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What Player Has Earned the Most from Sporting KC in His Career?

Not in one year, but cumulatively.

MLS: Houston Dynamo at Sporting Kansas City
“Hint: that player is in this huge group... probably.”
William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

In the last few days with the very slow news times and complete lack of sports (outside of the NFL Draft) I’ve taken a deep dive into the salaries of every player over the last 10 years. In addition, that got me to thinking about who made more in their 11 (entering their 12th) seasons with Sporting Kansas City between Matt Besler and Graham Zusi.

My mind couldn’t stop from heading further down that rabbit hole and wondering if Besler and Zusi had made the most money of any player in Kansas City history. They have such longevity and their salaries jumped so significantly after the 2014 World Cup, it seemed possible. There was one player who I thought might beat them, but to keep some suspense, I’ll wait to reveal that. First, those who didn’t.

A quick caveat. This only includes available salary data, which runs through 2019. So players like Alan Pulido, who may beat it in a single year, aren’t on the list because we don’t know what he makes.

Felipe Gutierrez

One player, even though he’s only played two seasons so far, who seemed like he could make the list was Gutierrez. The reason is he’s been the highest paid player on the team for both of his seasons. He and Johnny Russell joined at the same time but Russell has made less, so no need to add up his salaries.

Not only does Guti make more than anyone, when he joined his salary was nearly double the previous high ($850,000 for Roger Espinoza in 2017). But alas, his two-year total is only $3,299,999.92. Both years he made the same wage, so assuming that’s true in 2020, he’ll jump to $4,949,999.88. It won’t be enough for first because the players he’s chasing still play for the team too. Spoiler alert. Plus, who knows what Pulido makes.

Let’s look at some more wrong answers.

Benny Feilhaber

Benny was the team’s highest paid player back in 2013 when the team won MLS Cup. On top of that, he has some longevity having played six seasons with Sporting KC. In the end, it wasn’t enough and it wasn’t really close as his peak salary was just $600,000 in 2017 and he lost that year away in LAFC in 2018.

Krisztian Nemeth

Both Nemeth and Andreu Fontas have spent the last two season north of $1 million in salary. But Nemeth was also here in 2015 so I figured that was worth looking up. Well, I had quickly forgotten what a bargain he was then making just $250,000. He came up just short of catching Benny, despite only spending part of three seasons here. If he had never gone to Qatar it would be interesting to see the raise he got back in 2016 that he turned down to leave.

His “three year” numbers are a little misleading as it was reported that the New England Revolution footed most of the bill in 2018, but I digress.

Besler and Zusi

The perfect picks of the 2009 MLS SuperDraft are the second and third highest earners on the team, as outlined previously. With Zusi under contract for 2020-21 he could actually become the highest paid player overall if the current winner were to leave after the year, though with Gutierrez’s high wage and the unknown Pulido salary, that’s probably unlikely.

But the winner is...

Roger Espinoza

Going through this question in my mind, I thought Roger would have a chance to come out on top. He has nearly as much longevity as Besler and Zusi having played 10 seasons after being drafted in the 2008 MLS SuperDraft (and he’s entering his 11th). If not for missing the 2013 and 2014 seasons away with Wigan Athletic, he’d be the runaway winner. As it stands he’s just $136,374.82 ahead of Zusi. That’s just slightly more than their differences in pay in 2019.

Below is a handy table to show the final rankings.

Highest Cumulative Earner for SKC

Year Espinoza Besler Zusi F. Gutierrez Feilhaber Nemeth
Year Espinoza Besler Zusi F. Gutierrez Feilhaber Nemeth
2008 $78,750.00 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
2009 $103,750.00 $47,250.00 $34,008.00 N/A N/A N/A
2010 $108,750.00 $61,850.00 $40,000.00 N/A N/A N/A
2011 $133,750.00 $69,660.00 $42,000.00 N/A N/A N/A
2012 $158,750.00 $103,001.00 $138,812.50 N/A N/A N/A
2013 N/A $180,000.00 $173,812.50 N/A $312,187.50 N/A
2014 N/A $200,000.00 $398,250.00 N/A $337,187.50 N/A
2015 $750,000.00 $683,250.00 $682,102.00 N/A $362,187.00 $250,000.00
2016 $800,000.00 $733,250.00 $732,102.27 N/A $412,500.00 N/A
2017 $850,000.00 $758,250.00 $757,102.27 N/A $600,000.00 N/A
2018 $900,000.00 $783,250.00 $782,102.27 $1,649,999.96 N/A $1,007,666.67
2019 $800,000.04 $674,997.64 $688,333.41 $1,649,999.96 $463,400.00 $1,063,666.71
TOTAL $4,605,000.04 $4,294,758.64 $4,468,625.22 $3,299,999.92 $2,487,462.00 $2,321,333.38

As mentioned before, I left Russell out because it was clear he wouldn’t win, but he actually has earned more than Feilhaber and Nemeth in his two years with the club. Odd fact, assuming Andreu Fontas isn’t cut this year, he’ll fall in-line just behind Russell as 5th (again, not including the unknown Pulido deal) as he’ll be north of $3 million for three years “work.”

What other numbers would you like us to look at? Let us know in the comments.