MLS vs. EPL vs. NBC vs. the USA – Some Stats

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MLS fans remember the NBC three-year broadcasting deal for about $10 million per year. NBC has since signed a three-year broadcasting deal with the EPL for around $80 million per year. Some fans worry: what about when MLS games conflict with the EPL? Which league will take precedence? I’m more interested in the now easy-to-compare numbers: 8:1. That is how much more US money the EPL earns than the native MLS.

I know that stats are indeterminate. And easily manipulated. But they still give us a birds eye view. Thus, let’s look at EPL, MLS and other league salaries.

First, as with all statistics, an assumption. Right now, the exchange rate is $1.67 dollars for every pound. This has not always been the case. At times, it has been almost two dollars for every pound. However, right now, in this very moment, I will use the 1.67 metric.

Second, I know that MLS releases all their players’ salaries, while the EPL does not. I know that the EPL only has released the top earners and also a few vague numbers about total team salaries. Still, let’s look at the EPL top earners and MLS top earners. Let’s compare those stats in relation to the 8:1 TV revenue ratio.

In the EPL, the highest paid goalkeeper is Chelsea’s Petr Cech. He earns 96,000 pounds per week. That’s $153,600 dollars per week. In 9 months of work, he earns $5.5 million. The best paid goalie in MLS is Donovan Rickets. Portland pays him $250,000 per year. The ratio? 22 to 1. Cech earns 22 times as much. Thus, based on US TV revenue, MLS is doing better than the EPL.

Now, let’s look at defenders. The best paid EPL defender is Chelsea’s John Terry. He earns 130,000 pounds per week. In dollars, that’s $217,000 per week. For 9 months of work, that adds up to $7.8 million. In MLS, the top paid defender is New York’s Rafa Marquez. He earns $4.6 million  per year. In comparison to the 8:1 TV ratio, MLS is doing pretty poorly in comparison.

Now, a glance a midfielders. The best paid EPL midfielder is Yaya Toure. Manchester City pays him 190,000 pounds per week. In dollars, that’s $304,000 dollars per week. For four weeks a month, that’s $1.2 million per month. For 9 months of work, that adds up to $10.8 million. Conversely, in MLS, David Beckham earns $3 million per year. That 3:1 ratio is a bit closer to the US TV revenue ratio, but not quite there. Advantage: EPL.

Lastly, we look at forwards. Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney earns 190,000 pounds per week. In dollars, that’s $304,000 per week. For four weeks a month, that’s $1.2 million per month.For  9 months of work, that adds up to $10.8 million. Conversely, MLS pays Thierry Henry makes $5 million per year. That 2:1 ratio is far from the 8:1 US TV revenue ration.

Of course, you scoff at the use of outliers. What about average salaries? Well, the average EPL salary is 1.46 million pounds per year, which translates to $2.4 million dollars per year. In the MLS, each team’s entire salary cap is $2.8 million dollars per year. Divide that by 11 (10 field players plus a goalie) and forget the subs, and you get the idea. The EPL may earn 8 times as much as the MLS in US TV revenue, but salary costs are at least 10 times as much.

And compared to other US sports? The average NBA salary is $5.5 million per year. That is more than double the EPL average. The average MLB salary is $3.3 million, also above the EPL. The average NHL salary is $2.4 million. Yes, that’s right, your beloved EPL average salary ties with the NHL, a league that was once forced to broadcast games on the cable channel “Versus” because of an awful and drawn-out lockout. And, lastly, the NFL’s average salary is $1.9 million per year. Yes, the same NFL which signed 9 year, $27 billion dollar TV deal ($3 billion per year).

$3 billion is, of course, more than $80 million. $1.9 million is, of course, less than $2.4 million. How did that happen? Hire good lawyers to negotiate your deals, kiddos. And stop complaining about MLS – the salary to US TV revenue ratio is not that off. Plus, MLS, and even the EPL, are light years behind the NFL. Don’t expect parity during you or your children’s life time.

7 thoughts on “MLS vs. EPL vs. NBC vs. the USA – Some Stats

  1. “The average MLS salary is $3.3 million, also above the EPL.”

    But you just said the salary cap only $.4 million above the EPL’s average wage!

    So confused. But I am hanging on the dream of EPL/MLS parity at some point in the lifetime of my children’s children’s children.

  2. Dave – yes, yes I did. It has been corrected, thanks.

    Jason – you’re a crazy dreamer. But maybe, just maybe, medical science will advance and we can watch our great grandkids’ grankids play in an MLS on par with the EPL…..from our cryogenic chambers, that is.

  3. atYour base ratio is off. MLS gets $10 mil for 45regular session matches and several payoffs. EPL gets $80 mill for all 380 regular season matches. EPL at $210k per match. MLS at$200 per match at 50 total. So, who is paying more?

    • I addressed the “per game” argument on Reddit – the fact NBC didn’t want to buy more games is a bad sign, not a good one. And how much are other networks paying to buy those other games? I don’t see a lot of action to buy that Saturday afternoon Philadelphia Union vs. Columbus Crew regular season game :)

  4. “I addressed the “per game” argument on Reddit – the fact NBC didn’t want to buy more games is a bad sign, not a good one.”

    Not necessarily. EPL is just fortunate to have its games in a time slot when not many other live sports programs are on because of the timezone difference. MLS, on the other hand, is competing with dozens of other live sports; so time is at premium. BTW, the $10 mil MLS receives is only from NBC. They get $18 mil more from ESPN and Galavision for about 50 more games. EPL still gets more money in total, of course, but insinuating MLS rights fees are worth only $10 mil is misleading.

    • Dave,

      1) That’s a fair point about the ESPN and Galavision deals. The total is about $27 million per year, not $10 million per year, roughly double. Thus, MLS has a better TV to labor costs ratio than I concluded. Of course, it’s still nowhere near the NFL and the TV deal is still way below the EPL, but, yes, you are correct.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Major_League_Soccer_on_television

      Of course, in 2014 when all the deals expire, we will get to see if and when any network or cable wants to buy all the games

      http://goal.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/10/m-l-s-and-nbc-sports-announce-new-tv-deal/

      2) I don’t buy your “MLS games are at poor times” argument in the slightest. Arguably, early Saturday morning and middle of the afternoon weekday games in the US are the WORST POSSIBLE TIME to get eyeballs for EPL games. Yet NBC shelled out a ton of money for them.

      Yes, there’s less “sports viewing” competition at 7am on Saturday and 2pm on Monday, but most people are asleep Sat morning or at work during the week and a lot less folks are watching TV.