The MLS season is in full swing with 20 rounds of games being played at the time of writing. FC Cincinnati currently tops the Eastern Conference, seven points ahead of 2nd placed New England while the Western Conference is far tighter, with that same number separating the top and bottom seeds for the playoffs.
The recent announcement of Lionel Messi’s signing for Inter Miami has shaken up a few things in the league, however. As well as propelling Miami up in the betting odds, the GOAT’s arrival has changed the wage structure at the club and his unique contract will likely never be seen again. This shows the incredible impact Messi has, not only on the field but also off it, influencing the financial aspects of the game and setting new precedents.
Football betting odds show LAFC as the current favorites to lift the MLS Cup in December, with the team currently sitting in 2nd place level on points with top seeds St. Louis. These standings reflect not just current performance but also potential, as LAFC boasts a strong and well-balanced team, attracting a lot of attention from fans and critics alike.
Before we get into specifics, let’s start looking at the richest players in the MLS. Understanding their earning power can provide insight into the overall financial structure of the league, as well as the individual valuations of its star players.
1. Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi will be the highest-paid player in MLS history at Inter Miami and the Floridians and the MLS have gone out of their way to make this happen. To begin with, Messi’s spot on the roster will be exempt from MLS salary rules. He will also receive a revenue share from all new MLS Season Pass subscribers on Apple TV+ paid directly by Apple as well as a profit share with Adidas for any increases in profit Adidas generates from Messi being in MLS.
Along with his $900,000-per-week wage, Messi is looking at $1.6 billion upfront cash before bonuses during his time in the MLS. He also boasts endorsement deals with Pepsi, Mastercard, Gatorade, and more bringing his yearly earnings up to an incredible $130 million.
(Lionel Messi | House Tour | $7 Million Barcelona Mansion)
2. Xherdan Shaqiri
Swiss attacker Xherdan Shaqiri joined Chicago Fire from Lyon at the beginning of last season and was named a Designated Player. As well as the Chicago paying a club record $7.5 million to Lyon for the player, he also became their highest-earning player with a salary of $8.2 million. The former Liverpool man is also sponsored by Nike, bringing his yearly earnings up to over $10 million.
He has owned many luxury cars during his time as a footballer and most recently was seen posing with his newly purchased Volkswagen Edel Limousine. Now living in the Windy City after spending his previous years around Europe, the diminutive winger is said to be enjoying life in the States.
3. Lorenzo Insigne
From one diminutive winger to another, Italian star Lorenzo Insigne joined Toronto FC in 2022 after spending all of his previous years in Italy. He made over 300 appearances for Napoli as well as featuring in the Italy side that won the European Championship in 2021.
He earns a salary of $7.5 million in Toronto as a Designated Player and also has a sponsorship deal with Adidas which is believed to earn him between $750,000 and $1 million per year. Another player into his cars, Insigne has been seen with his Mercedes Benz AMG GT63 S as well as his Ferrari 458.
4. Javier Hernandez
‘Chicharito’ had one of the most high-profile transfers to the MLS of the last decade when he moved to LA Galaxy from Sevilla in 2020. The Mexican striker became the highest-paid player in the league upon his arrival and three years later is still up there with the highest earners on his $7.4 million salary.
As one of the biggest stars in the league, he has not struggled for endorsement deals either, striking partnerships with Herbalife, Bud Light, Pepsi, and Adidas among others. When he first moved to LA he purchased a $6 million farmhouse with six beds, seven baths, and 6,200 square feet of living space. He also splashed out on a Range Rover Truck and a $140,000 Corvette C6.
5. Federico Bernardeschi
Rounding out this list is another Italian import Federico Bernardeschi who linked up with his fellow countryman Insigne in Toronto in 2022. His move came as a shock to many, arriving from Juventus in the prime of his career, proving just how much the stature of the league had grown in the last few years. He has continued his Serie A form in the MLS, netting 11 goals in 32 games as of the time of writing.
Like Insigne, he is also a Designated Player setting the Canadian side back for $6.3 million per year. His wealth is improved by his deal with Nike. He has spoken of his love of the city of Toronto, telling reporters how he feels like he has lived in the city for years. He has been photographed driving a classy Porsche Macan among others and the winger has admitted to his love of cars.
Federico Bernardeschi has been offered to Napoli but his salary demands seem to be too high.[@NicoSchira] #juvelive
— Forza Juventus (@ForzaJuveEN) May 29, 2022
The arrival of Lionel Messi in Major League Soccer has not only shaken up the league but also set new precedents in terms of player wages and endorsements. While Messi dominates the earnings chart with his record-breaking contract, other players like Xherdan Shaqiri, Lorenzo Insigne, Javier Hernandez, and Federico Bernardeschi have also made lucrative moves to MLS.
These players not only bring their skills to the field but also attract sponsorships and enjoy the lifestyle that comes with their wealth. The financial structure of the league and the individual valuations of star players are evident through their earning power and endorsement deals.