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MLSPA releases Crew, MLS salary information for 2021 season

We dive into the wage bill for the 2020 MLS Cup champions.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Adam Cairns via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The Major League Soccer Players Association released its report of player salaries for the 2021 MLS season after declining to do so in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The release gives fans their first glimpse at the salaries for 2020’s big acquisitions, Darlington Nagbe and Lucas Zelarayan, and 2021’s new arrivals, as well as a look at the pay increases that have come to veteran players.

Before we review the salaries it’s important to refresh on MLS’s salary cap mechanisms. Up to six players on the “supplemental roster” may make the minimum salary of $63,547. The remaining “supplemental roster” players can earn a salary no less than $81,375. Homegrown players on the “supplemental roster” can earn up to $125,000 more than the minimum budget charge. Players on the “supplemental” roster do not count against a team’s salary cap.

The maximum budget charge that a player can be paid without having to be a Designated Player (DP) or have their salary bought down with Allocation Money (AM) is $612,000. This means that anyone making over $612,000 must be a DP or must have their salary bought below the DP threshold by AM. Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) can be used to pay or buy down any player’s salary if that player is paid between $612,000 and $1.6 million.

It is important to note that these salaries might not be 100 percent accurate. The base compensation number represents the player’s yearly contract while the total compensation reflects an average of bonuses possible throughout the life of the contract. Additionally, these salary numbers do not reflect any transfer or acquisition fees that would be reflected in the player’s salary cap hit.

Here is a list of the Crew’s player salaries:

2021 Columbus Crew Player Salaries

First Name Last Name Team Name Position Base Salary Total Compensation
First Name Last Name Team Name Position Base Salary Total Compensation
Isaiah Parente Columbus Crew M $63,547 $67,547
Marlon Hairston Columbus Crew M-D $81,375 $81,375
Matt Lampson Columbus Crew GK $85,444 $85,444
Eric Dick Columbus Crew GK $85,444 $85,444
Miguel Berry Columbus Crew F $85,444 $85,444
Aboubacar Keita Columbus Crew D $110,000 $110,000
Derrick Etienne Columbus Crew M $125,000 $125,000
Grant Lillard Columbus Crew D $125,000 $127,500
Aidan Morris Columbus Crew M $145,000 $147,000
Waylon Francis Columbus Crew D $220,000 $230,000
Perry Kitchen Columbus Crew M $275,000 $301,667
Josh Williams Columbus Crew D $300,000 $302,500
Harrison Afful Columbus Crew D $335,000 $365,000
Luis Diaz Columbus Crew M $350,004 $383,904
Milton Valenzuela Columbus Crew D $375,000 $406,300
Alexandru Matan Columbus Crew M $375,000 $408,250
Evan Bush Columbus Crew GK $376,000 $438,667
Bradley Wright-Phillips Columbus Crew F $410,000 $475,750
Eloy Room Columbus Crew GK $425,004 $479,698
Vito Wormgoor Columbus Crew D $415,000 $492,875
Artur Lima Columbus Crew M $480,000 $513,633
Kevin Molino Columbus Crew M $667,000 $667,000
Pedro Santos Columbus Crew M $817,560 $864,560
Jonathan Mensah Columbus Crew D $1,000,000 $1,140,667
Gyasi Zardes Columbus Crew F $1,350,000 $1,400,000
Darlington Nagbe Columbus Crew M $1,710,000 $1,710,000
Lucas Zelarayan Columbus Crew M $1,620,000 $1,985,000

The two most notable salaries in this year’s release are for 2020’s DP acquisitions of Nagbe and 2020 MLS Cup MVP Zelarayan. Nagbe’s base salary of $1,710,000 makes him the highest-paid player, by base salary, on the team and the 25th highest-paid player in MLS. Zelarayan checks in just behind Nagbe as the 26th highest-paid player in MLS with a base salary of $1,620,000, however, his salary cap hit is likely much higher due to the transfer fee paid to Tigres to acquire the Argentine attacker.

Other notable salaries for 2020 acquisitions are $415,000 for Vito Wormgoor, $145,000 for Homegrown player Aidan Morris and $125,000 for MLS Cup goal-scorer Derrick Etienne Jr. Eloy Room, a candidate for 2020 Goalkeeper of the Year, signed in 2019 after that season’s salary release. This season, Room earns $425,004, which is 13th among goalkeepers in MLS.

Forward Gyasi Zardes, also a DP, and center back Jonathan Mensah round out the group of Crew players with base salaries at $1,000,000 or more. Zardes earned a DP contract at the beginning of the 2019 season and sees his salary still in that range at $1,350,000, which means it can be bought down by TAM. Mensah, a 2020 MLS Best XI selection, has a base salary of exactly $1,000,000.

The 2021 acquisitions focused more on moves within MLS. Free agent, and leading scorer from the 2021 MLS Cup playoffs, Kevin Molino’s deal with Columbus is for $667,000. Veteran striker Bradley Wright-Phillips' free agent deal with the Black & Gold sees him earn $410,000. Backup goalkeeper, and Ohio native, Evan Bush will bring in $376,000 this year. Veteran midfielder Perry Kitchen’s deal with the Crew brings him $275,000.

Columbus’ lone transfer in 2021 was for Romanian attacker Alexandru Matan. The transfer fee for the young attacker was rumored to be around $1.8 million and his base salary for this season will be $375,000.

Among the remaining players who were part of 2019’s release, there are no notable salary bumps, though almost every player has seen his salary increase.

Overall, the Crew has four players making $1,000,000 or more in base salary. This is tied for the second-most players at $1,000,000 or more with the Seattle Sounds and Sporting Kansas City. FC Cincinnati leads the league in this category with five players making more than $1,000,000.

In total salary spending, the Black & Gold are eighth out of 27 teams, with a total salary spend of $13.8 million, solidly in the top half of spending. Inter Miami tops the league with $17.8 million in salary though that is likely eclipsed by Toronto FC, who sits in second at $17 million excluding the salary for new DP Yeferson Soltedo. Hell is Real rivals FC Cincinnati sit in fifth in total spend, at $15.5 million, while former Crew owner Anthony Precourt’s Austin FC find themselves in second to last (26th) in spending at $9.1 million.

This fits right into the strategy outlined by team president Tim Bezbatchenko that will see the team spend in the middle of the pack, but in an efficient and effective manner. So far that strategy has been successfully implemented.

Around the league, an LA Galaxy player is once again the highest-paid in the league with Javier “Chicharito” Hernadez topping the list with a base salary of $6 million. Miami’s Gonzalo Higuain checks in right behind him at $5,100,000 while LAFC’s Carlos Vela, Toronto’s 2020 MLS MVP Alejandro Pozuelo and Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez round out the top five. TFC forward Jozy Altidore is once again the highest-paid American in the league at $2,161,250, beating out Nagbe, who is second among all Americans.