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A Philadelphia Union blog hosted by Christopher A. Vito and Matthew De George

Thursday, May 3, 2012


Nick Sakiewicz, right (Times / ERIC HARTLINE)
The Union have Major League Soccer's fifth-highest payroll, according to a report this week from ESPN the Magazine.

The report, which takes into account the payroll numbers of every professional sports league in America, as well as few select leagues globally, also reported these interesting numbers about the Union:
  • They rank 253rd world-wide in total payroll and fifth in MLS.
  • They rank sixth in average weekly pay, which is $3,120.
  • The average pay of its rostered players is $162,232.
  • Their total payroll is $4,542,484.
(Be aware that, while reading ESPN's report, it puts more eggs in the 'average weekly pay' basket than that of total payroll. That would explain why FC Dallas, which has a greater payroll than Chivas USA, ranks seventh in the ESPN grid, compared to Chivas' fifth.)

“I haven't seen those numbers, so I have no idea what ranking we are," Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz told me by phone. "But we're trying to put our best team on the field every night. If that's where we are, I'm glad we're that high. It means we're paying our players well.

It may come as a surprise that the Union, who began the week ranked eighth in the Eastern Conference table, could rank fifth overall in total payroll. That number could be the result of Freddy Adu, who is in his first full season with the Union and became the franchise's first designated player.

“I think salary has less of an impact in Major League Soccer than it does in other leagues around the world,” Sakiewicz said. “That's evident against the Spanish League, which is a two-team league. It's Barcelona and Madrid, and nobody can compete with those two in terms of points. Major League Soccer is, from top to bottom, an equally balanced league. Some teams like Los Angeles and New York spend millions of dollars on marquee names, and it doesn't always guarantee victory. A lot has to do with chemistry and coaching and teaching players and getting them to jell as a unit. It doesn't always come down to money."

Sakiewicz said to take the ESPN numbers with a grain of salt. He said the Union's average salary per player is somewhere in the ballpark of $100,000, whereas ESPN reports a total like $160,000.  The MLS Players Association, which releases the first installment of its bi-annual salary figures later this month, will confirm the numbers ESPN published. MLS and its clubs don't release salary figures for individual players.

Only Los Angeles ($17.2m), New York ($13.2m), Toronto FC ($8.37m), and Seattle ($5.36m) have greater payrolls than the Union, according to the ESPN figures.

Sheanon Williams (Times / COLIN KERRIGAN)
The Union are rather economically sound when it comes to building a club. In three seasons, they've seldom made bad investments. Juan Diego Gonzalez, who made more than $193,000 to play reserve-league games in 2011, was one of them. Then there were Sebastien Le Toux, a steal at $179,000, and Gabriel Farfan, at $42,000, Michael Farfan, at $79,000, and Sheanon Williams, at $42,000, who were relatively inexpensive pieces in a rotation that made the Eastern Conference semifinals a year ago.

“We feel like we've used our money wisely to invest in the future," Sakiewicz said.

But what do you think about the Union's payroll totals? Should fans expect better of a team paying so much for the product on the pitch? Or is this right about where you figured they'd be, given the roster the Union have assembled? Leave your comments below.

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