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What latest MLS salary data says about Sounders' spending

Sounders have the seventh-most expensive roster, but that doesn't really seem to matter.

Last Updated
2 min read
Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

It seems that with each new team that comes into MLS, there's renewed concern that the Seattle Sounders are going to be passed by in terms of their ability to spend. The concern is not wholly unfounded – Sounders ownership has repeatedly stated that they hope to run a sustainable business – but the latest MLS Players Association salary release does serve as a reminder that the concern is probably a bit overblown.

While the days of the Sounders routinely ranking among the elite MLS spenders is probably done, the data does show that their spending is very much in the top third of the league. The Sounders' annualized guaranteed compensation spend is about $19 million, right in line with the top-spending teams once you eliminate the massive outliers at Inter Miami (nearly $40 million), Toronto FC (almost $32 million) and the LA Galaxy (about $25 million).

Notably, the three biggest-spending teams have already been eliminated from playoff contention and the Sounders could wind up being the third-most expensive team to make the playoffs (they rank as the seventh-most expensive overall) and the second most expensive team from the Western Conference (only LAFC, at about $21 million, is spending more in guaranteed compensation).

Even if you look at median salary spend – how much the mid-level player on each team makes – we only learn marginally more. The Sounders' median player salary ($217,500) is more than just five other teams, but two of those are conference winners FC Cincinnati ($213,917) and St. Louis City ($112,833).

It's probably overstating things to suggest that spending has absolutely nothing to do with success in MLS – I suspect this data would look a little different if transfer fees were factored in – but there is virtually no correlation between guaranteed compensation and where a team finishes in the table. What we can say is that the Sounders are currently spending enough to remain competitive.

In terms of value, the Sounders are about middle of the pack. Across MLS, the average cost per point is about $425,000, but that's pretty heavily skewed by Inter Miami ($1.2M) and TFC ($1.4M). The median is closer to $356,000. The Sounders have so far spent about $383,000 per point.

The big takeaway from all this seems to be that, at the very least, the Sounders are not in any imminent danger when it comes to being outspent. They remain perfectly competitive with most of the league in that way and even if they weren't, it's clearly not an insurmountable obstacle to winning.