The MLS Players Association released salary information for players under contract as of April 25.

• MLSPA: 2024 Salary Guide

To no one’s surprise, Lionel Messi is the highest earner — and it is not close.

The Argentine has a base salary of $12 million and $20,446,667 in guaranteed compensation.

That’s more than the entire payrolls of all but three teams: Toronto FC ($31.4 million in guaranteed compensation), Chicago ($25.1 million) and Nashville SC ($21.4 million).

Here are key takeaways from the MLSPA’s salary release:

• Inter Miami has spent $41.7 million in guaranteed compensation, the most of any MLS team. It has spent more on other players besides Messi — $21.3 million — than all but three teams.

Sergio Busquets, another 2023 mid-season acquisition, makes $8,774,96 in guaranteed compensation in 2024, and four other Miami players make more than $1,000,000, including Luis Suarez and Jordi Alba, Miami’s other former Barca stars, at $1,500,000.

Miami’s spending doesn’t reflect its total outlay. It has players assigned five U22 Initiative slots, averaging about $440,000 in compensation, but their transaction costs — transfer fees — don’t count against Inter Miami’s budget charge.

• High spending does not necessarily equate success in MLS. None of the other three teams with payrolls over $20 million have a winning record.
The worst case: the Fire, 14th out of 15 teams in the Eastern Conference, despite spending the third highest amount.

Chicago is one of five teams that have increased spending more than 20 percent. Three of the five have losing records.

• Orlando City and the New York Red Bulls have both increased spending more than 50 percent.

Spending can spike with a single signing. Orlando splashed out $4,336,150 in in guaranteed compensation for Luis Muriel. The Red Bulls are paying Emil Forsberg $6,035,625.

Again, the risk of heavy spending on one player is that he doesn’t produce. 

Luis Muriel has been drifting in and out of games for Orlando City. Photo: Mark Thor/Orlando City SC

Muriel scored his first two goals for the struggling Lions in its 10th MLS game. 

On the other hand, Forsberg’s arrival has coincided with a vast improvement in Red Bull performances. The Swede has scored four goals and added three assists in 11 games and ranks in the 95th percentile or higher among MLS players in multiple offensive categories.


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