Caribbean football players in Major League Soccer (MLS) are paid significantly less than their counterparts from other regions, despite the fact that many have been integral to their teams’ success. This, according to a report Wednesday in the Trinidad Guardian that said that no Caribbean player will be among the best paid in the league this season.
In what has been an ongoing issue for some time, the Guardian reported, MLS clubs often point to the relative lack of experience among their Caribbean players, who are also believed to be hindered by the belief that they have no reputation of excelling outside the MLS.
“I think when it comes to the Caribbean player it is all about market value perception,” said Damani Ralph, a Jamaican-born agent and former MLS player. “People will only offer you what you will accept. We have a right to say no to an offer, but if we say no, where else do we go? That is the problem for the Caribbean player.”
According to the Guardian report, England-born Jamaica international Simon Dawkins, a designated player with San Jose Earthquakes, is the highest paid Caribbean national in MLS. His guaranteed compensation for 2017 is $800,000. Dawkins is followed by Orlando City SC’s Giles Barnes, another England-born member of the Reggae Boyz, who is assured $781,250 this season.
Trinidad and Tobago’s Kenwyne Jones, who plays for Atlanta United FC, is guaranteed $413,333.33, while his compatriot Kevin Molino of Minnesota United FC is due $402,504. Rounding out the Caribbean’s top five is Jamaica’s Darren Mattocks of Portland Timbers. He will earn at least $316,666.67 this season. Other well known Caribbean stars in the MLS such as former St.Kitts-Nevis Sugar Bouz Captain Atiba Harris are guaranteed less than $250,000 per season despite being one of the most recognisable faces in the league.
“Look in every one of the MLS teams where there is, and I’m being specific, a Jamaican player, three quarters of us that’s in a MLS team are starting in our team, and, you know, that alone says a lot about it,” said Jamaica international Kemar Lawrence of the New York Red Bulls.
“So they respect us, but I don’t think the respect is where it needs to be same way. It has to do with salary. Because look at the way they pay any European player that is coming in.”
The numbers support Lawrence’s claim. Toronto FC’s Sebastian Giovinco of Italy is guaranteed US $7,115,555.67 this season and the highest paid MLS player is Brazilian Kaka of Orlando City, who is guaranteed $7,167,500 this season.
Ralph believes the environment has to change before Caribbean players can begin to benefit.
“Once we can find a market to give the players an opportunity (things will improve),” he said.
Meantime, the players will have to continue to endure until those opportunities become reality but it doesn’t make it easier for them to deal with.
“It is what it is,” said Lawrence. “If it continues to change then maybe over time we can continue to be that big input that sparks the big changes. The league overall can do a lot better in the way, financially, they pay the players coming from the Caribbean. Because I think like if we compare what we get to some players that not even getting on the field sometimes, it’s a big joke.”