MLS Player Salaries And FIFA’s Club Protection Programme

32 countries will compete in Brazil this summer and following Mexico’s win over New Zealand on Tuesday we know definitively who 31 of those teams will be with the final slot to be filled by either Jordan or Uruguay today.  Despite all the attention around whether France could overcome  2 goal deficit at home or whether Brazil would be missing Zlatan or Ronaldo, the already qualified teams still had matches of their own to worry about.

Though international friendlies are much lower stakes than World Cup Qualifying playoff matches, Germany’s first friendly last Friday against Italy proved to have quite an impact.  During the game German and Real Madrid midfielder Sami Khedira tore his ACL and underwent surgery for the injury the very next day.  His recovery time is expected to be about 6 months which puts him at full recovery exactly at the start of the World Cup in Brazil.

The injury deals a massive blow to both Germany and Real Madrid as he could potentially be a doubt for Brazil and is most certainly set to miss the rest of the La Liga season in the Spanish capital.

A silver lining for Real Madrid despite losing a mainstay of their starting eleven is that during Khedira’s recovery, his base salary will likely be covered by FIFA in compliance with FIFA’s Club Protection Programme.  Under the Programme, FIFA ensures that “football players are covered during the release period whilst under the control of the respective member association for official international “A” matches.”

This means that any player who suffers an “accident” that causes Temporary Total Disablement (TTD) will have their wages covered by FIFA for the period of time that they are in recovery.  A caveat to this is that the compensation only begins after the 28th day of recovery.  Essentially, in order for FIFA to justifiably cover the wages of a player injured during their designated International Calendar fixture dates, the injury must be bad enough to require a recovery period of longer than a month (roughly).

Khedira’s injury will clearly last longer than a month and some talk has been about how much FIFA will have to compensate Real Madrid.  It is believed that Khedira is on 6 million euros a year, breaking down to 16,400 euros a day.  At NYSE close of business yesterday, the EUR/USD currency exchange rate sat at 1.3519, putting Khedira’s daily income at USD $22,171.

FIFA caps their compensation at 7,500,000 euros per player per accident and extends the coverage to 365 days.  This figure is established from a daily “pro rata” compensation rate of 20,548 euros.  Though Khedira’s wages are below this threshold, they are pretty close to the cap.  This got us here at Business of Soccer thinking, what would it require for the USMNT to push up on this compensation threshold.

Obviously we never want any player to be injured but the hypothetical provides the opportunity to observe wage differences in a unique way.  The USMNT utilizes players based both domestically and abroad.  With players like Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, and Jozy Altidore competing in high profile leagues it seems safe to say that it wouldn’t take many European based players to break FIFA’s coverage limit.

What about MLS though?

Using the latest MLS Player’s Union’s published data on salaries we were able to look up the salaries of every MLS based player used by Jurgen Klinsmann throughout the World Cup qualifying campaign.  With the understanding that FIFA’s 20,548 euro figure came from 1/365 of 7.5 million, it took simple division to break down each salary to a per diem payment rate, add them together and extend that across Sami Khedira’s covered 5 month recovery period to get a comparable compensation figure.

This is what we found.

The first bar is obviously Sami Khedira’s expected compensation should his recovery take 5 months beyond the initial 28 days.  The second bar shows MLS-based USMNT players who saw minutes in World Cup Qualifying while the third bar includes MLS-based players who were in the squad but remained un-used substitutes.

It’s completely fair to assume that a major German international and Real Madrid first XI regular would earn much more than even some top-tier MLS players but it is worth noting that the second bar is a combination of nine players while the third bar consists of fifteen players.

The list of players includes the likes of Omar Gonzalez, Eddie Johnson, Chris Wondolowski, Graham Zusi, Carlos Bocanegra and Kyle Beckerman but for the sake of comparison does not include Clint Dempsey or Landon Donovan. The following graph shows their individual and combined impacts on the totals.

Naturally, with Dempsey being the highest earner in MLS, and Donovan being in the top five, the two were bound to have a significant impact on the data.  It took both of them to break the compensation level set by Sami Khedira’s Injury.  What this means is that it would take every MLS based player including Dempsey and Donovan being injured to equal the amount of money FIFA is likely to pay Real Madrid for Sami Khedira.

While the USMNT competitive starting XI is primarily European based,  MLS players still do contribute and lets hope that none of them are significant injured, let alone in or around the World Cup.  Should an injury occur though, I’m sure FIFA will not have too many issues with the difference in pay once you cross the Atlantic.

Reporting on the business side of the world's game.