Featured / MLS

Mondragon, Ruiz are Union’s top paid players

Striker Carlos Ruiz and goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon are Philadelphia Union’s highest paid players this season, according to salary data released this weekend by the Major League Soccer Players Association.

Mondragon is making $396,666.67 in guaranteed compensation this year, while Ruiz is making $306,670.67. Each was signed during the offseason.

On the low end, starting right back Sheanon Williams is a steal at the league minimum of $42,000, as is Keon Daniel at $46,410. Kyle Nakazawa makes just $44,000, while Gabriel Farfan is at the league minimum of $42,000.

The players union’s release of the data is the rare peek behind the curtain at MLS salaries. The league is notoriously tight-lipped about salary information and actually has a policy of not releasing it, in stark contrast with other American pro sports leagues, which usually release the data.

Here’s what stands out

  • Faryd Mondragon is the league’s highest paid goalie — by far. Kansas City’s Jimmy Nielsen is No. 2 at $241,667, and Donovan Ricketts is third at $195,000. Mondragon does not count as a designated player, possibly because of allocation money buydowns. (See below.)
  • The Union have 18 or 19 players whose salaries count against the team budget. Eighteen is the minimum allowed under MLS rules without a minor cap penalty being imposed. So if you were wondering why the Union continue to have a roster of just 25 players when they’re allowed 30, that might shed some light on it. (More on this below.)
  • Sebastien Le Toux got a $57,000 raise from last year, when he made $122,000. At $179,000, he’s the Union’s 8th highest paid player.
  • Juan Diego Gonzalez is the team’s fifth highest paid player. He hasn’t yet played this season and was passed over in favor of the Farfan twins with two starting defenders out against Portland. The term for him should be “trade bait,” but the Union don’t have another backup center back on the roster.
  • Carlos Valdes makes $180,000 in base and guaranteed compensation. The player he replaced, Michael Orozco Fiscal, made $200,000 last year.
  • Benny Feilhaber makes about $40,000 more than Carlos Ruiz — in case you were wondering.

Union salaries

Here’s the full list of Union salaries, listed from highest to lowest paid and rounded off to the nearest dollar. The first figure is the base compensation, while the second figure is the guaranteed actual payment.

  1. Faryd Mondragon: $230,000 – $396,667
  2. Carlos Ruiz $260,004 – $306,671
  3. Danny Califf: $250,000 – $250,000
  4. Danny Mwanga: $120,000 – $226,250
  5. Juan Diego Gonzalez: $189,000 – $193,463
  6. Justin Mapp: $175,000 – $183,333
  7. Carlos Valdes: $180,000 – $180,000
  8. Sebastien Le Toux: $155,000 – $179,000
  9. Amobi Okugo: $85,000 – $168,000
  10. Brian Carroll: $160,000 – $160,000
  11. Stefani Miglioranzi: $130,000 – $153,125
  12. Jack McInerney: $ 71,250 – $135,416
  13. Zac MacMath: $80,000 – $125,000
  14. Roger Torres: $105,600 – $108,725
  15. Michael Farfan: $42,000 – $79,500
  16. Zach Pfeffer: $55,000 – $65,000
  17. Jordan Harvey: $61,875 – $63,125
  18. Keon Daniel: $42,000 – $46,410
  19. Kyle Nakazawa: $44,000 – $44,000
  20. Sheanon Williams: $42,000 – $42,000
  21. Chris Agorsor: $42,000 – $42,000
  22. Gabriel Farfan: $42,000 – $42,000
  23. Thorne Holder: $42,000 – $42,000
  24. Levi Houapeu: $32,604 – $32,604
  25. Ryan Richter: $32,604 – $32,604

The Union’s salary cap hit

The Union’s total base compensation is $2,668,937, while total guaranteed compensation is $3,296,893. However, that may not mean much when it comes to figuring out the impact upon the team’s salary budget, which is $2,675,000 per team. MLS salary and roster rule caveats create a variety of ways to decrease the hit to the salary budget, and unless you know how the Union worked those rules — and we don’t, because MLS has a policy of not releasing salary data — you simply can’t know the salary hit.

By my count, the Union have lowered the salary budget hit to at least $2,237,479 (base) or $2,577,019 (guaranteed), based on the following:

  • Houapeu and Richter have salaries below the general league minimum, indicating they occupy the last roster spots reserved for young, developmental players.
  • Mwanga, Okugo, McInerney, and MacMath are all Generation Adidas players, so their salaries do not count toward the budget this year.
  • Zach Pfeffer may occupy an off-budget roster spot as a homegrown player, but that’s unclear. (I counted Pfeffer’s full base salary toward the cap figure.)

All that said, MLS keeps so much salary information secret and has so many salary rule caveats that it’s likely the Union have found other ways to lower their salary budget hit. For example, each of the Union’s five empty roster spots gives the Union an additional $35,000 in allocation money, and you can use allocation money to “buy down” a player’s salary budget charge. Also, transfer fees hit the salary budget, so if there are any, that would have an impact. (If you see anything I’ve missed, let me know.)

