Lionel Messi collects Major League Soccer’s biggest paycheck…
The 36-year-old Argentine soccer star and Inter Miami forward is MLS‘ highest-paid player, with a league-record annual guaranteed compensation of $20.4 million, according to the MLS Players Association.
Earlier this year, Miami co-owner Jorge Mas revealed to Spanish outlet El País that Messi’s total compensation, which includes a cut from the league’s Apple TV deal, is in the $50 million to $60 million range.
Messi’s midseason arrival, along with that of teammates Sergio Busquets ($1.775 million) and Jordi Alba ($1.25 million), vaulted the Herons to the top of the MLS team salary rankings, with total guaranteed compensation of $39.419 million. That is more than double the $18.88 million the team was spending this time last year.
Messi’s guaranteed salary is the highest in the history of MLS, beating out Toronto FC‘s Lorenzo Insigne, who is second on Wednesday’s list at $15.4 million.
The Chicago Fire‘s Xherdan Shaqiri ($8.15 million), the LA Galaxy‘s Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez ($7.44 million) and Toronto’s Federico Bernardeschi ($6.3 million) round out the top five.
All data is as of September 15, 2023. The salary data was annualized for players like Messi who joined the league during the summer transfer window.
The arrival of Messi helped push the average guaranteed base compensation for the entire MLS player pool to $543,207, up 5.5% from the September 2022 mark of $514,729. The salaries of players at the bottom of the wage scale continue to improve, as the league’s median guaranteed base compensation was $282,125, up 13.4% from the September 2022 mark of $248,688.
MLS and the MLSPA are in the third year of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that was agreed upon in February 2021. The current CBA runs through the end of the 2027 season.
In terms of team payroll based on guaranteed base compensation, Toronto FC ranked second behind Miami at $32.293 million, followed by the LA Galaxy ($25.039 million), reigning MLS Cup champions LAFC ($20.841 million) and the Chicago Fire ($20.416 million)
Orlando City had the lowest payroll at $9.643 million — in part because of the September transfer of forward Ercan Kara to Turkish side Samsunspor — followed by CF Montreal ($10.92 million), expansion side St. Louis City ($11.187 million), the New York Red Bulls ($11.331 million) and the Philadelphia Union ($13.291 million).
FC Cincinnati, the recently crowned Supporters’ Shield winners, checked in at 21st with a total guaranteed compensation of $14.349 million.
Based on current MLS standings heading into Decision Day, the three highest-spending teams — Miami, Toronto and the Galaxy — will all miss the playoffs. Austin FC, which ranked sixth at $19.166 million, is the other team among the top 10 spenders to miss out on the postseason.