Chicharito Is No Longer The Highest Paid MLS Player — Here Are The 18 Biggest Salaries

As (unfounded) rumors of Lionel Messi joining Major League Soccer in 2023 circulate, the MLS Players Association released its annual report on MLS salaries. Instead of the opaque compensation we see in Europe, the men’s top flight in the U.S. makes every player’s base salary and guaranteed compensation public for all to see, allowing us to answer questions like: Who is the highest paid MLS player? Who is the lowest paid MLS player? What MLS team has the highest salary? What MLS team has the lowest salary?

Unlike in Europe, where player salaries are typically not made public unless it serves the interest of an agent, player or club, the MLSPA provides complete salary transparency to help all players better negotiate wages based on their comparative value. Wage transparency is a great way to ensure everyone is compensated fairly, though your boss probably doesn’t want you asking about it.

The 2022 MLS salary data, released on Tuesday, showed Chicago’s Swiss star Xherdan Shaqiri overtook Javier “Chicharito” Hernández as the league’s highest-paid player. Shaqiri has a base salary of $7.35 million with $8.153 million guaranteed. Chicharito takes home $6 million per year from the LA Galaxy. (See below for a list of the 18 highest-paid MLS players.) 

According to reports, Lorenzo Insigne will become the highest-paid player in MLS history when he joins Toronto FC over the summer transfer window. The Italian will be paid $12.42 million per year with up to $5.64 million in add-ons, meaning he’ll make more than at least 11 clubs spend on their entire roster. 

The lowest paid players (reserve players only) receive the league minimum of $65,500, while the lowest a senior-level player can make is $84,000. Compare this to NWSL salaries, which range from $35,000 to $75,000 (before allocation money). 

Atlanta United shells out the most money per year with a $21 million payroll, followed by the Galaxy ($20.1m), Inter Miami ($18.9m), New England ($18.1m) and Chicago ($17.6m). On the other end of the spectrum, Real Salt Lake has the league’s lowest payroll at $10.5 million guaranteed, followed by expansion club Charlotte ($10.7m). 

The MLS salaries data reveal compensation around the league is increasing, especially among non-designated players. Base salary growth for senior, non-designated players has grown more than 10 percent per year over the last five years, up to $438,728 in 2022. 

In 2022, 11 percent of MLS players will make at least a million dollars, 18 percent fall in the $500,000 to $1 million range, 40 percent make between $100-500k and the remaining 31 percent make less than $100,000.

Unlike in European soccer, there appears to be no correlation between payroll and success. Because there are limits to what a team can spend (there’s a $4.9 million salary cap before factoring in things like Designated Players), clubs are rewarded for building strong overall squads instead of just signing the biggest names. NYCFC, the 2021 MLS Cup champion, ranks seventh this year with a payroll of $15.5 million, while the Sounders, who just won the Concacaf Champions League, are just ahead in sixth at $17 million.

Inter Miami pays out the ass for Gonzalo Higuaín and Rodolfo Pizarro (not to mention Blaise Matuidi on the books for $1.5 million despite not playing), but the club hasn’t found much success on the pitch. Phil Neville’s club is currently 13th out of 14 Eastern Conference teams in 2022. Meanwhile, Real Salt Lake spends the least money but is once again in contention for a playoff spot. Then again, there are also teams like the Houston Dynamo, who haven’t spent much on players in the last decade and have had the middling results that go right along with that payroll.

Who Is The Highest Paid MLS Player 2022

Here are the top 18 highest-paid MLS players based on guaranteed compensation. 

1. Xherdan Shaqiri, Chicago Fire — $8.153 million
2. Javier “Chicharito” Hernández, LA Galaxy — $6 million
3. Gonzalo Higuaín, Inter Miami — $5.793 million
4. Alejandro Pozuelo, Toronto FC — $4.693 million
5. Jozy Altidore, New England Revolution — $4.265 million
6. Josef Martínez, Atlanta United — $4.142 million
7. Carlos Vela, LAFC — $4.05 million
8. Luiz Araújo, Atlanta United — $3.942 million
9. Lucas Zelarayán, Columbus Crew — $3.7 million
10. Carles Gil, New England Revolution — $3.545 million
11. Rodolfo Pizarro, Inter Miami — $3.35 million
12. Nicolás Lodeiro, Seattle Sounders — $3.257 million
13. Franco Jara, FC Dallas — $3.227 million
14. Raúl Ruidíaz, Seattle Sounders — $3.201 million
15. Victor Wanyama, Montreal — $3.902 million
16. Douglas Costa, LA Galaxy — $3 million
17. Adrien Hunou, Minnesota United — $2.688 million
18. Gustavo Bou, New England Revolution — $2.675 million

Clubs With Highest MLS Salaries 2022

1. Atlanta United — $21 million
2. LA Galaxy — $20.1m
3. Inter Miami — $18.9m
4. New England Revolution — $18.1m
5. Chicago Fire — $17.6m
6. Seattle Sounders — $17m
7. NYCFC — $15.5m
8. Toronto FC — $15.2m
9. FC Dallas — $15m
10. Columbus Crew — $15m
11. LAFC — $14.6m
12. FC Cincinnati — $13.8m
13. Austin FC — $13.8m
14. Sporting KC — $13.6m
15. Minnesota United — $13.2m
16. Montreal — $12.9m
17. DC United — $12.5m
18. Vancouver Whitecaps — $11.9m
19. Philadelphia Union — $11.8m
20. New York Red Bulls — $11.7m
21. Nashville SC — $11.7m
22. Houston Dynamo — $11.5m
23. San Jose Earthquakes — $11.5m
24. Orlando City — $11.5m
25. Colorado Rapids — $11.4m
26. Portland Timbers — $11.3m
27. Charlotte FC — $10.7m
28. Real Salt Lake — $10.5m

It’s worth noting some of these numbers are not based entirely on the teams you will see on the field. Blaise Matuidi, for one, is not playing for Inter Miami, but the club still has his $1.5 million salary on the books. Additionally, Jozy Altidore’s New England salary is being paid, in part, by Toronto FC. 

(Shoutout to Steve Fenn for making some fantastic charts out of the 2022 MLS salaries.)

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