The MLS Players Union revealed an updated list of salaries Friday afternoon that included Clint Dempsey's windfall deal with the Seattle Sounders, which will net the U.S. national team captain $5,038,566.50 in guaranteed compensation per year.
That figure represents the fourth-largest annual wage in MLS history, behind David Beckham's initial $6.5 million salary with the Los Angeles Galaxy, the $5.6 million Thierry Henry earned in his first two-plus years with the New York Red Bulls (he's now on $4.35 million) and the annualized $5.54 million Rafa Márquez squeezed out of the same club in 2010.
Dempsey's annual compensation falls short of the $6.86 million reported Monday by SI.com. The transfer fee paid to Tottenham Hotspur to secure Dempsey's rights (reportedly $9 million) almost certainly is the reason for the gap. A player often will receive a percentage of the transfer fee -- a bonus that doesn't appear on his contract -- and which therefore, in this case, will go unreported by the union.
Dempsey's contract runs through the 2016 MLS campaign and includes no raises or pay cuts, according to a source with knowledge of the deal. There are no options after that season.
In order to add Dempsey as a designated player, which left him exempt from the league's allocation process that typically applies to U.S. national team members, Seattle had to jettison one of its three existing DP contracts.
Veteran midfielder Shalrie Joseph, acquired from Chivas USA in February, restructured his deal in order to give Seattle the leeway required to add Dempsey. According to the union's numbers released Friday, Joseph took an annualized pay cut from $599,333.33 to $105,500.00.
The reduction isn't nearly as massive as it sounds, however. The cut, which took effect July 15, applies only to the remainder of the 2013 season. SI.com understands that the Sounders likely offered Joseph a deal for 2014, when he will recoup the money and then some. In exchange for taking less this year, the 35-year-old now has secured another season in MLS. The $599,333.33 was guaranteed and will wind up in Joseph's bank account one way or another.
Seattle still has a couple of issues to confront, however. Dempsey will carry the full DP charge (currently $368,750) against the club's salary budget next year. Joseph likely will be fully on the Sounders' books as well (Chivas still may be paying a portion of his wages), and striker Eddie Johnson, a close friend of Dempsey who very well could have played a role in bringing him to Seattle, already has hinted that he'll be looking for a deserved raise.
Johnson, who has 20 MLS goals since joining the Sounders prior to the 2012 season, is making just $156,333.33. That surely seemed like fair compensation for a player who had difficulty adjusting to life in Europe and who arrived in Seattle after eight months of inactivity. But with Johnson having proven his worth several times over and even re-established himself with the U.S., a new contract likely is in order.
Seattle's effort to adhere to the league salary budget in 2014 will be a story to watch.
Some other interesting notes from the salaries released Friday:
-- Former U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra, who signed with Chivas last month, will make a guaranteed $261,333.33 on a base salary of $228,000. He is the highest paid player on the team by some distance over goalkeeper Dan Kennedy $194,166.67.
-- U.S. defender Clarence Goodson is making $342,000.00 in guaranteed compensation with the San Jose Earthquakes. He is the second-highest paid player on the club behind reigning MLS MVP Chris Wondolowski ($600,000).
-- Sporting Kansas City star Graham Zusi got a hefty raise from the $173,812.50 in guaranteed money he was earning at the beginning of the season to $383,250.00 per year. He's now the highest-paid player at the club. Zusi's SKC and U.S. teammate, MLS Defender of the Year Matt Besler, remains the biggest bargain in MLS at $180,000.