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How Sounders’ spending stacks up to rest of MLS

Once one of the big spenders, a deeper analysis of Sounders’ spending suggests they’re about average.

Last Updated
7 min read

Throughout the Seattle Sounders’ history in MLS, they’ve tended to hover right below the biggest-spending teams. Aside from 2013, when they signed both Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey to give them the second highest payroll in MLS, they’ve mostly hovered around the top third.

As the league has continued to expand and more well-heeled owners have joined the ranks, the Sounders have slowly slipped down the overall charts while mostly maintaining their place in a relative sense. When the MLSPA released their latest salary data, though, it became clear how far the Sounders had fallen this year.

Based only on guaranteed compensation, the Sounders have the 12th highest payroll out of the league’s 29 teams. Although that’s still more than 58% of teams are spending on their first-team rosters, it also marks the lowest the Sounders have ever been relative to other teams since 2011, when they were spending more than just 56%.

Perhaps more telling is how the Sounders stack up once transfer fees are factored in. Based on data from which includes the previous two transfer windows, the Sounders’ total commitment is about $23.5 million. That’s the literal median among MLS teams, meaning half of the league is spending more and half is spending less.

While it’s true that spending – whether it’s just payroll or including transfer fees – does not have much correlation with regular-season standings, it does seem notable that only one team lower than the Sounders on the spending chart has won MLS Cup in the last 10 years (the Portland Timbers, who are two spots below the Sounders).

I wouldn’t say I find this information concerning on its own, but it does seem to be worth watching as this seems to be giving credence to concerns that fans have voiced for many years about new teams passing the Sounders by.

With that said, here are a few more of our takeaways from last week’s salary-data release:

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