Chance Myers is an interesting case study in modern MLS economics.
The Kansas City Star
He is an out-of-contract established league veteran. A former MLS SuperDraft overall No. 1 draft pick who took a few years to flourish. He's been part of the league's best defense the last two years in a row and, for good measure, just started in and helped Sporting KC win an MLS Cup last year.
His stock has probably never been higher.
However, he has two holes on his resume: He's never been an MLS All-Star and he's only a fringe U.S. national team player. (Myers was part of the January camp, but was released from camp late last week.)
There's another thing working against him that he can't really control: He's a very a good player with a few years experience in a league with a hard salary cap that often makes it hard to pay market value for very good players with a few years experience.*
*In recent years, it's happened with guys like Roger Espinoza, Andy Najar, Dane Richards, Sasha Kljestan, Brek Shea, Geoff Cameron and Kei Kamara. Some of those guys were bound to leave and test the waters, some might have stayed if the money was here.
Sporting Kansas City's Peter Vermes said last week that an offer had been made and it was up to Myers whether he wants to return. Which likely means the two sides are apart on money. Which happens a lot in all sorts of negotiations.
With several big name American players returning to North America's top soccer league the last few months, it would be a shame for the league to lose a player simply because he was a very good player, but not a great one.
Unlike his SKC teammates Graham Zusi and Matt Besler (both former MLS All-Stars with several U.S. caps under their belts), Myers is probably not a candidate for the league's retention fund, designed to retain MLS-based players with big future fees or national team prospects on the horizon. And, since he's a domestically-based fringe national team player (and not a returning foreign-based fringe national teamer like Michael Parkhurst or Maurice Edu*), he doesn't have the reputation to command a big salary.
*It's too bad, for his sake, that he didn't bolt for Europe when he was younger and then head back home when his playing time had dried up. He'd have gotten the European pay bump for sure.
Basically, Myers is firmly in the (upper) middle class of American-born MLS players. The kind of player that the league desperately needs to keep in the league to keep growing in quality, but also the kind of player that might require a little bit more money than the salary cap allows. Which, usually, is where Europe gets involved. And, since he's out of contract, he could do so on a free transfer (much like Espinoza last year).
Myers has reportedly managed to pick up a few suitors across the Atlantic (mainly Germany and Scandinavia) and domestically (although the number of teams in need of a stellar right back is growing smaller and smaller.)
According to ESPN's Jeffrey Carlisle, the Vancouver Whitecaps made an inquiry, but Myers wanted more money. Which leads to an interesting question: Just how much money is a good right back worth in MLS?
Major League Soccer and nearly every franchise keep a tight lid on contract details. We don't usually know the exact terms of many of the deals only the numbers released after the fact by the players' union. Without those numbers, it's hard to really get a solid handle on something like current market value. Instead we have have to focus on the numbers we do have.
Below are the Top 11 right backs in Major League Soccer (who played at least 20 games at the position) based on their average rating from WhoScored.com during the 2013 regular season and playoffs. I've ranked them from highest to lowest 2013 base salary (2013 team in parenthesis). This will make it easier to compare Myers to many of his peers (in terms of age and on-field performance).
• Sean Franklin, 28 (Los Angeles), $225,000
• Marvell Wynne, 27 (Colorado), $200,000
• Jack Jewsbury, 32 (Portland), $185,000
• Tony Beltran, 26 (Salt Lake), $166,800
• Hassoun Camara, 27 (Montreal), $115,000
• Chance Myers, 26 (Kansas City), $105,000
• Sheanon Williams, 23 (Philadelphia), $105,000
• Zach Loyd, 26 (Dallas), $92,372
• Andrew Farrell, 21 (New England), $80,000*
• DeAndre Yedlin, 20 (Seattle), $50,000*
• Steven Beitashour, 26 (San Jose), $49,612.50
NOTE: Every number listed above comes from the latest MLS Players' Union salary information (September 2013). These don't take into account "overall" compensation, just base salary. That makes it a more apples-to-apples conversation. Also: It's all we got.
A good fullback can go a long way to helping a team find success. It shouldn't be surprising that eight of the 10 playoff teams last year had a guy on that list. (Houston's Kofi Sarkodie and New York's Brandon Barklage were just off the pace.)
