MLS Salaries Make No Secret Of MLS Plan To Create NY-LA Rivalry

In MLS Commissioner Don Garber's perfect world, the two biggest markets in the country would have the two best teams. These teams would, of course, be the New York Red Bulls and the LA Galaxy. They would be better than the other teams but not so much better that fans in smaller markets would give up hope. Ideally, they would meet for the championship in November and squash their East Coast-West Coast beef. But don't take my word for it. Let's examine some recently released MLS salary data.

Here's the 2011 guaranteed payrolls for NY and LA and two smaller market teams. The difference is obvious:

NY Red Bulls: $13,397,087.04
LA Galaxy: $12,205,725.12
Real Salt Lake: $3,517,856.76
Colorado Rapids: $3,173,078.64

Keep in mind that MLS sets player salaries, not the teams. The invisible hand that exists in other pro sports is really just Garber's hand. And with nearly a third of the 2011 MLS season complete and NY and LA now sitting atop their respective divisions, everything is going exactly to plan. (Cue evil laughter.) The monkey wrench, however, is the MLS playoff system, in which a smaller market team can win it all, just as the two poorer teams above did in 2009 (RSL) and 2010 (COL).

Since we're on the subject of money, here are the top ten individual salaries in MLS in 2011:

David Beckham, M, LA — $6,500,000.04
Thierry Henry, F, NY — $5,600,000.04
Rafael Marquez, D, NY — $4,600,000
Nery Castillo, M-F, CHI — $2,038,062.50
Landon Donovan, F, LA — $2,300,000
Julian de Guzman, M, TOR — $1,910,746
Juan Pablo Angel, F, LA — $1,250,000
Eric Hassli, F, VAN — $900,000
David Ferreira, M-F, DAL — $705,000
Freddy Montero, F, SEA — $636,000

Some of the best bargains among the highest-paid players:

Shalrie Joseph, M, NE — $500,000
Dwayne DeRosario, M, NY — $493,750
Brian Ching, F, HOU — $412, 500
Conor Casey, F, COL — $400,000
Jay Demerit, D, VAN — $350,000
Charlie Davies, F, DC — $244,870

The worst bargain:

Andres Mendoza, F, CLB — $595,000 (Mendoza's "main attribute," according to Wikipedia, is "sucking.")