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2014 Timbers Salary Cap: An In Depth Analysis of the League's Salary Numbers

I dive into the numbers and try to provide some analysis on what it all means to our salary cap and how we compare with our Cascadia rivals and the rest of the league.

Steve Dykes

With the 2014 MLS Player Salaries being released yesterday I went through and took a look at what our salary cap could be looking like.

First off, let us make some assumptions on how we are going to calculate these numbers for salary cap purposes. We really don't know what the exact rules are, and some people will say these salary numbers aren't accurate either. But this is what we have to work with.

  • Base Salary is the salary calculated for the cap hit. Guaranteed compensation includes signing and marketing bonuses and agent fees amortized over the length of the contract. This information is pulled from the first paragraph on the MLS Players Union salary page. My assumption is guaranteed compensation wouldn't affect the salary cap hit as calculated by the MLS brass.
  • Only 20 players count towards the salary cap. Check out Article I in the MLS Roster Rules and Regulations for details.
  • We will remove the Homegrown Players, Generation Adidas players, players on permanent, season-long loans (loans that cannot be recalled), Rookie salaries, and then remaining salaries over 20 will be removed from lowest to highest based on age with those in the same salary range.

Based on these assumptions and the new salary information provided to us, we can estimate what our salary cap might be. While there really is no way for us to know what room exists (thanks mysterious Allocation Money) it is still fun to try to figure it out.

For our salary cap, I am not counting the salaries of Schillo Tshuma (Generation Adidas); Jose Valencia (on non-recallable loan); Steven Evans and Bryan Gallego (Homegrown Players); or our three lowest paid rookies: Peay, Fochive, and Long.

That is 7 players that are pretty easy to remove. The next 3 are slightly more arbitrary. There are four players who I feel could be options for the last three spots. Andrew Weber, Alvas Powell, Michael Nanchoff, and Rauwshan McKenzie. It is probably a toss up on which of these four is included. Nanchoff and McKenzie are both $48,825, Powell is $3 more at $48,828, and Weber is making the minimum for players over 25 at $48,500. For our purposes I am going to count Weber in the top 20 roster spots based on his age and the fact that he is our #2 GK. This also represents the best case scenario for salary cap calculation (albeit a difference of $328 if we used Powell instead).

Taking into account that Valeri is only $387,500 towards the cap, we come up with a salary cap hit of $3,185,115.

So if these salary numbers are correct, then we are only using $85,115 of mysterious allocation money to keep our roster under the cap. And we really don't know how much allocation money we have, but I'm sure its a lot more than $85,000. I'm not even sure if Allocation money expires?

Our total base salary we are spending on all players listed in the salary report is: $3,713,918 (Valencia is not counted).

So let us now break that down into positions.

Assuming that we collect our winger positions into the forward group we are spending $1,207,000 on forwards. (32.5%) This is for 8 of our players: Nagbe, Urruti, Fernandez, Wallace, Piquionne, Alhassan, Zakuani, Tshuma.

Our midfield spending is fairly balanced to that with $1,294,265. (34.85%) And this is for 9 of our players including: Valeri, Johnson, Chara, Zemanski, Villafana, Evans, Nanchoff, Fochive, and Long.

$838,153 on defenders and $374,500 on keepers sums up our spending on the backline. Which if combined equals $1,212,653. (32.65%) This is the largest group with 3 Keepers and 9 defenders: Ricketts, Kah, Harrington, Jewsbury, Paparatto, Danso, Gleeson, Powell, McKenzie, Weber, Peay, and Gallego.

I was actually surprised at how balanced across the field the spending is. Nearly one third in each group.

So what does all this mean? Not a whole lot really. We can organize our players however we see fit and make the numbers look pretty much however we want them to. But this makes a pretty picture that our spending is pretty balanced and we are spreading out the wealth. And the question really is, how does this compare with the rest of the league? Well, let's take a look.

Of the 18 other MLS teams' base salaries, 9 teams spend more than Portland and 9 teams spend less. So here again, seems like we are pretty balanced. We are dead on in the middle on overall base salary spending. Teams who spend more than we do: TOR, LA, NY, SEA, VAN, MTL, DAL, SJ, and PHI in that order.

Toronto, unsurprisingly, blows the top off at $15,609,767 (with $12mil taken up by two players). LA ($12.3m), NY ($10.2m), SEA ($9.6m), and then VAN ($5.4m) follow behind them. (Yes we are outspent by both of our Cascadia rivals, and not in an insignificant amount). The bottom three teams in spending start with Chivas ($3.1m), followed by Colorado ($3.0m), and then New England ($2.9m) comes up as the team who pinches the most pennies.

