Saturday, December 8, 2012

A Look at The Crew Salary Cap

Major League soccer is in the middle of a busy player transaction period so I thought I'd take a look at where the Columbus Crew are right now and how much space they have left to maneuver for new players.


At the end of 2012 the Columbus Crew were carrying a Base Salary to Cap of $2,674,084 and a Guaranteed Salary to Cap of $3,265,459. The league mandated salary cap in 2012 was 2,810,000 which means the Crew were $135,916 clear in terms of base but $455,459 over when including max guaranteed numbers.

The difference between Base and Guaranteed to cap seemed high so I took a look at the whole league at the end of 2012. Turns out the Crew carried the heaviest difference between Base and Guaranteed contracts to cap in the league.

591,375 : CLB
478,350 : VAN
448,595 : POR
422,917 : TFC
411,254 : DC
374,429 : PHI
367,926 : HOU
365,503 : CHI
361,459 : LA

360,017 : MTL : MLS MEDIAN

325,109 : KC
309,075 : NE
296,729 : SJ
262,535 : RSL
253,530 : SEA
249,798 : COL
242,750 : DAL
212,780 : CHV
187,172 : NY

A closer look at the Crew's number revels that Federico Higuain's Base to Guaranteed difference of $164,000 takes the team from 3rd (without him) to 1st (with him). Because Higuain came to the club mid year his base hit to the cap was $160k but it's still interesting to me that the league posted the full guaranteed salary of $324k. I'm not sure we will ever know if Higuain triggered - none, all or part of that - my hunch is that he may have but for the sake of evaluation of the 2012 cap I'll take it out.

To cap and adding all incentives (guaranteed) the final 2012 number was a possible $3,101,459. That works out to be $291,459 over the MLS cap number of $2.8 million. What this likely means is that the Crew realized that large difference in base and guaranteed contracts could hurt them and needed to be controlled.

Below will be the difference between Base and Guaranteed by player. Keep in mind that to meet 2012 cap the Crew had to make sure $291k didn't trigger.

Incentive : Name
164,000 : Federico Higuain
133,000 : Dilaver Duka
104,000 : Tony Tchani
31,250 : Chad Marshall
24,375 : Justin Meram
23,333 : Milovan Mirosevic
17,500 : Nemanja Vukovic
16,875 : Rich Balchan
15,500 : Aaron Horton
12,500 : Danny O'Rourke
11,000 : William Hesmer
9,375 : Jairo Arrieta
7,000 : Chris Birchall
5,000 : Eddie Gaven
5,000 : Olman Vargas
5,000 : Sebastian Miranda
3,125 : Carlos Mendes
1,875 : Emilio Renteria
1,666 : Andy Gruenebaum

After taking Higuain off the list you can see that the easiest way to ensure not breaking the cap was by keeping the players with larger guaranteed contracts from triggering.

Fans familiar with the team will notice players that got jerked around at the top of the list.


Together the aggregate difference between base and guaranteed equaled $279k. Subtracting that amount from the guaranteed cap total puts the club within $12k of the salary cap. I'll never know if they had to make minutes to prevent the guaranteed contract from hitting or if was based on how much they actually play. Regardless, with that much of a difference the Crew did everything they could to minimize the impact of their max salary. It also explains some bizarre behavior both on the pitch (revolving Right Midfield position door) and off (Duka going home, good example).

ON TO 2013

The Crew now fall at $1,978,900 Base and $2,341,400 Guaranteed after the latest round of cuts. These numbers include Tony Tchani's last published salary of $105k base and $209k guaranteed so with his contract successfully renegotiated it's safe to assume that these numbers to be slightly high. Though, not much higher. I would guess Tchani's new deal is in the $100k range but no gaudy guaranteed number.

Adjusting for Tchani's new estimated contract we'll go with:

$1,978,900 Base
$2,237,400 Guaranteed

Last year (2011 to 2012) the Crew raised player salaries 11%. If we use that same % and apply it this year the number to cap look like this:

$2,196,579 Base
$2,483,514 Guaranteed

The 2013 MLS Salary Cap is $2,950,000 (reportedly). Here is the range in room the Crew have.

$753,421 Bast to Cap after 11% increase
$466,486 Guaranteed to Cap after 11% increase

Looking at it this way tells me that ongoing negotiations with O'Rourke, Miranda and Renteria would mean significant cuts to their 2012 wages. Their 2012 base number was $400k. That chews up 50% of remaining cap room and would make it near impossible to get the roster up to 25+ players.


The Crew have 18 players signed up for 2013 and somewhere around $500-700k to play with. To get the roster to even 28 that means do not expect many (if any) high quality signings.

What is concerning is that the club cut so deep for Higuain and Arrieta and they did so at the back, in defense. This in turn lead to the spin/buzz phrase coming out of Columbus of: "An Evolving Core". What we are to take this as is that 2012 mid-season signings are now part of the club foundation on the field.

The Crew have themselves in a bit of a hole here and they will probably have to shop a few players away yet to make a full roster. Still lots of twists and turns left before next season starts up. Should be interesting.

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