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ESPN survey of MLS players reveals salary frustrations

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Salary discrepancy remains a fundamental issue in locker rooms, and Jordan Morris gets called out by 'anonymous'.

Clint Dempsey and Osvaldo Alonso, Seattle's most overrated and underrated players respectively, challenging the league's consensus overrated player, NYCFC's Mix Diskerud.
Clint Dempsey and Osvaldo Alonso, Seattle's most overrated and underrated players respectively, challenging the league's consensus overrated player, NYCFC's Mix Diskerud.
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN FC has published their MLS players survey for 2016, with 123 diverse player responses to a range of topics on the league’s structure and scheduling to opinions on the quality and the future of MLS.

CBA Implications

84% of MLS players believe themselves to be underpaid on the world market, perhaps indicating lingering feelings of bitterness left over from a long and protracted battle over a new Collective Bargaining Agreement prior to the 2015 season.

When asked what one thing they would change about MLS, 44% of players said the salaries, and 17% said free agency; this could potentially be read as a rough blueprint of priorities for the players in the next CBA negotiations in 2020. In the meantime, 66% of MLS players say they would leave for Europe if given the chance.

Jurgen Klinnsman and MLS

Players also appear to be feeling frustration at the perceived difficulty in gaining national team respect while playing in MLS. While 65% of players surveyed think that Klinnsman gives MLS players a fair chance, many are concerned that he isn’t giving consistent chances to domestic league players in favor of less proven options.

This frustration may be exacerbated by the typical US soccer hype-train that accompanies any promising young player, and at the moment that hype train is securely attached to Sounders HGP Jordan Morris. One player said, "Then you look at Jordan Morris. The kid is in college. Who said, 'Hey, Jurgen, go watch this college kid instead of watching an MLS game'?"

While not included in ESPN’s article, Jeff Carlisle was kind enough to tweet a few of the most interesting responses, including:

It’s hard to argue too much with that, especially considering Morris’ difficulties adjusting to the level of MLS. This anger directed at Morris likely has little do with anything the young forward has done rather than the media attention he receives. It would be to his benefit to ignore these statements.

One only needs to peruse the list below of the players voted "Most Overrated" to see that the structure of MLS has led to locker room tensions between the many lower-paid MLS veterans and youth players and the higher-paid Designated Players and high-profile Americans who were able to cash in by signing with MLS.

Other nuggets of information

Another interesting tid bit to come from ESPN’s survey is the embrace of MLS’ traditional American sports structure. While in 2015, the majority of players (64% vs 34%) in favor of promotion/relegation in MLS; in 2016 the opinion has flipped, with 51% of players preferring no relegation/promotion system. Furthermore, 60% of players think that playoffs are a better way to decide the MLS champion than a single table season-long champion.

Which MLS stadium has the best/most intimidating environment?:

Portland 42%, SKC 28%, Seattle 21%, NYRB 3%, six others 6%

"Intimidating to me is playing at FC Dallas at two in the afternoon in mid-July."

Most Overrated:

  1. Mix Diskerud (NYCFC)
  2. Jozy Altidore (TFC)
  3. Frank Lampard (NYCFC)
  4. Andrea Pirlo (NYCFC)
  5. Steven Gerrard (LA)
  6. Giovani Dos Santos (LA)
  7. Michael Bradley (TFC)
  8. Clint Dempsey (SEA)
  9. Aurelien Collin (OCSC)
  10. Benny Feilhaber (SKC)

Most Underrated:

  1. Dax McCarty (NYRB)
  2. Darlington Nagbe (POR)
  3. Fabian Castillo (FCD)
  4. Diego Chara (POR)
  5. Kellyn Acosta (FCD)
  6. Osvaldo Alonso (SEA)
  7. Sacha Kljestan (NYRB)
  8. Matias Laba (VAN)
  9. Lee Nguyen (NE)
  10. Chris Tierney (NE)

Favored coach to play for:

  1. Bruce Arena (22%)
  2. Carl Robinson
  3. Gregg Berhalter
  4. Jesse Marsch
  5. Peter Vermes
  6. Caleb Porter