St. Louis City SC faces FC Dallas

St. Louis City SC goalkeeper Roman Burki soars through the air to make a save during the first half against FC Dallas on Saturday, April 6, 2024, at CityPark. 

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St. Louis City SC, sitting solidly in the middle of the Major League Soccer standings a third of the way through the season, has moved to the bottom of another listing of league teams: total payroll.

According to numbers released by Major League Soccer Players Association on Thursday, City SC is 29th out of 29 teams in the league when it comes to player salaries. A year ago, when the first set of numbers that included City SC were released, the team was ranked 28th out of 29 teams, and moved up a spot to 27th when figures were released again after the summer transfer window.

While City SC’s spot has gone down, its payroll has gone up from a year ago, from $10,933,074 at the start of the season to $11,186,787 after the summer transfer window and now to $12,015,851. That, according to The Athletic, is about $33,000 less than the payroll of Montreal, the next lowest team. City SC’s payroll is slightly more than the base salary of the league’s highest-paid player, Lionel Messi, who makes $12 million, though he has an annual guaranteed compensation of more than $20 million.

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Since the league has a fixed salary structure, with a salary cap and unspecified amounts of allocation money given to each team, the numbers mostly reflect how much the team spends on designated players, the three players each team is allowed to go above the salary cap to pay.

And that is not a place where the team has spent heavily, relying, in what sporting director Lutz Pfannenstiel has made the team’s mantra, on a “designated team, not designated players.” City SC is getting good performance for its dollars spent.

City SC’s three designated players — Roman Burki, Klauss and Eduard Lowen — are among the lowest paid DPs in the league. Burki, the league’s goalkeeper of the year last season, has an annual guaranteed compensation of $1,657,469, Klauss is at $1,370,284 and Lowen at $1,344,250. That puts them 56th, 77th and 79th in the league in annual guaranteed compensation, which includes base salary, signing and guaranteed bonuses averaged over the life of the contract, as well as marketing bonuses and agent fees. It does not include performance bonuses or endorsement contracts. Every team in the league has at least one player who makes more than Burki.

But because of his, even though the team’s three DP slots are filled, both Burki and Lowen have salaries that can be bought down using allocation money to become a regular contract and free up a DP spot. (Klauss’ can’t because of transfer fees the team had to pay in his acquisition.) Burki had initially been described as not being a DP, but the team had recently changed his designation.

The biggest offseason acquisition for City SC was midfielder Chris Durkin at $495,000, who is seventh on the team in AGC. The biggest departure was forward Niko Gioacchini, who had been making $399,287. The team’s other two prominent offseason acquisitions, outside backs Tomas Totland and Nikolas Dyhr, have identical base salaries of $273,000, though Totland has a slightly higher AGC ($314,763 to $309,200).

Celio Pompeu and Kyle Hiebert both more than doubled their salaries from 2023. Pompeu’s went from the league minimum base salary of $68,775 to an AGC of $198,989 and Hiebert, in the first year of a new contract in 2024, went from $85,444 to $188,996.

Inter Miami has the league’s highest payroll at $41,679,126, followed by Toronto, Chicago and Nashville, though at the moment, Chicago and Nashville are not above the playoff line. The highest payroll in the Western Conference belongs to Austin at $18 million. Austin is sixth in the conference. Meanwhile, Real Salt Lake, which currently leads the Western Conference, is 27th in payroll, two spots above City SC.

City SC salaries

Amounts are annual guaranteed compensation, which includes bonuses divided over the term of the contract. Figures provided by the MLS Players Association.

Player Salary
Roman Burki, G $1,657,469
Klauss, F $1,370,284
Eduard Lowen, M $1,344,250
Joakim Nilsson, D $1,203,500
Tim Parker, D $1,037,500
Tomas Ostrak, M $801,000
Chris Durkin, M $495,000
Njabulo Blom, D $392,250
Selmir Pidro, D $374,375
Rasmus Alm, M $329,925
Indiana Vassilev, M $322,250
Tomas Totland, D $314,763
Nikolas Dyhr, D $309,200
Jake Nerwinski, D $277,500
Isak Jensen, M $228.25
Nokkvi Thorisson, M $202,438
Celio Pompeu, F $198,989
Kyle Hiebert, D $188,996
Ben Lundt, G $137,833
Aziel Jackson, M $102,243
Samuel Adeniran, F $93,988
Josh Yaro, D $89,716
Anthony Markanich, D $89,716
Caden Glover, F $94,716
Akil Watts, M $74,096
Hosei Kijima, M $71,401
Christian Olivares, G $71,401
Tyson Pearce, D $71,401
Miguel Perez, M $71,401

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