[I wrote this in April 2012, but never cleaned it up and posted it. Here it is, finally, back-posted.]
My friend Arian and I were conversing over Google Talk about footballer (read: soccer player) salaries, and found a source for the 2011 salaries and positions of each player in the US soccer league, MLS. I loaded this data into Pandas, and as we chatted, we poked around and had some fun with the data.
Some of this might be interesting to others as well, so I cleaned it all up a little to post here on my blog. Some of the highlights are directly pasted below, and I’ve also included the PDF and other files below, in case anyone is interested in poking around some more.
- We were using my iPython notebook server to share and discuss “live”.
- Analysis / visualization with Python: matplotlib and pandas.
A quick look at salaries of soccer player in the US Major League Soccer 2011.
Our source data consisted of 525 MLS players. The above plot shows the distribution of these players across field positions. Also plotted there is the average salary for each field position. Forward / attacking players apparently earn the most money, however that observation may be skewed by a small number of high-profile forwards that earn huge amounts of money.
|Club||Last Name||First Name||Position||Base Salary||Compensation|
This table shows the top 5 paid players in MLS 2011. They are not all forwards. Out of the top 20 compensated players, there are 9 forwards, 9 mid-fielders, 1 defender and 1 keeper.
These players clearly earn huge compensation, but this is not typical of MLS players. Half of the players earn a salary less than $80,000 (and the mode of the distribution is $42k). The log-scale boxplot below helps us visualize this distribution of wealth.
With Occupy Wall Street in full swing at the time of our conversation, it was natural to draw a connection between the distribution of wealth in MLS and “the 99%”. We determined that the top-earning MLS player makes as much money ($6,500,000) as the bottom-earning 166 players combined!
After a few iterations of Arian and I asking: “How many bottom-earning players does it take to earn as much as N top-earning players?”, we created this plot of “as much as”:
(Also interesting: the top 0.09% of players make 50% of the total MLS Compensation, $42,539,737.)
Not all clubs pay the same to their players. The following a plot of Average Salary, by MLS Club team. LA Galaxy and the NY Red Bulls pay the highest average salaries, with Toronto’s football club as a distant third.
There’s more to explore with the existing data set, but I would be interested in comparing MLS salaries with other soccer leagues, such as the English Premier League. The change in footballers’ salaries over time would be great to see, too, especially if one could see how this change over time compares to other sport’s salaries. Are MLS players making any progress at all towards catching up to NBA or NFL salaries? If anyone knows where to get more useful data along these lines, or if this analysis already exists, please do let me know.
- MLS_Salaries [PDF]
- MLS_Salaries [ZIP with PDF, IPYNB, and data in CSV]
- Data source: http://www.mlsplayers.org/salary_info.html