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Professional soccer players, or footballers as they are known outside of the United States, can earn millions of dollars a year, although the majority will not make this much. Some national league bodies, such as the MLS, set salary regulations that dictate how much clubs can pay players. Other countries do not have these limits. Soccer earnings are typically not just based on salaries, but can also include bonuses, sponsorships, image rights, endorsements and, in some cases, a cut of club profits.
Average Salaries in the MLS
The average annual salary for soccer players in the MLS for the 2013 season is $148,693.26. This average varies by player position. Goalkeepers earn an average of $85,296.48; defenders $109,119.61; midfielders $129,573.88; and forwards $251,805.21. League regulations, such as the designated player rule, affect overall averages. Designated players can make more than salary caps, making their salaries much higher than other players in the team. For example, the highest paid player in the MLS, Clint Dempsey, earns $4,913,004 per year, but the lowest salary in the league earns $31,125.
Average Salaries in the NWSL
The National Women’s Soccer League manages women's professional soccer in the U.S. This league only started in 2013 and, as yet, does not have average salary figures. Women's soccer in the United States follows the worldwide trend in terms of earnings -- female players do not typically have the earning capacity of male players. Salaries in the NWSL range from $6,000 to $30,000 per year.
Average Soccer Salaries Outside the U.S.
Soccer is a much bigger sport in other countries around the world, and players in foreign leagues have the potential to make a lot more money. For example, the average annual salary for top English Premier League players in 2012 was the equivalent of around $2,509,572 per year, although players in lower leagues earn far less. Individual salary rules set by clubs also affect league averages -- some pay far more than others. For example, players at Manchester City earned an average salary of $7,403,754 in the 2011/2012 season, and players at West Bromwich Albion made an average of $1,650,305 per year.
Bonuses, Endorsements and Sponsorship
Professional soccer players don't just make a basic salary, and many earn extra through bonuses, sponsorship deals and endorsements. The amount that players can make is typically dependent on how good or well-known they are, and world-class players may make more money from these deals than they earn in salary. For example, David Beckham's salary when he played for Los Angeles Galaxy was $6,500,000 per year. According to a report in Forbes, his total earnings from his five years in the MLS came to $255 million.