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New MLS salary figures show data for Dániel Gazdag, other Union signings

Here's what to know about what the Union's players are making, and other big names from across Major League Soccer.

Dániel Gazdag (left) was the Union's marquee signing this summer.
Dániel Gazdag (left) was the Union's marquee signing this summer.Read moreELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer

The MLS Players Association published its latest round of salary data on Wednesday, giving us a first look at how much players signed by the Union and the rest of the league this summer are earning.

Some of the numbers aren’t exact salary figures, because they are annualized over 12 months. But one will certainly stand out: Dániel Gazdag’s annualized pay figure is just $336,250 for this year.

That doesn’t mean it’s what he’ll earn next year — he’s actually earning less than that sum this year, because he was signed in May — but it’s the clearest sign yet of how the Union were able to pay a $1.8 million transfer fee for Gazdag but still not have him classified as a Designated Player.

Because the DP threshold this year is $612,500, the Union used some accounting wizardry to spread the transfer fee over multiple years, then pay down the budget charge for this season with allocation money.

Midfielder Jesús Bueno, who has made cameo appearances in the Union’s last three games, came relatively cheaply: His salary is just $96,753. But forward Matheus Davó, who had played just once heading into Wednesday night’s game at Minnesota United, cost quite a bit: $253,000 for a four-month loan with a purchase option afterward.

No Union players got in-season raises from contract extensions this year. Goalkeeper Andre Blake and right back Olivier Mbaizo signed contract extensions during the summer, and presumably, they will get raises next year.

Leaguewide, the average salary fell by $6,427.90 and the median salary fell by $16,250 since the last round of data was published in the spring. Exactly why this happened isn’t clear, but it might not be a coincidence that many teams signed young academy products to professional contracts this summer. They generally come cheaper than international signings.

» READ MORE: Dániel Gazdag's lack of starts (and goals) has been a concern

From April 15 (the start-of-season roster compliance deadline) to Oct. 2 (after the Sept. 15 roster freeze deadline), the number of players in the player pool leaguewide jumped from 786 to 871. It’s the largest in-season increase since the MLSPA started publishing salary data several times each year in 2012.

That stat is of course influenced by the league’s continued expansion. Eighty-seven new players divided by 28 teams makes for an average of three in-season signings per team, which isn’t a big number. And yes, that’s 28 teams, because next year’s expansion team Charlotte FC has started signing players.

With all that explained, here are all the numbers to know.

Union payroll

Each player’s salary figure officially includes two numbers: the base salary and the guaranteed compensation. The latter number includes signing and guaranteed bonuses, plus marketing bonuses and agents’ fees, annualized over the term of a player’s contract, including option years.

For conversational and reporting purposes, the guaranteed compensation figure is the one commonly used around the league.

The annotations in parentheses mean the following:

HGP: Homegrown Player, a product of the team’s youth academy.

DP: Designated Player.

Bought down: Bedoya, Blake, Przybylko and Santos have salaries above the Designated Player threshold ($612,500 this year), but their salary-cap hits are bought down with allocation money.

U2: Miscic, Portella and Sorenson were signed to contracts to play for Union II, the club’s reserve team, in MLS’s new reserve league. But the league’s launch won’t happen until next year, so they’re on the MLS team’s books in the interim.

On loan: De Vries, Miscic, Oravec and Turner are currently loaned out to other teams. De Vries moved in August to the youth team of Venezia in Italy’s Serie A until next summer.

Miscic is spending this year at North Carolina FC of the third-tier USL League One. Oravec is at FK Zeleziarne Podbrezová, a second-division team in his native Slovakia, until next summer, and he might not play here again. Turner joined the El Paso Locomotive of the second-tier USL Championship last month, and will stay there for the rest of this year.

» READ MORE: Latest Union phenom Paxten Aaronson keeps up family tradition

Team payroll comparison

A reminder that these totals include only salary figures, not transfer fees.

Millionaires club

There are now 81 players earning at least $1 million per year in guaranteed compensation, up from 72 at the April roster compliance deadline.

When the MLSPA started publishing salary figures in 2007, there were just four millionaires in the ranks. Four years ago, there were 31.

Here are the top 30 salaries in the league.

Notable millionaires outside the top 30 include FC Cincinnati’s Brenner (No. 31, $1,760,418); Austin FC’s Cecilio Domínguez (No. 32, $1,736,000); New York City FC’s Talles Magno (No. 57, $1,198,000); and the New York Red Bulls’ Patryk Klimala (No. 60, $1,135,000).

You may have noticed that all of the top 30 earners are forwards or midfielders. The highest-paid defender ranks No. 54 in the earnings table: Montreal’s Aljaž “Kiki” Struna ($1,210,000).

Leaguewide statistics

As noted above, there are 871 players on the books across the league. They span 28 teams, plus six players who are in the labor union but aren’t with clubs now.

The total amount of spending on salaries leaguewide is $364,119,961.00. The average salary is $418,048.18. The median (middle) salary is $200,000.00. The mode (most common) salary is $81,375.

The lowest salary leaguewide is $63,547. Fifty-five players earn that sum, spread across 21 teams. Atlanta, Miami, Nashville and Orlando are tied for having the most of them with five each. The Union have none.

The leftovers

This feature always concludes by spotlighting players who are on the MLSPA’s books without having current MLS team homes.

One of them is former Union backup goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh ($81,375). The Union released him late in the summer, and he became a league pool goalkeeper. He has since been on the game-day squads of Los Angeles FC and Orlando City, though he hasn’t played a game in MLS since Sept. 3, 2020, with Minnesota.

Cody Cropper ($84,427) was waived in September by FC Cincinnati while on loan at the USL Championship’s Memphis 901 FC. Adam Jahn ($134,000) is on loan from Atlanta United to the USL Championship’s Orange County FC. Matt Lampson was released by the Columbus Crew in late September and joined the USL Championship’s Hartford Athletic.

Ike Opara ($685,333) was bought out by Minnesota United due to long-term health issues, but the team is paying him through the end of the year as thanks for his contributions. He was the 2019 MLS Defender of the Year and helped the team to its first MLS playoff berth.

» READ MORE: The last set of MLS Players Association salary data

Matías Pellegrini ($920,833) was caught in Miami’s scandal of underreporting salaries for what turned out to be five Designated Players. Pellegrini’s salary was among the accurate ones, along with Gonzalo Higuaín and Rodolfo Pizarro; Blaise Matuidi’s and Andrés Reyes’ were not.

The league fined Miami $2 million in cash and over $2 million in allocation money across 2022 and 2023, plus other punishments to club officials. Miami kept Higuaín, Matuidi and Pizarro. It loaned Pellegrini first to its minor-league team in USL League One, Fort Lauderdale CF; then to Argentina’s Estudiantes, where he’s currently playing. Reyes is now with the New York Red Bulls, and no longer a DP.

Charlotte had signed five players as of Oct. 2: defender Jan Sobocinksi ($146,250), midfielders Brandt Bronico ($90,705), Riley McGree ($180,000) and Sergio Ruiz ($363,000); and defender Adam Armour ($63,547). On Oct. 18, the club added midfielder Jordy Alcívar.

Historical charts

Here are the latest versions of the charts used to show key MLS salary metrics and changes over time.