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From Rags to Riches

The player's union has just released the 2008 player salaries for Major League Soccer. The gulf between the "haves" and the "have nots" is simply startling. With a guaranteed salary of $6.5 million, David Beckham will earn 200 times the MLS senior player minimum of $33,000 per year and over 500 times the $12,900 "developmental player" contract minimum. In fact Beckham will command over 15% of the total player compensation pool for the league in 2008. The six highest paid players in the league (Beckham, Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Juan Pablo Angel, Marcelo Gallardo, Claudio Reyna, and Landon Donovan) account for over one-third of the total league's compensation.

By comparison, the NBA with its monster contracts comes nowhere close to this level of inequality. In his heyday, Kevin Garnett earned less than 1.7% of the total league's salary and this year, as the league's highest paid player, commands "only" 1.1% of the league's total salary pool. Add together KG, Shaq, Duncan, Kobe, and the 10 next highest paid NBA players, and they still don't add up to Beckham's 15% of league salaries. The salaries of 45 highest paid NBA stars are required to equal the same percentage as the "Big 6" in MLS.

Although Garnett still makes 50 times the NBA's minimum, in terms of income distribution, the NBA looks like Sweden while the MLS looks more like Brazil. Well, in general I would guess that MLS doesn't mind being compared to Brazil.