MLS Salary List Shows United has Room to Work

D.C. drops down spending list by releasing costly players
by Peter Muller   |   Friday, August 16, 2013

United Capitol – column on DC United (DCU) & the Washington DC/DMV area soccer scene.

The Major League Soccer Players Union released an updated list of all player salaries last week, providing the latest glimpse into the financial side of MLS.

This is the 1st update to the list we have seen since it was discovered that MLS provided teams with retention funds to keep key players.

The numbers for D.C. United aren’t too surprising, despite significant changes in their roster since the last list was last made public in May.

But as United tries to rebuild a championship-caliber team on the field, and to construct a new stadium that could lead to long-term financial security, the low payroll they will carry into the offseason affords them the opportunity to strengthen the team through strategic investments.

According to calculations made by Jonathan Tannenwald of, United ranks 16th in the league in guaranteed compensation.

This is a drop from 9th place in May and shows a reduction in D.C.’s wage bill of more than $380,000 (although the salaries are listed in terms of annual numbers so it is difficult to determine what United’s true savings may be).

But what is clear is that the changes to United’s roster include a move not just to younger players, but to less expensive players.

United’s roster overhaul began with the release of Rafael Texiera and his more than $280,000 in guaranteed compensation.  

When they cut Rafael Augusto and Marcos Sanchez, United didn’t save much, but did open roster spots for young, inexpensive American players.

But the organization saved significant money by selling Alain Rochat and his $190,000 salary to a Swiss club and trading Brandon McDonald (nearly $275,000) to Real Salt Lake (United reportedly is still on the hook, however, for a portion of McDonald’s salary).

And more salary space is likely to be created at the end of the year.

Other contracts that will almost certainly come off United’s books after the season include the $205,000 they are paying Lionard Pajoy and the $75,000 for Carlos Ruiz.

John Thorrington ($150,000), Marcelo Saragosa ($110,000) and Lewis Neal ($96,000) are other veterans whose return in 2014 is questionable.

So what do these financial savings mean for D.C. going forward?

United used some of their “retention” money to sign Chris Pontius to a long-term deal prior to this season.

It is unclear how much retention money they have left, but would they consider a similar deal for midfield stalwart Perry Kitchen? He’s in his 3rd season as a regular starter for United and at age 21 is considered a building block for the future. What about for goalkeeper Bill Hamid? Nick DeLeon and Chris Korb are other players likely due for a raise.

Until the deal for a new stadium is finalized, it is clear United’s ownership group is not interested in shelling out top money for a Clint Dempsey-like signing.

But United’s salary flexibility should be a valuable tool for them in the offseason. As they use this year to determine which of their young players they can depend on for next year, they also need to decide what holes need to be filled.

Manager Ben Olsen recently told ESPN FC that he has “to do better with my signings, and maximize every dollar that I spend.”

As Olsen well knows, simply spending money on players is not sufficient to make a team better. But in MLS, spending flexibility is essential for a team that is rebuilding.

Looking ahead to Montreal

D.C. United had a rare opportunity to celebrate a victory – just their 3rd of the regular season – when they beat the Montreal Impact 3-1 at RFK Stadium 2 weeks ago.

On Saturday, the Red and Black will make the return trip to Montreal to play an Impact team that has lost 2 straight and has just 1 win in their last 8 games. This rough stretch comes after they won 8 of their first 12 games and appeared to be odds-on favorite to win the Eastern Conference.

On Thursday, United signed Swiss left back Dennis Iapichino – a player who had been released by Montreal just 2 days earlier after appearing in 9 games for the Impact this year.  

Iapichino was on a $110,000 per year contract with Montreal, but according to the Washington Post, he agreed to accept a lower, undisclosed, figure to join D.C. He will provide another leftback option to Olsen, who has not settled on anyone to fill that role this year.

The club reported that Luis Silva is back to full training after missing last week’s game with concussion symptoms. DeLeon and Pontius are also working to regain fitness after missing the Philadelphia game.

NEXT UP: August 17  DC United vs. Montreal Impact, Stade Saputo, Montreal, 7 p.m. EST, Comcast Sports Net.


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Peter is a government relations professional in Washington, DC, and Los Angeles, CA. He has been a DC United season ticket holder since 1997 and has attended every MLS Cup except one – in 1998 when he was busy helping his boss get re-elected to Congress.