Major League Soccer continues to be a league of choice for many top talents from all over the world. Many of those players come into the league as Designated Players, a rule that allows teams to sign up to three players outside of the MLS salary cap. Various name players who have come to the league have been some of the highest-paid players in MLS history!
At the moment there are 67 DPs in MLS playing for various clubs this season. In 2019, the average MLS player salary was $345,867 yearly, on this list, we will see that some DP’s are making up to 5-times the average salary. Every year the MLS Players Union reveals each team's salary budget for the year, and fans get an insight as to how much their club is spending.
While Major League Soccer continues to grow, so has team spending, and slowly MLS salaries on average have become more competitive with those of top European leagues. Here are the top highest-paid players in MLS!
20. Valeri "Vako" Qazaishvili, San Jose Earthquakes - $1.47 million
Vako, as he is known in San Jose, has been with the club since 2017, Valeri Qazaishvili has been with them through some tough times and is a pivotal part of their resurgence under Mathias Almeyda. The midfielder is deadly with his passing and he is one of San Jose’s attacking options. Vako's contract was not picked up by San Jose and it looks like 2020 was his last year in MLS.
19. Alan Pulido, Sporting KC - $2 million
Alan Pulido signed with Sporting KC for a club-record $9.5 million transfer fee. Pulido has lived up to his high price tag as he scored 6 goals in 12 games for the club in the 2020 season. While not official it is reported that the Mexican international earns an estimated $2 million per year.
18. Albert Rusnak, Real Salt Lake - $2 million
Albert Rusnak signed with Real Salt Lake in 2017 and has been the team's midfield brain since then. He has been one of the best players for RSL and has had two consecutive 10 goal seasons. He has played a total of 101 regular season games and has scored 30 goals.
17. Maxi Moralez, NYCFC - $2 million
The little man from Argentina, Maxi Moralez has been the key to so many NYCFC goals since he arrived in 2017. In 2020, Moralez scored 1 goal in 13 games, in total he has played 103 games and scored 21 goals. The midfielder is a fan favorite and MLS All-Star.
16. Raul Ruidiaz, Seattle Sounders FC - $2 million
Raul Ruidiaz has been nothing short than a blockbuster signing for the Seattle Sounders. He has an excellent partnership with Nicolás Lodeiro. He has, an almost, 1 goal per 2 game ratio for the club. Ruidiaz was a pivotal part of the Sounders 2019 MLS Cup.
15. Jonathan dos Santos, LA Galaxy - $2 million
Jonathan dos Santos came as a complement for this brother Gio dos Santos, while Jonathan dos Santos has played fairly well for the LA Galaxy, when you think of the Galaxy and DP's he is hardly what you would consider the top of the class.
14. Carles Gil, New England Revolution - $2.3 million
The Spanish international signed for the Revs in 2019 and has been an instant success. Carles Gil has 10 goals in 40 games for the Revs and was named MLS newcomer of the year and the Supporters player of the year in 2019.
13. Gustavo Bou, New England Revolution - $2.4 million
Gustavo Bou signed with the Revolution in 2019 from Tijuana in Mexico. In his debut game, Bou scored an impressive volley in a 4–0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps. He has been a consistent goal scorer and one of the Revolution’s top players since signing with the club.
12. Diego Valeri, Portland Timbers - $2.41 million
Diego Valeri is one of the best MLS players of all time. He has entered the MLS’ exclusive 80/80 club having scored 80 goals and 80 assists for the Portland Timbers. Valeri has played over 200 games for the club since arriving in 2013.
11. Nani, Orlando City - $2.48 million
Nani joined Orlando City in 2019 and has been a consistent contributor for the team since his arrival. The team captain, the Orlando attack is built around the talented Portuguese midfielder. Nani has had a sensational 2020 season, scoring highlight-reel goals and taking Orlando City to their first playoff appearance.
10. Nicolás Lodeiro, Seattle Sounders - $2.5 million
Nicolás Lodeiro might possibly be one of the greatest Sounders players ever. Arriving from Argentine power Boca Juniors in 2016 he has been the string-puller of the Sounders midfield. Since the Uruguayan's arrival, the club has won 2 MLS Cups and he has played over 100 games.
9. Sebastián Blanco, Portland Timbers - $2.85 million
Sebastián Blanco arrived in Portland in 2017 and has been one the Timbers most consistent performers. In 2020, he was having a breakout year until he went down with an ACL, the Argentine was an early 2020 MVP candidate. Blanco was the MLS is Back player of the tournament.
8. Josef Martínez, Atlanta United - $3.05 million
One of the most lethal goal scorers in MLS, Josef Martinez has been nothing but goals for Atlanta United. He has 77 goals in 84 games. LETHAL! Despite his injuries, few players find the back of the net like Martinez. Josef Martinez scored 19 goals in 2017, 31 in 2018, and 27 in 2019.
7. Alejandro Pozuelo, Toronto FC - $3.8 million
Alejandro Pozuelo is the midfield brain of Toronto FC. He arrived in 2019 as a replacement for the recently departed Sebastian Giovinco and Víctor Vázquez in the creative midfield role. Pozuelo has 21 goals, 22 assists in 53 games for TFC.
6. Rodolfo Pizarro, Inter Miami - $4.9 million
The Mexican international is reported to be on Inter Miami's books for $4.9 million. Rodolfo Pizarro had a decent first season for Miami scoring 4 goals in 19 appearances. He continues to play for the Mexican national team and slowly became one of Inter Miami’s better players as the season progressed.
5. Carlos Vela, LAFC - $6.3 million
Carlos Vela is considered by many to be the best player in MLS. He has been nothing but class since his arrival in 2018 to LAFC. In his second season, Vela set the record for most goals scored in a single season by scoring 34 goals. He did not play in the MLS is Back tournament to stay with his wife.
4. Jozy Altidore, Toronto FC - $6.33 million
Many might be shocked to see Jozy Altidore so high up on this list, but in 2015 MLS wanted to bring home some of the 2014 World Cup heroes and Altidore was up to a return, especially considering he scored only 1 goal in 42 outings in the EPL. Altidore has been making this salary roughly since 2015!
3. Michael Bradley, Toronto FC - $6.5 million
Michael Bradley is one of the U.S. Men’s National Team all-time best players. He was playing very well in Serie A for Roma, although Bradley was not an out and out starter when MLS called in 2014. Again, in 2014 MLS was looking to bring home prominent American players and paid them very well to return. It’s up to debate if Bradley has been worth such a high salary.
2. Javier Hernández, LA Galaxy - $7.2 million
The crown jewel of MLS. Chicharito is the league’s prize catch, it took a long time to get Javier Hernández to MLS, but he is finally here. The Mexican international is on the Galaxy books at 7.2 million and the club’s 2020 season was one of their worst ever. Chicharito scored an abysmal 2 goals in 12 outings.
1. Gonzalo Higuaín, Inter Miami - $8.8 million
Who is the highest paid MLS player? Gonzalo Higuaín. The Argentine striker is the league’s highest-paid player, he has signed a two year deal with Inter Miami for $8.8 million a year, according to the Miami Herald. The 33-year-old forward is a proven goalscorer having scored over 100 goals for Real Madrid, 71 for Napoli, 48 for Juventus. While his first season ended with him testing positive for coronavirus and missing the team’s critical playoff game, Higuaín was a much-needed boost for a club going in the wrong direction. For now, his numbers are lukewarm, 1 goal in 9 games, but with a proper preseason Pipita could light up the league in 2021.