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From $250 per match to $20 million for the World Cup, what a difference 17 years has made for the USMNT

SI Cover
SI Cover

Did you know that in 1993 the US beat England in the US Open Cup in Foxboro Stadium?  Did you know that 2 US goals came from Thomas Dooley and Alexi Lalas?  Did you know that Alexi was paid a whopping $250 bucks for his role as a sub in that match?  

Should the US beat England again, and go on to win the 2010 World Cup, the 23 man roster will split a $20,000,000 players purse from US Soccer, that is about $895,000 per player.  The funny part is that I have no issue with that payday what-so-ever, I think it is fair.  The amount is larger than any other nation is offering it's team but then again US Soccer is a money making machine and has been since hosting the World Cup in 1994.  I will offer some details on how the pay scale for the US is designed later in this post.

The changes in the soccer landscape have been drastic over the last 17 years, one only has to look at the coverage of the World Cup in the US ( did a huge special on it, the USMNT are again on the cover of SI's World Cup Preview issue, I have seen at least 3 different types of World Cup Special editions or guides from various publishers.  SB Nation even has dedicated numerous resources in addition to their normal soccer bloggers for the event, and of course US Soccer's coverage is better than ever before. There are more places hosting World Cup viewing parties, there are more places to buy World Cup related stuff, and of course Nike's "Write the Future" ad has been a huge hit, the 3 minute plus full version has over 13 million views on youtube.  

more after the jump:

Of course if you ask a soccer fan in the US, they will tell you that the sport is incredibility popular, there are still the realities of that fact that the numbers seem small, in 2006 just 9% of men and 3% of women followed the World Cup closely ccording to Rasmussen, but now:

Just 19% of Americans say they have been following news stories on the World Cup at least somewhat closely.  Rasmussen

But think about that for a second, that is one out of 5 people, that represents 58 million people, or almost the entire population of the UK, more than the population of Spain, Canada, or South Africa.  This is great for the future of the sport in the US, but it is a shame that most of these people will pay little attention to MLS or WPS for that matter.  A great article on this is available at

Perhaps no change has made a bigger difference than Major League Soccer, that team in 1993 didn't have the advantage of MLS, in fact several players weren't even employed as soccer players at the time of that tournament. Now if you look at the USMNT roster, the majority don't play in MLS at this time, but a majority of them have at sometime played in the league.  With new teams joining the league, a new pay scale for players, and the overall growth of the sport, times should only get better.

So while the paydays have changed, let's hope the result doesn't and that the US can once again upset England 2-0, this time if they do the payout will be more than just the pride and honor that would go with such a victory, this time there will be some actually financial rewards for the players, here are the details of the US World Cup payout:

If the USA don't gain a single point, each player will still pick up $78,447 (£54,102) in agreed bonus money from the US Soccer Federation. This will come from a pot of $1.5m set aside by US Soccer for qualifying for the finals, plus an appearance fee of $4,410 per man per game in South Africa, regardless of whether they actually play.

Collectively the squad will receive an extra $180,000 per point won in the group stage, to a maximum of $1.6m for nine points for games against England, Slovenia and Algeria. Qualifying from the group will trigger an extra squad payment of $2.85m.

Reaching the quarter-finals will earn $3.4m more.

Reaching the semi-finals will be worth another $2.7m.  

Winning the semi-final then losing the final will be worth another $6.9m, while winning the semi-final and final will earn the squad pot another $7.8m.  A pot of appearance money set aside by US Soccer is worth a maximum of $710,010, or $4,410 per man for up to seven games. That makes the total potential bonus pot $20.6m, or $895,131 per man.


For many players, this type of potential payout is life changing. Think about Stuart Holden, who last year in MLS made $34,000, or RSL's Robbie Findley who made $72,000 last year and has been offered a huge pay increase as part of a new contract by his team, but his agent is also shopping him around European leagues.  So the payday could be two fold for many players who could not only earn a nice check for doing well in the World Cup, but could easily see their overall earning potential go up.  I believe that as youth players begin to understand that there is money to be made as a professional soccer player, that more will stay dedicated to the sport and give the pro game both here and abroad a chance.

Anyhow, I thought it would be fun to share some of the details about how much the last 17 years have made in the lives of soccer players who wear the colors of the USMNT.