Further, you may notice that most soccer writers don’t indicate whether the base or guaranteed compensation is what determines the salary budget hit. My guess is that they simply don’t know and are writing around it. The only apparently reliable explanation I’ve seen is this 2008 (yes, possibly outdated) Columbus Dispatch article: “A union source said how much a player counts toward a team’s salary budget is determined by his base salary, bonuses likely to be achieved based upon a player’s performance the previous season, a 4 percent administrative charge and, for foreign players, immigration expenses MLS incurs. In addition, the league can change the derived number for players.” (I’ve traded emails today with MLS Players Union head Bob Foose, so if/when he gets back to me on that follow-up question — yeah, I forgot to ask in my first email to him, like a genius — I’ll update this.)

Top MLS salaries

The top paid players should come as no surprise. Los Angeles and New York account for five of the top six salaries and six of the top 13. The Union have two players in the top 25. Here are some other things that stand out.

  • Charlie Davies will make $244,000 this year. Based on his production, that might be a bargain.
  • Fabian Castillo of Dallas is technically a designated player, but his salary is just $42,000, the league minimum. He was acquired through a transfer reportedly valued at $800,000, and Dallas and his former club, Deportivo Cali of Colombia, each own half his rights. Strange.
  • Bobby Convey is the only Philadelphia native to crack the top 25 salaries list, coming in with the 21st highest salary and the highest for his club.
  • Andy Najar’s salary tripled this year to about $155,00 after his great rookie season.

Here is the list of the top 25 highest paid players:

  1. David Beckham, LA: $5,500,000 – $6,500,000
  2. Thierry Henry, NY: $5,000,000 – $5,600,000
  3. Rafael Marquez, NY: $4,600,000 – $4,600,000
  4. Landon Donovan, LA: $2,300,000 – $2,300,000
  5. Julian de Guzman, TOR, $1,863,996 – $1,910,746
  6. Juan Pablo Angel, LA: $1,000,000 – $1,250,000
  7. Eric Hassli, VAN: $660,000 – $900,000
  8. David Ferreira, DAL: $600,000 – $705,000
  9. Fredy Montero, SEA: $500,000.00 – $636,000
  10. Andres Mendoza, CLB: $500,000 – $595,000
  11. Branko Boskovic, DC: $389,166.67 – $525,366
  12. Shalrie Joseph, NE: $475,000 – $500,000
  13. Dwayne DeRosario, NY: $425,000 – $493,750.00
  14. Javier Morales, RSL: $400,000 – $452,500
  15. Brian Ching, HOU: $375,000 – $412,000
  16. Conor Casey, COL: $400,000 – $400,000
  17. Faryd Mondragon, PHI: $230,000.00 – $396,667
  18. Alvaro Fernandez, SEA: $300,000 – $366,667
  19. Jay DeMerit, SEA: $300,000 – $350,000
  20. Benny Feilhaber, NE: $300,000 – $346,000.00
  21. Bobby Convey, SJ: $313,500 – $336,000
  22. Chad Marshall, CLB: $250,000 – $320,000
  23. Carlos Ruiz, PHI: $260,004 – $306,671
  24. Alvaro Saborio, RSL: $250,000 – $305,625
  25. Marvell Wynne, COL: $225,000 – $301,667

(Note: Nery Castillo is included in the data, with a salary of $2,038,063, but he’s no longer playing in MLS.)


  1. Ruiz, Gonzalez, Mapp … not worth the paper their salaries are printed on. All of their resumes were hyped up by the Union’s spin doctors, and their performances since donning the navy & gold have been sub-par.

  2. Why mention salary cap when the total payroll of 3 or 4 clubs put together is less than the salary of one player? Any regulation riddled with loopholes is called a charade.

  3. Fat Chooch better start “earning” his pay by playing a bit more industriously. It’s pretty sad when the team’s best player has to track back in a defensive role while the Little Fish pouts and lolly-gags around in the offensive third. I know he can score goals, but his antics and attitude really annoy the $*#T out of me.

    • This was very noticeable on Friday when Mwanga cross the ball in from the right at the endline, and Ruiz threw up his hands, gestured to his feet in frustration at DM10. One of the fundamentals drilled into me when I first began playing soccer is this: go. to. the. ball. If you expect the ball to make it to you untouched, and stand there for that extra split second ball-watching, odds are someone will intercept it.

  4. That was definitely a frustrating moment. It was there. Dive. Slide. Anything. It’s called hustle.

    With Ruiz’s high salary though, it would not surprise me if we see him starting consistently all season, regardless of how he plays. It could be similar to the Seitz situation last year. Nowak doesn’t like to admit mistakes — Ruiz clearly is one.

  5. Carlos Ruiz, PHI: $260,004 – $306,671=Ruiz will start every game

  6. “Nowak to Attend “Match of Stars” Charity Event in Poland – Union manager to miss @LAGalaxy match” hopefully Novak will take FChooch with him.

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