How Do Football Salaries Stack Up Against American Athletes?

It should come as no surprise that some of the highest-paid athletes in the world are football players. Not only do the top performers around the world elevate their clubs to higher levels of play and more revenue, but they also have global followings that allow sponsors to pump in endless amounts of money. In sports, you essentially get what you’re worth, especially when it’s a sport without a salary cap like football.

What about a country where a different type of ‘football’ is considered the top sport, though? The United States is home to the top leagues in several major sports, but how do those league salaries compare to some of the top-paid football stars? Let’s take a look at those leagues and how much the athletes are making.

National Football League

The National Football League is the king of all sports in the United States, and each offseason brings a slew of new contracts where players are given tens of millions per year to join new teams. This is especially true at the quarterback position where they are far and away the highest-paid players on the roster. These players are the only ones who can compare, really, to the top-paid international football players.

Just after his Super Bowl-winning season with the Los Angeles Rams, quarterback Matthew Stafford earned $61.5 million in cash. This would still put him behind the likes of Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe, and Cristiano Ronaldo in yearly salary. If you were to compare the average salary in the NFL to the English Premier League, though, it’s quite close with both around $3 million per year.

National Basketball Association

The National Basketball Association is set up in almost the same way as the NFL in terms of how much the top players are making. However, there are a lot more players in the NBA who are in that upper echelon of salary compared to the NFL. Players like Devin Booker, Nikola Jokic, and Karl-Anthony Towns all average well over $55 million per year, which would make them among the highest-paid soccer players.

The NBA also offers a lot of opportunities for sponsorship deals. Unlike American football, the players’ faces are prominently displayed, allowing people to recognize their favorite athletes away from the court. Because of this, some of the richest athletes in American history have come from the NBA like LeBron James and Michael Jordan.

Major League Baseball

There was a time when Major League Baseball players were the highest-paid athletes in the United States, and some of them are still in that upper level of athlete salaries. However, the highest-paid players aren’t quite matching the levels of the NFL or NBA anymore despite playing at least 162 games per year. Anything above $40 million per year is considered other-worldly in baseball.

To make this kind of money, you also have to have been in the MLB for several years. Even after amazing rookie seasons, baseball teams tend to be very stingy with salaries. You typically don’t see someone making top dollar until they’re in their late 20s at the earliest, with some of the biggest contracts given to those in their mid-30s.

National Hockey League

While the other three major sports leagues in the United States have athletes making tens of millions, the National Hockey League operates with a much smaller salary cap. Because of this, even generational players like Connor McDavid are only paid a fraction of some of the above-average players in baseball.

Only a handful of NHL players are making over $10 million per year, though the NHL is hoping that changes as the sport becomes more popular. For now, though, the NHL is far down on the totem pole of American sports, but at least the minimum salary for players is comparable to the other major sports. This has helped drive interest in younger athletes.

Major League Soccer

The United States wanted a professional football league that could hopefully compete with the likes of the English Premier League or German Bundesliga. Because of this, Major League Soccer was created in the 1990s but hasn’t been quite the hit that some were hoping for. The result has been much lower salaries than the other sports leagues.

While there are many players in the NHL who are paid around or above $10 million, it’s a very rare occurrence for that to happen in the MLS. Typically, the top players in the league can expect to make around $5 million per year, and the average MLS player salary is under $400,000. This makes it 10 times more lucrative to play in the English Premier League on average.

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