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An In-Depth Look At The Union's Salary Cap Situation

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Danny Califf is the most expensive player currently on the Union's roster, but Faryd Mondragón may unseat him soon.
Danny Califf is the most expensive player currently on the Union's roster, but Faryd Mondragón may unseat him soon.

With the losses the Union have recently suffered personnel-wise, and the widely-reported impending signing of goalkeeper Faryd Mondragón, this is probably as good of a time as ever to take a look at the Union's salary cap situation.

One of the major changes in the new MLS collective bargaining agreement is a regulation of salary cap increases. For the next four seasons (starting with this one), the salary cap will increase a standard 5% each year. So, in accordance with that policy, the salary cap maximum for MLS clubs this season will be $2,677,550.

After the jump, we'll examine the Union's current standing...

First, a quick primer on how to interpret these numbers: salaries reported by the MLS Players Union are categorized into two sections: base salary and base salary plus guaranteed bonuses averaged over the length of the contract. So if a player is given a $1,000 signing bonus for a four year contract, the Players Union will report it as a $250 per year bonus, even if all $1,000 is given to the player at once. Potential bonuses such as performance bonuses are unreported by the MLS Players Association since they're not guaranteed. What is unclear is whether those annualized guaranteed bonuses count against the salary cap, and whether any achieved performance bonuses count against the salary cap; an email to the Players Association asking for clarification went unreturned. For the sake of this discussion, we'll assume guaranteed bonuses do count at their annualized rate, as it's better to be safe than sorry. It is also assumed here that players will make the same amount of money as last year with the exception of players who last year made the minimum base salary of $40,000, as the minimum base salary for the 2011 season is $42,000, since we haven't heard any news from the Union or MLS about players signing contract extensions. We will also assume that the club will be successful in its attempts to bring back Michael Orozco Fiscal and Roger Torres on loan. Finally, the Union currently have three Generation Adidas players in Danny Mwanga ($100,000.00 base salary, additional $106,250.00 in annualized guaranteed bonuses), Jack McInerney ($52,250.00 base salary, additional $64,166.67 in annualized guaranteed bonuses) and Amobi Okugo ($75,000.00 base salary, additional $83,000.00 in annualized guaranteed bonuses) whose salaries and bonuses will not count against the cap. The MLS Players Association did not release the salary and guaranteed annualized bonuses for Sheanon Williams last season because of how late in the season his signing occurred, so we'll have to wait until next season to learn those figures. Chances are he's making near or at the minimum base salary of $42,000, but it's not worth speculating.

Subtractions:

Shea Salinas (lost in Expansion Draft to Vancouver Whitecaps): $40,000 salary, no bonuses

Alejandro Moreno (lost in Expansion Draft to Portland Timbers, then traded to Chivas USA): $145,000 salary, $13,125 in annualized guaranteed bonuses

Fred (lost in Re-Entry Draft to New England Revolution): $250,000 salary, $32,000 in annualized guaranteed bonuses

Chris Seitz (lost in Re-Entry Draft to Seattle Sounders, then traded to FC Dallas): $100,000 salary, $35,500 in annualized guaranteed bonuses

Additions:

Brian Carroll (acquired from Columbus Crew for second-round draft pick and allocation money): $140,569 salary, $3,750 in guaranteed bonuses

Faryd Mondragón (international signing): this one requires a touch of speculation. Multiple reports suggest that Mondragón will be signed as the team's first Designated Player. If that's the case, only $335,000 of his salary would count against the salary cap, and the rest will be paid by the team without counting against the cap. The Union would also have the option of using allocation money to offset part of that $335,000 charge against the cap. For the sake of these calculations, though, let's just assume the Union will stay with the normal charge against the cap, and it's not worth speculating on any guaranteed bonuses that may or may not be in Mondragón's contract.

Where the Union Currently Stand:

Name Position Base Salary Annualized Guaranteed Bonuses Total Compensation
Cristian Arrieta D $60,000.00 $4,500.00 $64,500.00
Danny Califf D $250,000.00 $0.00 $250,000.00
Brian Caroll MF $140,569.00 $3,750.00 $144,319.00
Eduardo Coudet MF $180,000.00 $5,000.00 $185,000.00
Juan Diego González D $180,000.00 $4,462.50 $184,462.50
Jordan Harvey D $55,000.00 $1,250.00 $56,250.00
Andrew Jacobson MF $42,000.00 $0.00 $42,000.00
Brad Knighton GK $42,000.00 $0.00 $42,000.00
Sebastien Le Toux MF/F $110,000.00 $12,000.00 $122,000.00
Justin Mapp MF $162,000.00 $8,333.33 $170,333.33
Stefani Miglioranzi MF $125,000.00 $23,125.00 $148,125.00
Faryd Mondragón GK $335,000.00 $0.00 $335,000.00
Kyle Nakazawa MF $42,000.00 $0.00 $42,000.00
J.T. Noone MF $42,012.08 $0.00 $42,012.08
Michael Orozco Fiscal D $150,000.00 $50,000.00 $200,000.00
Toni Stahl D/MF $42,000.00 $70,300.00 $110,300.00
Roger Torres MF $96,000.00 $3,125.00 $99,125.00
Nick Zimmerman F/MF $42,000.00 $0.00 $42,000.00
Total: $2,095,581.08 $185,845.83 $2,281,426.91

So that leaves $540,442.09 $396,123.09 in cap space, minus what Sheanon Williams is making, for a team that already has six defenders, 11 midfielders, three forwards and hopefully two goalkeepers under contract heading into the MLS SuperDraft on January 13, 2011 in Baltimore where the Union currently have four draft picks (#5 overall, #23 or #28 overall depending on which was sent to Columbus for Brian Carroll, #41 overall, #59 overall). Without knowing who they'll end up choosing, it's impossible to predict how much they'll spend in signing those four picks (assuming they even keep four picks, and don't add more), but it's probably reasonable to suggest at the very most they'll charge around $300,000 $120,000 to the cap in order to sign those players, assuming the #5 overall pick will be part of Generation Adidas (sincere thanks to Nevtelen and jmcurto for correcting). Not the worst possible position to be in. Indeed, they're rather fortunate to have lost three of their more expensive (salary vs. production) players this offseason, despite losing one of their cheapest in Shea Salinas as well.

During preseason, when most of the offseason dealings and the SuperDraft are done, we'll revisit the Union's salary cap position going into the season. Knowing that they have a little bit of room to work with, do you think the roster has any glaring issues that could be at least partially remedied with the acquisition or signing of another player?