Salary Cap 101- What TFC Fans Need To Know
Twice each season the MLS Players Union releases salary numbers for every single league player on every team. And below here is the current list for each TFC player currently under contract.
|Player||Base Pay||Guaranteed Compensation|
A large number of casual Toronto FC fans probably do not give much more than a passing thought to the MLS salary cap, the limiting and frankly somewhat arcane set of rules that clubs in this league must adhere to when building a team. Yet arguably there is no single more important thing to consider when trying to come to grips with what sort of team we have and what kind of team we can have in the future.
Here is a brief primer on the rules that every TFC supporter needs to at least have a passing knowledge of:
- The 2011 salary budget per club is set to a maximum of $2,675,000
- Only the first twenty players on the club roster count against the cap. The following players do not: Henry, Plata, Omphroy, Kocic, Gold, Borman, Cordon, Makubuya, Morgan, Stinson
- “Generation Adidas” players, signed to a special type of developmental contract do not count against the salary cap. Tony Tchani is on a Generation Adidas deal for example as was Stefan Frei in previous seasons until this one.
- Homegrown players promoted through the Academy to the first team, which a club can have two per season, do not see their salaries count against the cap.
- If you trade a player to another club you can still be theoretically paying part of their salary depending on what deal you negotiate, which if you do, counts against your salary cap limit. Chad Barrett and Dwayne de Rosario are cases in point. TFC is still paying a certain portion of their respective salaries this season.
- Designated Players, like TFC’s Julian de Guzman, only have a portion of their total salary count against the cap limit. Only the first $335,000 counts against it. If a DP is signed mid-season the cap hit is lower, a total of $167,500 of their salary would count against the cap. And you have to have at least that amount available to sign another DP
- Teams can have up to three DP’s
- The top 24 players on the roster must make at least the league minimum of $42,000 this season
- The bottom six “developmental” players must make a minimum of $32,600 this season
- “Allocation money” – obtained by trading cap space or players/roster slots with other clubs or through finishing low in the league the previous year (known as the “we suck” bonus) can also provide cap space over the usual limit, although these amounts only have a limited shelf life before they expire. For competitive reasons clubs guard how much allocation space they have available as a state secret… information on how much a team has is almost impossible to come by.
So within these rules that the league sets to try and keep a lid on costs each club must try and find a path to success. And it is definitely not easy to do. A Manager must find the balance between finding quality players who can contribute versus making sure that you do not overpay for said players. One dollar to one player is a dollar another player cannot receive.
You must also find bargains. Players that are far down the salary scale are often required to “punch above their weight” and to contribute meaningful minutes if the club the manager assembles is to be anywhere near a balanced competitive side. The recent performances of Joao Plata are a perfect example of a player on the league minimum contributing value far above the value of his wage packet.
Now doing some very rough calculations, and factoring in which contracts count and do not count against the limit, estimating (or “guesstimating”) allocation space, and liberally allocating dollars to pay for trading away Chad and DeRo it looks to me that the club, with a full roster as of today probably has somewhere between $650,000 to perhaps as much as $740,000 in cap space available to them.
This is a far cry from the previous regime when useful players like Sam Cronin were traded away for allocation money. Designated player bust Mista from last season could not be signed by TFC for example until Cronin was traded away for the cap/allocation space to do so. And now we have neither! And this is just one example of the short sighted way Mo managed TFC’s cap space.
The new cap flexibility gives TFC management the ability to go out and sign a Designated Player or even two if they decided to do so. It allows the club to trade within the league and to have the flexibility to take on the contract of a pricey player or two if it is deemed the best way to improve the club. Some of it can be used to renegotiate contracts and to give raises to players under contract that are deemed worthy of it. Suffice it to say having such a nest egg at this point in a season is something TFC frankly never had in four years under the previous regime.
One can argue with some of the contracts and salary amounts on this team. I for one think Peterson is grossly overpaid (thanks again Mo Johnston!). I think Stefanovic is more of a gamble than he has appeared to be based on now knowing how much he makes. On the flip side there are more than a third of the current roster on league mandated minimum salaries. Richard Eckersley looks like a bit of a bargain considering his pedigree and experience. Alan Gordon, our primary striker this season is making less than half what Chad Barrett did for much the same results from the same point last season.
This mew fiscal parsimony that Toronto FC is now adhering to did not come easy and it will likely take at least the rest of this season for most of the errors of past years to come off the books. And a lot of good players had to be released or moved on in order to make this happen. Now that much of that hard work has been done and now that there is at last a level of wage sanity and responsibility apparent in how the club manages its business there are many more reasons to be optimistic about the future for TFC then there were previously.
I calculate that there are at least somewhere around 700,000 reasons to be optimistic.
What do you think? Your comments are always welcome and appreciated.