Major League Soccer - highest paid players 2019

Los Angeles Galaxy forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic receives an annual base salary of 7.2 million U.S. dollars and is the highest paid player in Major League Soccer (MLS) in 2019. Michael Bradley (Toronto FC) and Giovani dos Santos (Los Angeles Galaxy) were jointly ranked second in the list, each earning 6.5 million U.S. dollars annually.

The legend of Zlatan

Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic joined Los Angeles Galaxy after leaving Manchester United in March 2018. He scored 22 goals during his first MLS season and was rewarded with a new contract as a Designated Player ahead of the 2019 season. The 7.2 million U.S. dollars that Zlatan Ibrahimovic received – a salary record in MLS – was far greater than the minimum annual player salary in MLS in 2019. The previous salary record was held by Sebastian Giovinco who earned around 7.1 million U.S. dollars at Toronto FC in 2018, a figure that resulted in the Canadian club topping the list for the highest average player salary in MLS in 2018.

How does MLS attract the big names?

The Designated Player Rule was introduced ahead of the 2007 MLS season to encourage the signing of international stars – David Beckham was the first player signed under the rule when he transferred from Real Madrid to Los Angeles Galaxy. The rule provides clubs with flexibility in the competitive global transfer market, currently allowing teams to sign up to three players whose salary can exceed the maximum salary budget. In 2019, the maximum player salary was set at 530,000 U.S. dollars while the club salary budget was 4.24 million U.S. dollars. As a comparison, the overall budget set for MLS teams was less than the average annual player salary in Major League Baseball (MLB) and the National Basketball Association (NBA).

Highest paid players in Major League Soccer in 2019 (in million U.S. dollars)*

Earnings in million U.S. dollars
Zlatan Ibrahimovic7.2
Michael Bradley6.5
Giovani dos Santos 6.5
Jozy Altidore 6.33
Carlos Vela6.3
Bastian Schweinsteiger 5.6
Ignacio Piatti 4.44
Alejandro Pozuelo Melero3.8
Wayne Rooney3.51
Josef Martinez3.06
Nicolas Lodeiro2.5
Tim Howard2.48
Diego Valeri2.42
Carles Gil2.34
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Release date

June 2019


North America

Survey time period

as of June 2019

Supplementary notes

* Includes a player's base salary and all signing and guaranteed bonuses annualized over the term of the player's contract, including option years.

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