The Sounders may have fallen a few notches in the MLS spending game. ESPN estimates Seattle Sounders FC's salary budget this year at $12.5 million and sixth in Major League Soccer for total wages. A massive comparison of wages in major sports leagues internationally adds New York City FC and Orlando City FC to the familiar big spenders in Los Angeles, New York and Toronto at the top of the MLS food chain.
In a survey of average salaries across seven sports in 17 professional leagues, ESPN and SportingIntelligence ranked the total wages per team and average salary per player. 333 teams, 9,731 players, $17.94 billion. The Sounders ranked 274th (down from 230th last year). The ranking sure doesn't mean much, but the survey offers an interesting insight into (roughly) where Seattle sits among MLS teams and the global soccer game when it comes to player compensation.
It's important to point out that the numbers for MLS are almost certainly only educated guesses. They don't exactly match 2014's MLS Players Union salary dump, and they include the new expansion teams that don't have any concrete salary data available. Still, they seem like reasonable guesses based on what information is out there.
Sounders FC's salaries sit amongst a group of mid- to lower-table (and some recently-relegated) squads in the Italian, French and Spanish top flights. Lorient of Ligue 1 and Rayo Vallecano of La Liga each spend slightly less overall (and per-player) than Seattle. AS Livorno, a team that bounces between Italy's Serie A and B, paid out a bit more than the Sounders.
Orlando City SC is estimated at $13.5 million in wages and NYCFC at $15 million, both ahead of the Sounders along with LA Galaxy, New York Red Bulls and Toronto FC. TFC's $20.5 million number puts them in the wheelhouse of mid-table Verona in Italy and Bundesliga bottom-dwellers SC Freiburg.
The Sounders would have to more than triple their expenditures on salary to reach the lowest Premier League team on the list, Crystal Palace ($42.8 million), or roughly multiply by ten to reach NFL numbers, for that matter.
Of course there are other caveats: a Seattle team that was allowed to pay each Sounder $481k (the average per player and the way the survey ranked teams) would look very different than the current setup, but obviously that's not how MLS works. Also, the survey includes the top five soccer leagues by wages, MLS, the J-League, and others, but skips over many contests that would make for more apt comparisons, like the Dutch, Mexican, and Scandinavian leagues.
Still, though we don't have the oil money of a Paris Saint-Germain to the tune of $227 million annually, we can still enjoy and root for some high-quality play here at home for an eighteenth of the cost every year.