Earlier this week the Major League Soccer Players Union released its official list of all salary information for MLS players in 2013. There has been much discussion about this and I would like to join in. The MLSPU’s salary dumps must be awkward for the players, who now not only know what each of their teammates make but have buffoons like me talking about their salaries on the Internet. Of course, this only puts them in line with other North American sports; sites like CapGeek and Baseball Reference provide fans of hockey and Major League Baseball with nicely-annotated lists of player salaries. Only in soccer is this considered unusual.
Most of the reason I wrote this article was so I could lay out the Whitecaps’ salary information in a way that’s useful to me. A nice sortable table comparing the Whitecaps’ salaries season-upon-season. This will be of absolutely no value to fans of any team but the Whitecaps, but it’ll be useful to me. And, of course, I’ll throw a bit of analysis down just so you actually have something to read.
After the jump, a complete list of all Vancouver Whitecaps Major League Soccer players whose salary information has been released since 2011. This way, you can see a player’s salary year-upon-year and actually compare them rather than farting around through a few seasons of MLS Players Union PDFs. All information taken from http://www.mlsplayers.org/salary_info.html. Players with salary cap exemptions like designated players, Generation Adidas players, and homegrown Generation Adidas players are coloured in on the table; there is a legend at the bottom. Click the “Base” or “Guaranteed” columns under a particular year to sort by salary in that year.
At the bottom of the table, the total salary figures for each season are given. These are not meant to represent or imply the Whitecaps’ charge against the salary cap in that year: it includes all players in a given season even though they wouldn’t all have been on the team at the same time. In addition, between the mysteries of allocation money and the fact that MLS does not release the salary figures it uses to calculate whether a team is in its budget, determining how much cap space (strictly “budget space”) a given MLS team has is impossible for a fan without considerable inside information.
|Araujo, Paulo Jr.||60000.00||60000.00|
|Davidson, Jun Marques||67500.00||71136.67||74250.00||78019.66|
|Le Toux, Sebastien||145000.00||169000.00|
|Homegrown Generation Adidas|
Below is my best guess at the composition of the Whitecaps roster in salary terms. The “estimated budget hit” is a guess at the Whitecaps’ current charge against the salary budget, not counting allocation money but counting all contract statuses that reduce the budget hit (so Miller’s DP contract is counted as $368,750, not $1,132,492), using the guaranteed contract value which is believed to be the amount closest to what MLS uses when actually calculating this. The 2013 MLS salary budget is $2,950,000.
Roster Spots 1-20 (on cap): Miller (DP), DeMerit, Camilo, O’Brien, Kobayashi, Reo-Coker, Lee, Rochat, Cannon, Koffie, Rusin, Harvey, Davidson, Watson, Leveron, Knighton, Hertzog, Heinemann, two vacant. Estimated budget hit $3,273,317.31.
Roster Spots 21-30 (off cap): Mattocks (GA), Salgado (GA), Manneh (GA), Teibert (HG-GA), Klazura, Clarke, Hurtado, Abdallah, Clement, Thomas.
Loaned Out: Alderson (HG-GA), Mitchell.
A clear loser for “worst-value contract” is Joe Cannon. I feel bad saying this; Cannon is the last survivor of the Whitecaps’ 2010 MLS Expansion Draft and is the sort of personality you want around your team. He’s likable, knowledgeable, supports the players young and old. By all accounts he does a tonne of work at all times and just loves to play; Martin Rennie practically gushed over his pre-season preparation. As an outsider, I would be pleased if Cannon remained with the Whitecaps in some role after he retired. But as a goalkeeper, Cannon is not starting calibre. Both his seasons with the Whitecaps have been well below the 0.700 save percentage required for consideration as a worthwhile MLS starter and he’s doing no better early this year, with a .698 save percentage to date. Meanwhile, his $189,916.67 in guaranteed money is a burden on a team which could desperately use support up top. If the Whitecaps just cut Cannon and replaced him with average goalkeeping, they’d gain four, maybe five goals a season automatically. Of course this doesn’t count Cannon’s foibles distributing the ball. Add a solid replacement for $90,000 (probably too much, but that’s Josh Saunders money) and they’d be up almost $100,000.
Having the team’s two top earners on the shelf with injury is obvious grimace-worthy but that’s rotten luck rather than bad salary management. No, the Whitecaps gain no salary cap relief on DeMerit or Miller, even if DeMerit is out for the full season, though they can gain back the roster spot; Martin Rennie will have to take his lumps on these ones.
Much hay has been made about the cost of the Whitecaps’ defense, deservedly so. Vancouver is on the hook for $1,342.037.50 in guaranteed salary between DeMerit, O’Brien, Lee, Rochat, Rusin, Harvey, and Leveron, none of whom are salary-cap exempt in any way (this is not counting off-budget players like Clement and Klazura who don’t count against the cap). That’s 45% of the $2,950,000 2013 salary budget, although allocation money will buy down a lot of that (especially DeMerit). The results, as we know, have not been fantastic: very early days but the Whitecaps are sixth in the MLS West in shots on goal against/90 minutes. The problem is that unlike Cannon there’s no one player who we can point to and say “he’s making too much money.” Rather, it looks like DeMerit, maybe O’Brien, Rusin, and Harvey are all a bit overpaid. Harvey gets a lot of stick for being a bench player on $112,500 a year, and if we needed to trim that would be a good place to do it, but historically Harvey’s been worth solid money. His performances last year were sometimes wildly underrated. It may not be so much that Harvey is overpaid, but Harvey’s contract doesn’t fit into this specific team. Then again, who would you have replace him? And how grateful are we to have Brad Rusin on his rather-rich $120,000 (probably including a transfer fee for HB Køge) once DeMerit went down? Depth is a good thing, as we learned the hard way in 2011. Down the line, the Whitecaps may need to make sacrifices in defense, but there is no one player who is blatantly too rich for his ability.
