Soccer and basketball have large legions of dedicated fans. The National Basketball Association (NBA) and the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) feature players with lots of drawing power.
However, many factors affect player salaries; factors such as team size, the number of endorsements, and an interest in both a team and individual players.
Soccer and basketball are challenging sports, but do soccer players get paid more than basketball players?
Basketball players get paid more on average than soccer players. This is due to the smaller size of a basketball team that allows more focus on individual players. Endorsement deals and management costs are also more plentiful for a small basketball team over a larger soccer team.
Soccer is a more popular sport across the globe, whereas basketball is more for an American audience. This global reach makes soccer a high-paid sport as well.
Read on to find out why basketball players are paid more than soccer players in the United States and how player salaries are commensurate based on performance.
To see how a soccer player’s pay compares to football players, check out my article – Are soccer players paid more than football players?
How Much Money Soccer Players Make per Year
Major League Soccer (MLS) consists of men’s professional teams under the United States Soccer Federation (USSF).
An average MLS team comprises of a minimum of 11 players and scales upward to 20 or players or more total. MLS pays its players through an annual team salary-cap model, which is divided into three subsets.
The annual team salary is a number that is guaranteed to be divided amongst team players. Furthermore, designated player wages are scaled based on superior performance on top of the team salary cap.
An annual salary cap for MLS sets it apart from other major sports like the NBA because it can hinder some player’s spirit and passion from exceeding expectations.
Each team is given an annual budget for salaries set at $4.9 million in 2020. The earnings for a 20-30 player team are divided into a senior roster, supplemental roster, and a designated player roster.
Let’s take a look at each MLS salary subset:
- Senior Roster. An MLS team’s senior roster includes negotiated salaries for at least 18 of 20 players on an MLS team. No one player on the senior roster can earn over $612,500 out of the annual salary cap.
- Supplemental Roster. Each MLS team will have an additional supplemental roster that expands the team to 30 overall slots. Players in the supplemental roster are collectively known as Homegrown Players and Generation Adidas Players. They must be paid a minimum of $63,547 up to $125,000 per year.
- Designated Players. The highest-earning soccer players in MLS are contained in the designated player’s category. These soccer players are typically pulled from other international leagues and offered lucrative contracts and transfer fees. Players in this category must earn the max of $612,500 per year but are generally major soccer stars and earn much more.
Essentially, a U.S. soccer player can earn a set amount each year if the player is adequate on a performance scale. Or they can potentially make millions of dollars if they are recruited based on world-renowned athletic prowess.
To find out even more about the salary cap in soccer, check out this article I recently wrote.
This style of an annual salary cap reflects soccer’s mid-tier popularity when it comes to U.S. sports.
On the other hand, the NBA attracts many more viewers and ticket sales, raising an NBA player’s market value.
How Much Money Do Basketball Players Make per Year?
Like the MLS, there is also a salary cap model in place with the NBA.
However, there is so much more leeway for bankable players due to the smaller team sizes.
A standard NBA team will consist of between 5 to 11 total players. This makes the competition factor high for players to succeed at their finest to make it into the association.
A significant factor in determining an NBA player’s salary is their experience.
Another factor is the experience that players bring that contributes to a considerable market appeal.
Ticket sales, game viewership, and lucrative product endorsements are signature hallmarks of the NBA. The better the basketball player, the larger their overall salary.
With high-profile American sports, there is always criticism that athletes are overpaid for only adequate performance.
However, the NBA presents the best of the best each season and includes lucrative salaries to encourage each player’s stellar performance.
Players in the NBA receive a salary cap for each season based on overall performance output in the previous season.
When you factor in the small size of NBA teams, each player’s salary can dip into the millions of dollars range.
This is because basketball players are paid a minimum salary based on years of experience and at least 25% of the total yearly salary cap.
But some NBA players can become sports celebrities in their own right. When you factor in lucrative media and retail endorsements, NBA players represent some of the highest-paid employees in the U.S.
Discover if basketball is harder than soccer in my article – Does soccer take more skill than basketball?
Why Basketball Players Are Paid More Than Soccer Players
One major reason that MLS is not as popular as the NBA or even international soccer leagues is the annual salary cap protocol with strict limits on salary raises.
This prohibits American soccer players from reaching the overall wealth seen with NBA players.
Furthermore, the NBA plays many more games per season when compared to the output of the MLS.
Since the NBA has very few players per team, 11 at most compared to 20-30 in the MLS, there is much more money to go around between the small pool of players.
Additionally, NBA players are the pinnacle of basketball players globally with little to no competition.
American soccer is a small part of the global soccer world -but the NBA reigns supreme in basketball.
Take a look at this video that offers further examples about why NBA players are paid more than other athletes:
All this means that NBA players have a vast international fanbase. The more fans you have, the more you can cash-in on being a marquee sports star.
Smaller teams with huge ticket revenues and a dedicated fanbase consistently elevate the NBA over the MLS for salaries.
This is also why you can easily recognize NBA players’ names, such as LeBron James or Michael Jordan.
Yet MLS players have a smaller and concise fanbase that doesn’t necessarily translate to superstardom both in the United States and globally.
This isn’t to say that soccer as a whole is less lucrative than basketball.
International soccer plays many more games per season than American basketball, with much larger stadium seating revenue.
There are big-name international soccer players, just like NBA players. Players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Neymar Jr.
Much of their pay is based on filling large stadiums more times per year than a standard basketball season allows.
But even those variables cannot compete with the NBA’s winning strategy.
American football and rugby are similar, and you can find national soccer teams worldwide, but there is only one NBA.
American basketball is unique on the world stage, giving its players a steady amount of exposure.
Basketball players make more money each year than soccer players. This is due to smaller team size, higher game attendance, viewership data, and endorsements in the media sector.
However, on a global scale, soccer players can make more than basketball players since soccer is a major sporting event globally.
Both sports are lucrative enterprises in the American sports market. Still, not many sports enthusiasts will cite soccer as one of the nation’s most popular sports.
On a similar subject, if you’ve ever wondered about how much college soccer players are paid, check out my article – Do College Soccer Players get Paid? – for all the answers you’re looking for.
To find out which is the harder sport to play, check out my article – Is soccer harder than basketball? Here are the facts.
For more great information about soccer check out one of my following articles:
- Why is a soccer ball black and white?
- Can you use your arms in soccer?
- Will a soccer ball POP on a plane?
- National Basketball Association (NBA)
- United States Soccer Federation (USSF)
- East Tennessee University: The Effects of Players’ Salary Level and a Salary Cap on the Revenue of Professional Soccer Teams in the United States and England
- Mlssoccer: 2020 MLS Roster Composition
- The Sport Journal: NBA Players’ Pay and Performance: What Counts?
- The Journal of Labor and Society: OVERPAID ATHLETES? COMPARING AMERICAN AND EUROPEAN FOOTBALL
- CNBC: Here’s why NBA players make more money than MLB and NFL athletes — both on and off the court