MLS has signed a slew of United States internationals of late, either adding them to the league from foreign clubs, or re-signing players who had interest from foreign clubs. Now we know how much they make.
The MLS Players Union has released salaries for the 2014 season, which sheds some light on how much it costs to bring a U.S. international back from Europe or Liga MX, as well as the price for retaining a player who could leave for Europe.
Jermaine Jones makes $3.2 million annually, which we already had a ballpark figure on thanks to his public salary dispute before signing with MLS. He was paid a little more to join with the New England Revolution, as opposed to his preferred Chicago Fire. DaMarcus Beasley doesn't get paid nearly as much, probably because he's not as good or accomplished and played a less important position, but he still rakes in nearly $800,000 annually.
Matt Besler and Graham Zusi don't make as much as the newly signed veterans, though. Both Sporting Kansas City players rake in about $630,000 per year.
Signing Besler and Zusi was considered a turning point for the league. It signaled the start of the league retaining the young internationals they develop instead of selling them off, which had been the case because MLS wouldn't compete financially with foreign clubs. But Besler and Zusi aren't exactly making huge money, coming up well short of the $1.25 million that the LA Galaxy gave Omar Gonzalez a year earlier.
But there are a couple big differences between Gonzalez and the Sporting guys. Gonzalez reportedly had significant interest from some pretty big clubs, with Club America and well-established Bundesliga clubs ready to swoop when his contract expired. Besler and Zusi reportedly also had foreign clubs interested, but it came from smaller clubs so the competition wasn't as stiff. Gonzalez was also 24 years old when he signed his new contract, while Besler and Zusi were both 27. Of course, there is also a monetary difference in playing for the Galaxy as opposed to Sporting.
MLS is about to change, with a new CBA altering the way the league operates next year. The financials of the league, the clubs and the players will not be the same, but teams had an eye towards that this summer. We see that in what Jones and Beasley were paid, as well as in Sporting being proactive in retaining Besler and Zusi.
The league still isn't going to compete with the biggest clubs in the world, but they are making progress and they're competing on a level that they never have before. That means more options for U.S. internationals, and those top Americans should continue to populate the league.