Eight years ago today, I was one of a small band of hearty D.C. United supporters to troop out to RFK for the administration of last rites to C.D. Olimipia's CONCACAF Champions' Cup campaign. I fell in love with Luciano Emilio that night. Two weeks later over three times as many people attended the first leg of the next round's matchup against Omar Bravo and Chivas Guadalajara. DCU fell a goal short of reaching the final. It was thrilling. Something I hoped to relive, as a fan and season ticket holder, again and again and again: An MLS team punching above its weight (because of circumstances) in CONCACAF competition.
This year? No interest in going to watch the second leg match-up this week. Not because I'm embarrassed by the 5-2 score line in Costa Rica. Rather, because I'm embarrassed that there have not been significant improvements in the treatment of players through the auspices of a new collective bargaining agreement.
If you sum up the salaries of the 30 players listed as part of D.C. United in the MLS Player Association's September 15, 2014 release of individual salary information, the total amount the club was spending was $3.96 million. The New England Revolution's Jermaine Jones, on his own, was paid a salary of $3.25 million. As every MLS fan knows, there are several individual players that make more in annual salary than the entire D.C. United team combined, including Kaka, Michael Bradley, and Clint Dempsey.
So what? No big deal. If anything, the fact that such high wages can be paid by so many different MLS clubs should be seen as a demonstration of the robust health of the overall league.
Maybe. What can't be seen as healthy is when one of the starting fullbacks for an American side in the region's premier tournament is getting paid less than $37k a year for his services. If you're counting at home, Taylor Kemp's salary -- the salary of a college graduate -- is 1.12% of the annual salary of Jermaine Jones. Again, that's what a starting PROFESSIONAL soccer player is being paid in a single-entity league that is also refusing to entertain relegation and actively trying to undermine its lower division competition in the North American Soccer League.
The majority of the listed DC United players made less than $100k (16 of the 30). Eight made less than $50k including a player with English league experience (Conor Doyle) and the starting goalkeeper in last week's debacle (Andrew Dykstra).
How much is that? With a bachelor of arts and no experience, the base salary of a D.C. public school teacher is $51,539.
These numbers are insane. They are a joke. They undermine any possible claim that the MLS is on its way to becoming one of the major American sports leagues.
If MLS imposed a minimum salary of $100k, THE MAJORITY OF THE ROSTER WOULD HAVE GOTTEN A RAISE and the total salary cost for DCU's 30 players would have increased by less than $700k to $4.63 million, an increase of 17%. All together, that's a little bit more than what Landon Donovan made last year.
When MLS owners draw a line in the sand and say no free agency, they've got to be held to account for the $37k Taylor Kemp made last year playing for DC United. 1.12% of what Jermaine Jones earned in salary in the same league, based on a salary JJ was able to negotiate with a single-entity competing with international clubs also vying for his services.