If you can’t win trophies, you can always make good money trying to do so. Major League Soccer has long attracted superstars from the Americas and beyond for its wealthy bank balances and the lucrative contracts it can offer to players. While MLS wonderkids might be the future earners, we take a look at those who are bringing in the top dollar right now as the highest paid MLS players 2023.

Highest paid MLS players 2023

All figures courtesy of Spotrac — correct in GBP as of 9th February 2023.

10 – Lucas Zelarayan, Columbus Crew

An Argentine-born Armenian international, Lucas Zelarayan might not be one of the biggest household names.

However, he is on one of the biggest MLS salaries right now. The attacking midfielder was one of the most exciting aspects of the entire Columbus Crew franchise in 2022 which justifies his £3,224,000 per annum contract.

While 2023 should be another exciting campaign at Lower.com Field, there is statistically less value in Zelarayan’s contract for the franchise as Columbus will not play in the CONCACAF Champions League this year, giving him less chance to prove his worth.

 
 
 
 

9 – Luiz Araujo, Atlanta United

After doing the impossible in France, dislodging Paris Saint-Germain from their perch with Lille, Luiz Araujo headed a bit closer to his native Brazil to make some good money with Atlanta United. A crisp £3,432,000 per calendar year does more than keep the lights on for sure.

While he won’t be pleased with his defensive teammates, he started the 2023 preseason well, bagging a brace in the 3-3 draw with Chattanooga FC. Yet again, delivering on his worth and validating his salary.

8 – Carlos Vela, LAFC

Nobody can argue that Carlos Vela doesn’t deserve to be one of the highest-paid MLS players in 2023. His contribution to not only Los Angeles FC but the league as a whole, merits good money.

The former Mexico international forward has picked up multiple individual awards. Of which that includes the MVP award, Golden Boot, and Best MLS Player ESPY Award. The latter of which being won by legends of the game like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, David Villa, and David Beckham.

Is it therefore any wonder that the consistent goal threat for the reigning champions picks up a cheque for £3,640,000 every year?

Given his plaudits and ability for the club, he could arguably ask for a pay rise, especially considering the numbers that Toronto FC is pumping out. If he ever finds himself down to his last few coppers (unlikely) he could easily merit a bigger contract based on his achievements in Major League Soccer.

7 – Christian Benteke, D.C. United

While not one of the new MLS players this season, Benteke will try to justify his contract salary with a fresh start in 2023. The former Liverpool, Aston Villa, and Crystal Palace striker is reported to be making £3,744,000 every year.

D.C. United accounting department might need to address this contract quickly. That’s because the 45-time capped Belgian international hasn’t offered much value since joining in August 2022. In seven MLS appearances, he scored only once, in a 3-2 defeat to Inter Miami.

6 – Facundo Torres, Orlando City

Facundo Torres might have been linked with Arsenal in the winter transfer window – yet hasn’t commented on the speculation. Moreover, he seems to be more interested in watching his boyhood club, Penarol, in Uruguay, commenting he tries to visit the ground as often as his commitments to Orlando SC allow.

His £5,200,000 per season comes in handy with airfare for sure but for the most part, doesn’t seem to be motivated by money. Whether or not Arsenal matched his salary, there’s talk of him wanting to elevate Orlando to the top of Major League Soccer with the supporters believing he has the capability to win the MVP award.

5- Héctor Herrera, Houston Dynamo

Houston Dynamo isn’t typically known for splashing the cash or offering lucrative contracts to foreign players. Brad Davis, Geoff Cameron, and Ricardo Clark are among some of the biggest names in the club’s history and were all American.

The 32-year-old Mexican international midfielder Hector Herrera bucks that trend somewhat on a deal worth £4,628,000 per year. The deal was later extended to the end of the 2024 season, despite him not having the most successful start to his MLS career.

After joining in the summer of 2022, he played just 10 matches. These resulted in him scoring zero goals and setting up a solitary goal. He was, however, handed the captain’s armband, showing that the franchise believes he will prove his worth in time.

4 – Chicharito, LA Galaxy

At one time, Javier Hernandez ruled all the biggest MLS salaries rankings. £5,200,000 per season is not small change by any means, but the LA Galaxy striker isn’t in the top three earners anymore as other clubs have invested further.

The former Manchester United icon has been a consistent performer at Dignity Health Sports Park, having scored 15+ goals in the last two seasons. That said, it has failed to bring any silverware to the club.

While not his fault entirely, this salary isn’t particularly good value for the club as he’s not played any postseason football in the last two campaigns. If the Mexican is to keep this kind of money coming in, he needs to galvanize the team and give them a playoff run at the very least in 2023.

3 – Federico Bernardeschi, Toronto FC

The Italian job in Toronto might not be quite the heist as the 1969 motion picture by the same name, yet, Federico Bernardeschi may be holding the Toronto FC to ransom if silverware doesn’t materialize soon at BMO Field.

His £5,460,000 annual fee per year might be dwarfed by Insigne’s income, yet the former Juventus man will be expected to be an integral cog in Bob Bradley’s system.

2 – Xherdan Shaqiri, Chicago Fire

Former Premier League players typically tend to be some of the highest-paid MLS players in 2023. On a crisp £7,072,000 every year, Xherdan Shaqiri once turned out for Liverpool, Bayern Munich, and Inter Milan. In fact, he’s still a major part of the Swiss national team, and featured in the World Cup last year.

While he offered the same kind of quality he’s exhibited throughout his career, his teammates at Chicago Fire were simply not on his level in 2022. Whether the club needs to invest more into raising the club or whether Shaqiri’s influence will take shape in 2023, it seems like a very expensive luxury to have him on a team that didn’t make the playoffs.

1 – Lorenzo Insigne, Toronto FC

Unsurprisingly, the Serie A superstar and Napoli legend now residing in Toronto sits at the top of the highest-paid MLS players 2023 list. £12,168,000 might seem like a lot of money, well actually, no, it is objectively a lot. It’s almost the same as entries two and three in this list put together.

His pay packet is almost certainly buoyed by the fact that his ability did not decline in Serie A. Furthermore,  he’s still only 31 years old. That’s not even accounting for the mass amount of media attention and coverage an Italian full international brings to the club. As he’s by far the Major League Soccer top earner, the Toronto FC board will be building the future around him – and will expect success sooner rather than later for the money they are spending.

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