The Life Of An MLS Player Making $35,000 A Year

Not every pro athlete is rich. (We've seen the salaries of every MLS player.) Clint Irwin, the starting goalkeeper for the Colorado Rapids, makes the standard MLS rookie minimum of $35,125. He's not complaining, but he'd like you to know it's not all champagne and private jets.

Irwin wrote a piece for Pacific Standard on the economic realities of trying to make ends meet while you play a sport that won't pay the bills on its own. And it was even worse in the lower tiers, where Irwin found himself after college:

Actual life in the minor leagues means moving back in with your parents or living in a house with more than a few teammates, working another job, taking on some coaching responsibilities, and not spending your money. Most pro athletes engage in a high-intensity, two- to three-hour workout and have the rest of the day to recover. Then they wake up and do it again. I did the three-hour workout—and then went to my desk job at noon, attempted to switch gears to normal work, then headed out at 6 p.m. to coach youth soccer. It’s asking a lot to reach optimal performance when you do this every day. For many players at that level, this is life. And if you get married and have to support a family, it’s basically time to retire.

Then there’s the off-season, when your contract doesn’t pay. Most guys coach. At the same time, if you want to move up to the next level, you need to put in the off-season work (hashtag “grind”). In the lower leagues, your season starts in April and is over in September or October. In MLS however, the season begins in January and continues until the end November. Players in the minor leagues are perpetually three months behind in development just based on this wrinkle. (Plus, everything else I’ve already mentioned.) If you aren’t doing something in that time, you’re falling behind. But, the options are limited. Playing with teenagers isn’t really helping you. You likely don’t live in a city with a healthy population of other pro soccer players (remember, you’ve moved back in with your parents). Instead, I played on my college roommate’s co-ed adult league team as a field player (I’m a goalkeeper) and played 6 a.m. pre-work pick up with my CEO’s middle-aged buddies. You can’t find MLS-level quality, so you do what you can. That was development for me.

Go read the whole thing.

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The Life of a Non-Millionaire Professional Athlete [Pacific Standard]