How Do The Minimum MLS And NWSL Salaries Compare To Other U.S. Sports?

Curious as to what you’d make as the last man on a professional sports roster? Find out here.

Having you ever sat there, lost in a reverie while the Netflix menu stands idle, thinking: "I’m not very athletic, all things considered, but I don’t need to be the star. Maybe I could be like Jürgen Klopp ('As a player I had fifth division skills and a first division brain') or better yet, Carlos Kaiser and earn a spot as the backup’s backup. I wonder how much money I’d make?" Let’s take a look at the minimum salary in pro sports across America’s “big five” leagues and the NWSL. 

Here’s how the minimum salaries across MLS, the NFL, MLB, the NBA, the NHL and the NWSL have shifted over the last nine years (in the NWSL's case, since 2013). Keep in mind that these salaries reflect the absolute minimum that a rostered player can make (i.e. almost all of the numbers below would be paid to players taking up the most inconsequential roster spots while also having little to no experience in the league). 

The Minimum Salary In Pro Sports

MLS Minimum Salary

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An MLS roster is comprised of up to 30 players. All of these players are eligible for the 18-player matchday squad. MLS has almost always maintained different tiers for salary minimums. This used to be broken up between roster spots 1-20 vs. roster spots 21-30 (Off-Budget Players), but following the CBA of 2015, we now have a division between spots 1-20 (Salary Budget Players), 21-24 (Supplemental Roster) and 25-30 (Reserve Roster). The latest numbers represent the minimum salary for the Reserve Roster. 

2011: $32,600 
2012: $33,750 
2013: $35,125
2014: $36,500 
2015: $50,000 *NEW CBA  
2016: $51,500
2017: $53,000
2018: $54,500
2019: $56,250 

NFL Minimum Salary

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An NFL roster is comprised of 53 players. Here’s the minimum salary change over the last nine years: 

2011: $375,000
2012: $390,000
2013: $405,000
2014: $420,000
2015: $435,000
2016: $450,000
2017: $465,000
2018: $480,000
2019: $495,000

NFL Practice Squad Minimum Salary (By Week)

In addition to the 53-man roster, teams can have a 10-man practice squad, typically comprised of rookies, undrafted free agents and up to four veterans (veterans can have no more than two accrued NFL seasons, where one season equals six games on a 53-man roster). The pay per week for practice squad members has changed as follows:

2011: $5,700
2012: $5,700
2013: $6,000
2014: $6,300
2015: $6,600
2016: $6,900
2017: $7,200
2018: $7,600
2019: $8,000 

MLB Minimum Salary

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An MLB roster is typically thought of as the 25-man active roster. However, teams also have a 40-man list called the expanded roster. This is comprised of players signed to a major-league contract and who can be called up at anytime. These additional players are typically playing ball in the minor leagues on optional assignment.

2011: $414,000
2012: $480,000
2013: $490,000
2014: $500,000
2015: $507,500
2016: $507,500
2017: $535,000
2018: $545,000
2019: $555,000

NHL Minimum Salary

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An NHL roster is comprised of 23 players that must be on an NHL contract, however, teams have a 50-contract maximum and a 90-player maximum reserve. Beyond the 23-man roster, many are unsigned players (drafted but still playing college or still based in Europe) or minor league (AHL) heroes. Others can be signed to contracts in the CHL (junior clubs). 

2011: $500,000 
2012: $525,000
2013: $525,000 
2014: $550,000
2015: $550,000
2016: $575,000
2017: $575,000
2018: $650,000 
2019: $650,000 

NBA Minimum Salary

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An NBA roster must be, at minimum, 13 players (12 active plus one inactive). There’s a maximum of 15 players on a roster. Players in the NBA’s G League (the minors) earn a minimum of $35,000 for a five-month regular season. But if you’re one of the lucky 15:    

2011: $442,114
2012: $457,588 
2013: $473,604
2014: $490,180
2015: $507,336
2016: $525,093
2017: $543,471
2018: $562,493
2019: $582,180

NWSL Minimum Salary 

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An NWSL roster has been increased to a minimum of 20 players for the 2019 season, it was previously 18.

2013: $6,000 
2014: $6,842
2015: $6,842
2016: $7,200
2017: $15,000
2018: $15,750 
2019: $16,538

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