A student athlete’s dream is playing his or her respective sport at a professional level to make their American dream real.
Unfortunately, soccer players trying to make a living off of their talent in Major League Soccer (MLS) likely will not be getting the big bucks they dream of.
Out of more than 500 players in MLS, only 23 players make more than $1 million annually. That is thanks to the designated player (DP) rule.
Implemented in 2007, it allows each MLS franchise to sign players that would be considered outside of the team’s salary cap.
It was designed to allow the MLS to compete with other leagues around the world when it comes to signing international stars.
Another argument has been made that having a DP attracted household names like David Beckham in 2007, or the recent arrival of Andrea Pirlo to New York, which boosts the overall value of the league.
Something that also can be said is that soccer is not the most popular sport in America and that leagues like the NFL, NBA and MLB bring in much more revenue.
Those leagues are multi-billion-dollar corporations that have been established for more than 50 years.
That does not mean the MLS is a poor league. It makes more money than the highest spending and most competitive league in the Americas, the Mexican League (Liga MX).
As for the MLS, there are players who have to work two jobs to support their families when they are considered “professional” athletes.
ESPN took an anonymous survey of 123 MLS players and 84 percent of them said they are dissatisfied with their current salary. This deters college athletes from pursuing a professional soccer career.
RJ Allen from New York City FC is getting paid an annual salary of $63,000, while his fellow starting midfielder Frank Lampard makes an annual salary of $6 million.
This wage gap hurts the MLS’ quality of play and it hurts the level of talent that is coming from universities into the draft. It discourages student-athletes from pursuing their dreams of being professional soccer players in America.
Instead, these very talented soccer players are pursuing careers through school, which is not bad, but it hurts the national soccer team and the MLS.
“Almost every single player in this league (MLS) knows that this is one of two or four careers that we’re going to have in our lives,” an MLS player from ESPN’s anonymous survey said.
The MLS makes enough revenue to raise the salary cap to make a player’s minimum salary at least $100,000 annually. But for now, the MLS will continue to dump money on over-paid players like Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard thanks to the DP rule.
Efrain Valdez is a staff member of The Advocate. Contact him at [email protected]