Austin FC was the latest team to join the flourishing and ever-expanding Major League Soccer competition. Based in Austin, Texas, the new additions to MLS play their home matches out of the Q2 Stadium and will be managed for their debut campaign by Josh Wolff.
It is the area’s first professional soccer team since the Austin Aztecs moved to Orlando in 2008, much to the disappointment of local fans. There’s an air of excitement, but the early MLS betting odds suggest they will struggle this term.
Fans, once again, have a team to call their own but do the club’s backers know what they are letting themselves in for?
Success doesn’t come cheap
Success in the MLS doesn’t come cheap, and owners Two Oak Ventures, fronted by Anthony Precourt, will require deep pockets to challenge LA Galaxy, Los Angeles Football Club and Seattle Sounders in the Western Conference.
As player transfer fees and wages continue to spiral in MLS as teams strive to attract the sport’s top names and best-emerging talent to the competition. Giants of the sport, including David Beckham and Steven Gerrard, famously played the latter part of their careers in the MLS, but the mood is changing. Teams no longer want players past their prime. They want young, ambitious and hungry footballers from the United States, Canada and overseas.
To get a feel for the direction football in the States is moving in, we look at some of the highest-paid players operating in MLS.
Gonzalo Higuain – Inter Miami
Inter Miami are one of the hottest names in world sport at the minute, and it’s nothing to do with their success on the field of play. They set the record for the highest-paid player when signing Argentina’s Gonzalo Higuain on a two-year deal worth almost $9 million a year.
Throughout his career, the forward has proven himself, finding the net with frightening regularity at major European teams, including Real Madrid in Spain and Juventus in Italy. There’s still plenty of life left in the striker, and he’ll score some critical goals for Inter Miami, goals supporters hope will catapult the free-spending club to success.
Javier Hernandez – LA Galaxy
The Mexican international and former star of European football was a long-term target of many MLS teams. Still, it was LA Galaxy that finally persuaded him to join the league. His signature was an expensive one, with Hernandez reported to be on more than $7 million.
Is that value for money? The boardroom certainly believes so, as Javier’s signing made headlines worldwide and was linked to a spike in merchandise sales. However, on the field of play, Chicharito failed to deliver, scoring only two goals in a dozen games.
Michael Bradley – Toronto FC
Michael Bradley ranks amongst the highest earners in MLS, and records show he banked a jaw-dropping $6.5 million. He was a superstar in American football circles, and his career took him to Italian Serie A club Roma. He wasn’t in the starting 11 when Toronto played their hand, but they were paying for the name and reputation as much as they were Bradley’s skill as a football player.
It would be fair to say Michael had already played his best football before moving to MLS, and critics would argue his performances for Toronto weren’t worthy of such a high salary. Toronto having the biggest name to have played for the American national team was a marketing dream for the club, and they made sure they got their money’s worth.
Others worth a mention
Other notable football players who earned big bucks in MLS over the years but fell just outside the top three make for exciting reading. Jozy Altidore earned over $6m when playing for Toronto FC after becoming a World Cup hero for his nation.
It’s a surprise Los Angeles FC hitman Carlos Vela isn’t a little higher on the list, but he’s not far behind with $6.3m a year. Vela sits ahead of Rodolfo Pizarro of Inter Miami fame and his near $5m a year while Alejandro Pozuelo – another for Toronto – is valued at almost $4m. Dropping back further through the list and one of the most famous names to play in MLS, Nani, was paid $2.48m by Orlando City.