylestre $32,600
DF Bilal Duckett $32,600
MF Phillipe Davies $32,600
FW Long Tan $32,600
2011 MLS Total $556,674

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