STANFORD, Calif. — We all know the main motivation for a player to make the U.S. World Cup team is to represent his country at the world’s biggest sporting event. The World Cup is the pinnacle of soccer, and the prestige and honor that go with being on the 23-man U.S. roster in Brazil are immense. For many players, Brazil 2014 will be the highlight of their careers.
But as 30 U.S. players compete for those 23 spots over the next two weeks, they’re fighting for something else, too: A sizable chunk of change.
Every U.S. player who makes the final World Cup squad will receive a minimum of $76,000 from U.S. Soccer, according to a source close to the national team who has seen the most recent collective bargaining agreement with U.S. Soccer. That figure combines $55,000 for earning a spot in the final 23; $5,500 per game for being on the roster for the three World Cup group-stage matches; and a minimum $1,500 per game for being in camp for the three pre-Cup friendlies against Azerbaijan, Turkey and Nigeria.
For Clint Dempsey, who’s earning a guaranteed $6.7 million this season with Seattle (per the MLS Players Union), an extra $76,000 is nice, but not earth-shattering. But for a bubble player like 20-year-old DeAndre Yedlin (MLS salary: $92,000), coming into camp and making the final 23 would almost double his income this year.
Heck, being named to the World Cup team would be a big financial boost even for Matt Besler (MLS salary: $200,000, second-lowest among MLS players in camp), and Besler is one of only six U.S. players I’d consider a lock to start in Brazil if healthy.
If you’re one of the seven cuts from the 30-man preliminary World Cup roster, the financial drop-off is significant. Instead of earning a minimum $76,000 for making the World Cup team, the windfall would be a minimum $3,000 (for any player who’s in camp but doesn’t make the gameday roster for the first two pre-Cup friendlies).
When it comes to the World Cup, the numbers mentioned so far are minimums, but there are plenty of ways for players to add to their income from the tournament. Each player receives a certain amount of money from the federation per point earned in the group stage. (I wasn’t able to confirm that figure, unfortunately.) And U.S. Soccer also awards team bonuses (also not confirmed) for advancing to the round of 16, the quarterfinals, the semifinals, the final and winning the whole tournament.
The round-by-round bonuses for players can increase quickly due to the large amount of prize money awarded by FIFA to teams for advancing deeper into the World Cup. Here’s what FIFA will award each federation—keep in mind, these are the federations, not the players—in prize money:
Win tournament: $35 million
Runner-up: $25 million
3rd place: $22 million
4th place: $20 million
Eliminated in quarterfinals: $14 million
Eliminated in Round of 16: $9 million
Eliminated in group stage: $8 million
When the U.S. reached the quarterfinals in World Cup 2002, each player received $203,000. I have been told the figure would be more than double that amount if the team repeated the 2002 run in 2014.
In addition, the U.S. players who participated in World Cup qualifying games in 2012 and 2013 also share a $2 million team bonus from U.S. Soccer for clinching a berth in World Cup 2014. While every U.S. player receives the same amount of money for being on the gameday roster for a friendly or a World Cup qualifier (even if they don’t play in the game), the players do use a point system to weight the distribution of the $2 million World Cup qualifying team bonus toward those who played more during the 16-game campaign. Although the U.S. clinched a berth in the World Cup last September, the players won’t receive their qualifying bonus until after the World Cup takes place.
In researching this story, one surprise to me was this: Without any press coverage at all, the U.S. men’s national team signed a new collective bargaining agreement with U.S. Soccer in November 2011 that runs through two World Cup quadrenniums. In other words, the current deal goes through December 31, 2018, which means labor peace will continue for the next four years.
That’s no small thing. Before the U.S.’s first World Cup qualifier in 2005, U.S. coach Bruce Arena was almost forced to take replacement players to Trinidad & Tobago until a labor agreement was reached in the days before the game.
Under the CBA signed in 2011, U.S. players’ income from friendlies depends on the result of the game (win, tie or loss) and the quality of the opponent (FIFA top 10 plus Mexico, FIFA top 11 thru 25, or below No. 25 in the FIFA rankings). For any type of friendly loss, each player on the gameday roster receives $4,000 in this quadrennium and $5,000 in the next quadrennium.
Friendly ties against a team ranked in the FIFA top 10 and Mexico bring $6,500 per player, while any other tie brings $5,000.
Friendly wins herald compensation of $14,100 per player (for victories against the FIFA top 10 and Mexico) instead of the $4,000 for a loss; $10,000 (against FIFA No. 11 thru No. 25 teams); and $7,500 (against teams ranked below No. 25). With Azerbaijan, Turkey and Nigeria all ranked lower than No. 25 in the current FIFA rankings, players on the U.S. gameday roster for each of those games will receive $4,000 for a loss, $5,000 for a tie and $7,500 for a win.
Players who are in camp but don’t make the gameday roster earn $1,500 per friendly.
For how that might impact a player's year from a financial standpoint, here are the guaranteed annual club salaries in 2014 of the 15 MLS players on the U.S.’s 30-man pre-World Cup squad (again, per the MLS Players Union):
Clint Dempsey: $6,695,189
Michael Bradley: $6,500,000
Landon Donovan: $4,583,333
Omar González: $1,250,000
Chris Wondolowski: $650,000
Maurice Edu: $650,000
Graham Zusi: $398,250
Brad Davis: $392,062
Kyle Beckerman: $378,750
Clarence Goodson: $342,000
Michael Parkhurst: $300,000
Brad Evans: $293,666
Nick Rimando: $235,833
Matt Besler: $200,000
DeAndre Yedlin: $92,000