The league average? Higher than I expected at $5,409,020. (Vancouver's base salary spent? $5,411,558)

How does our positional spending compare with our Cascadia rivals?

First off, Vancouver, for a team that is probably closer in their spending habits to us, except they have 3 DPs. Though strangely enough Reo-Coker is not a DP player for Vancouver even though he appears to be over the DP threshold. Laba is a Young DP so that threshold may be different. If you needed evidence that these numbers provided by the players union could be a little wonky, there it is. But, let's move on.

Laba $300,000, Miller $930,000, and Morales $1,190,000 combine for a total of $2,420,000 spent on their DPs. Compared to only $500,000 for us with Valeri.

With Vancouver and their forwards, they are spending $1,464,650 (27.07% of total base) on 8 players. I list those as: Caleb Clarke, Mamadou Diouf, Erik Hurtado, Kekuta Manneh, Darren Mattocks, Nicolas Mezquida, Kenny Miller, and Omar Salgado. So compared to our 8 players we are spending roughly $250,000 less, but we don't have a DP striker either.

And with their midfield, they are spending $2,565,325 (47.40%) on 10 different players. Aminu Abdallah, Bryce Alderson, Mehdi Ballouchy, Sebastian Fernandez, Gershon Koffie, Matias Laba, Andre Lewis, Pedro Morales, Nigel Reo-Coker, and Russel Teibert. That is a lot of money and you have your highest paid player in there plus one other DP. They've got us beat in money spent in the midfield by a good amount there.

On defense, among 12 players, they are spending $1,381,583 (25.53%). Sam Adekugbe, Steven Beitashour, Marco Carducci, Christian Dean, Jay DeMerit, Jordan Harvey, Johnny Leveron, Carlyle Mitchell, Andy O'Brien, David Ousted, Ethen Sampson, and Paolo Tornaghi. Here it is closer to us but still spending a little bit more.

What does their cap spending look like though? They have 5 listed Homegrown Players and 2 Generation Adidas players. Outside of that it gets a bit more complicated. Since Laba is a Young DP his cap hit is only $200,000. And Reo-Coker can't have a higher than the DP limit cap hit (Vancouver must be paying down his salary with allocation money to keep him from being a DP). So we actually have three DP limit players plus Laba to calculate. For three additional players to remove, I went with the three lowest salaries left after removing all of their HGP and GA players. So Mamadou Diouf, Andre Lewis, and Aminu Abdallah. This brings Vancouver's cap hit to $3,365,225. So they should be spending a good amount of allocation money to bring it down to the $3.1m limit.

Up next, Seattle. Whose spending on their DPs of Alonso, Dempsey, and Martins totals $6,933,004. And it's the DP spending on Dempsey and Martins that skews Seattle's numbers. With their forward spending on 10 players: Chad Barrett, Tristan Bowen, Kenny Cooper, Clint Dempsey, David Estrada, Obafemi Martins, Sean Okoli, Kevin Parsemain, Cam Weaver, and Lamar Neagle, the total is $7,182,337. A significant 76.53% of their total base salary spent. And outside of Dempsey and Martins, everyone else only totals $649,333. Eight forwards, $650,000. Cheap.

So if all of your money is locked up in forwards it should be no surprise that they are spending really low numbers in their midfield and defense. The lowest spending is on their midfield. With only 8 players: Osvaldo Alonso, Michael Azira, Brad Evans, Aaron Kovar, Marco Pappa, Fabio Pereira, Gonzalo Pineda, and Andy Rose totaling just over $1m ($1,004,998 and 10.71%).

The defense only has $1,198,124 (12.77%) spent on their 12 players: Jalil Anibaba, Josh Ford, Stefan Frei, Leo Gonzalez, Marcus Hahnemann, Damion Lowe, Chad Marshall, Jimmy Ockford, Dylan Remick, Zach Scott, Djimi Traore, and DeAndre Yedlin.

Now let's see what their cap limit looks like. They only have 3 listed Homegrown Players and 1 Generation Adidas player to make an easy choice to cut out. So with 6 more to remove I went with the following: Fabio Pereira, Jimmy Ockford, Kevin Parsemain, Josh Ford, Michael Azira, and Dylan Remick.

This brings their salary cap  to $3,125,439. So it is almost at cap with little to no allocation money spent.

Some of these salary numbers may surprise you, some may not. And because of the mysterious Allocation Money we can't really predict how much room may exist for our flexibility or that of other teams.

What do you think about the salary numbers? Should we be spending more or less? Do we need another Designated Player? Any predictions on how much allocation money we may have?