“You call me up and talk about money!”

How much money does YOUR club spend? And does it matter?

Over the last seven years, Major League Soccer has added teams and increased wages paid to players. While many individual players in the other U.S. professional leagues are paid more in a year than entire MLS teams (the highest payroll in 2013 was $10,939,331.17, paid by the New York Red Bulls), MLS clubs are increasing payrolls and this is good news!

The following chart displays the total amount players in MLS earned, the number of clubs in MLS, and the average payroll per team. (Source: http://www.mlsplayers.org/salary_info.html )

Season

Total $ Spent (All Teams)

# of Teams

Average Payroll

2007

$ 42,224,000.00

13

3,248,000.00

2008

$ 47,293,000.00

15

3,153,000.00

2009

$ 51,878,000.00

15

3,459,000.00

2010

$ 56,097,000.00

16

3,506,000.00

2011

$ 80,213,000.00

18

4,456,000.00

2012

$ 90,074,000.00

19

4,741,000.00

2013

$ 95,078,000.00

19

5,004,000.00

Since that British guy, (you know...ole what's his name) signed with the LA Galaxy in 2007, the Galaxy have consistently had one of the highest team payrolls in all of Major League Soccer. Since 2007, the LA Galaxy have had a payroll topping $9 million every single year, or to translate that to disgruntled Dodger speak, just over half of Jason Schmidt's 2007 salary...(still not over that one!)

But for every LA Galaxy, there is a Chivas USA, who has consistently had one of the lowest payrolls in all of Major League Soccer. Since 2007, Chivas USA has paid their players a total of $17.3 million. That's a COMBINED total for 7 years of "professional" soccer.

So with that in mind, I asked myself: How much does team payroll really matter? The beauty of American sports is that all you have to do is make the playoffs, get hot at the right time, and all of a sudden you're a Champion. The following chart shows the team payroll for both the MLS Cup champion and the Runner-up: (Source: http://www.mlsplayers.org/salary_info.html )

Year

Champion

Team PR

League PR Rank

Runner-Up

Team PR

League PR Rank

2007

HOU

2,434,147.09

7/13

NE

1,945,848.00

12/13

2008

CLB

2,372,680.81

13/15

NY

3,367,589.20

4/15

2009

RSL

2,200,041.58

14/15

LA

9,766,006.78

1/15

2010

COL

2,684,488.89

11/16

DAL

2,708,178.33

10/16

2011

LA

12,419,679.12

2/18

HOU

3,199,080.20

14/18

2012

LA

12,632,386.49

2/19

HOU

3,001,091.87

19/19

2013

KC

3,532,355.83

16/19

RSL

3,929,924.50

9/19

There are a few fun nuggets here: In the years 2009 and 2012, you had almost perfect David vs. Goliath match-ups (at least based on team payroll). In 2009 David slayed the heavily favored Goliath, and in 2012 Goliath did what Goliath was supposed to do.

Outside of the LA Galaxy and New York's 2008 campaign, the above chart appears to suggest that clubs do not need to spend big to reach the Championship game. Although the above data does not speak to the quality of the product on the pitch, nor does it indicate the effect a club's payroll has on its overall net income as a business, the data does indicate that the free-spending clubs in the league are not simply strolling into the Championship game. Other than the LA Galaxy, every team that's won the Championship did so with a payroll below the league average.

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