Next season, DeMerit’s contract comes off the books and it was hard to imagine him extending at his current rates even before his injury. That will put the Whitecaps in a much more financially responsible position on their back end. But a look at those numbers shows just how important it is for the Whitecaps to win the Voyageurs Cup and exploit the allocation money that comes with CONCACAF Champions League qualification. Barring DeMerit, the defender I would move first is honestly O’Brien. He’s good, but he’s receiving elite money and hasn’t quite shown the promise we hoped for after his first weeks here. Running Harvey, Rochat, Rusin/Leveron, and Lee across the back isn’t ideal but would be far from the worst back line in MLS.
Of course, Reo-Coker’s $237,362.50 is shockingly low. They say that, if he remains in Vancouver next season, Reo-Coker will get a raise to become a Designated Player. A commonly-quoted average salary in the English Championship from 2011 was in excess of £200,000 per year (over $300,000 US dollars), and as a former Premier League star Reo-Coker would not have been making merely average Championship money with Ipswich. It’s hard to believe he didn’t take a pay cut of at least 50% to join the Whitecaps. Maybe this really was his best offer, maybe his second season as a DP will be so lucrative that he’ll make up for it, but this is just one more of those shifty-looking salaries which makes people wonder how serious the MLS salary cap (excuse me, salary budget) really is. As Whitecaps fans, we shouldn’t complain: Reo-Coker is the team’s early most valuable player and so far has represented good value.
Other good value deals include Knighton (if he ever gets to play; I’m basing this off his 2012), Lee (still!), and of course Mattocks, Teibert, and Manneh out of the Generation Adidas guys. That said, Generation Adidas can be a ticking time bomb. If Omar Salgado graduates from Generation Adidas after this year the Whitecaps are going to be in a hell of an awkward spot. Because of Salgado’s age he could have another year, and even if not his injuries might convince him to sign a cheap extension, but college draftee Darren Mattocks’s number could be up. Remember, Corey Hertzog graduated from Generation Adidas after two years and the Red Bulls therefore cut him rather than pick up a six-digit option, part of what’s apparently a move from MLS to shorten Generation Adidas contracts for older players. Hertzog was 20 when he was drafted, Mattocks was 21. If the Whitecaps have to decide between fitting over $200,000 into their salary cap for a sub-1.00 SoG/90 striker, or moving Mattocks who after all has promise… wow. Generation Adidas is one of the greater salary mysteries in a league full of them.
On the bright side, given how reasonable Russell Teibert’s contract is, the Whitecaps might want him off his homegrown Generation Adidas contract and onto the senior roster sooner rather than later. The team only gets two homegrown Generation Adidas spots and pretty clearly the likes of Ben Fisk will need one to sign an MLS deal.
Aren’t MLS contracts fun?
 — All salary data from: “Player Salary Information.” Major League Soccer Players Union. Accessed May 7, 2013. http://www.mlsplayers.org/salary_info.html. 2011 data from: http://www.mlsplayers.org/files/September%201,%202011%20Salary%20Information%20-%20By%20Club.pdf. 2012 data from: http://www.mlsplayers.org/files/May%2015,%202012%20Salary%20Information%20-%20By%20Club.pdf (through May 15), http://www.mlsplayers.org/files/August%201,%202012%20Salary%20Information%20-%20By%20Club.pdf (through August 1), http://www.mlsplayers.org/files/October%201,%202012%20Salary%20Information%20-%20By%20Club.pdf (through October 1). 2013 data from: http://www.mlsplayers.org/files/May%201,%202013%20Salary%20Information%20-%20By%20Club.pdf (through May 1).
 — “2010 Expansion Draft: pick by pick.” MLSSoccer.com, November 24, 2010. Accessed May 7, 2013. http://www.mlssoccer.com/news/article/2010-expansion-draft-pick-pick.
 — Massey, Benjamin. “What’s a Goalkeeper in MLS Worth?” Maple Leaf Forever!, April 9, 2013. Accessed May 7, 2013. http://www.maple-leaf-forever.com/2013/04/09/whats-a-goalkeeper-in-mls-worth/.
 — Major League Soccer. “2013 MLS Player Rules and Regulations.” MLS Press Box. Accessed May 7, 2013. http://pressbox.mlssoccer.com/content/roster-rules-and-regulations.
 — Own notes. 1) Los Angeles: 2.875. 2) San Jose: 3.900. 3) Colorado: 4.100. 4) Seattle: 4.143. 5) Portland: 4.333. 6) Vancouver: 4.556. 7) Salt Lake: 4.800. 8) Dallas: 4.889. 9) Chivas USA: 6.222.
 — Miller, Alex. “Official figures show top-flight wages are now FIVE times more than in Championship.” The Daily Mail, October 29, 2011. Accessed May 7, 2013. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2055140/Premier-League-wages-FIVE-times-Championship.html.
 — Galarcep, Ives. “Clarifying the Hertzog situation (how MLS has tweaked its GA program)” Soccer by Ives, November 20, 2012. Accessed May 7, 2013. http://www.soccerbyives.net/2012/11/clarifying-the-hertzog-situation-how-mls-has-tweaked-its-ga-program.html.