That's not a coincidence. The importance of a fullback has been growing internationally for a while as players transition from a mostly defensive role into a box-to-box role that combines equal parts attacking prowess, defensive awareness and ridiculous stamina. For example, two teams who used their fullbacks quite aggressively and effectively, Real Salt Lake and Sporting KC, met in the MLS Cup final.
That doesn't, however, mean that MLS teams typically break the bank to get one. (Franklin and Wynne were the only two fullbacks regardless of the side of the field they played on to top the $200,000 mark that I could find.)
The average salary of those 11 players is just under $125,000. Chance Myers' deal* falls below that. (Yedlin is on a Homegrown contract and Farrell is on a Generation adidas contract. Both were rookies in 2013.)
*For the sake of comparison, Myers makes slightly more than his teammate and fellow fullback Seth Sinovic, who earned $90,000 a year in 2013.
Judging by those standards (depending on how you view him), Myers is either a little underpaid or a pretty decent value for an experienced vet.
If you consider that two of the players above him on that list were drafted in the same 2008 SuperDraft -- Beltran (the third pick) and Franklin (the fourth pick) -- it starts to tilt towards underpaid.* Especially when you consider the stats.
*The discrepancy is easy enough to explain: Myers took a while to develop because of injuries. Beltran was a regular starter in Year Two for Salt Lake; Franklin was a starter from just about day one with Los Angeles. It wasn't until 2011 that Myers really broke into the first team. That might help explain how both players lapped Myers on the pay scale. Despite starting on lesser salaries their rookie season (Beltran: $55,000; Franklin: $36,000), by 2010 both had surpassed Myers' initial Generation adidas salary ($70,000). They simply had just played more games.
Enough with the ins and outs of Major League Soccer accounting. It can be a tedious and boring business to languish there too long. Also, there are a lot of factors that go into contracts that simply can't be easily parsed in a simple comparison list -- things such as value to the team, additional compensation, allocation money, agent fees, etc. Instead, let's talk about something that's pretty basic. Let's talk stats.
One of the stat lines listed below belongs Chance Myers. The other two are from our group of top MLS right backs.
Player A: 27 games played, 2 goals, 3 assists, 78.5% passing accuracy, 2.7 tackles/game, 2.3 interceptions/game, 3.1 clearances/game, 0.9 aerial wins/game
Player B: 27 games played, 2 goals, 3 assists, 76.1% passing accuracy, 2.5 tackles/game, 2.6 interceptions/game, 2.9 clearances/game, 1.8 aerial wins/game
Player C: 33 games played, 2 goals, 4 assists, 81.1% passing accuracy, 1.9 tackles/game, 1.8 interceptions/game, 3.3 clearances/game, 1.8 aerial wins/game
Note: Per game passing/tackles/clearances/aerial wins calculated by WhoScored.com. Which is just about the best site on the internet for a soccer geek.
Can you pick out Myers' line? It's a tough one.
Sure, I made it trickier by picking three fullbacks with two total goals apiece so it's harder to cheat. But I also made it trickier by rigging it so I placed Myers with the highest-paid fullback from our list (Franklin, Player C) and the lowest-paid on our list (Beitashour, Player A).
Which makes it pretty interesting that the differences between the three, statistically, are fairly minuscule.
Franklin is a slightly better passer (but he's also the only fullback in my Top 11 above 80% completion percentage), while Beitashour is slightly better in the defensive categories of tackles and clearances per game (but a 0.2 difference per game isn't exactly a wide chasm).
It's only when you attach the price tags on those three players that you even really begin to notice a difference.
In fact, that's true when you look at the whole group I've chosen. All 11 (give or take a few more tackles here or a few more aerial wins there) are a fairly evenly-matched group stats-wise.
Here's the averaged stat line for all 11 players: 77.2% passing accuracy, 2.4 tackles/game, 2.4 interceptions/game, 3.4 clearances/game, 1.3 aerial wins/game.
If you carry out the "average" game, that's the kind of production you could reasonably expect for a fullback earning $125,000 in base salary.
*Average, of course, being relative to the list above. If you add all 19 regular starting right backs into the equation, these numbers drop. Which only makes Myers look a lot better, for what it's worth.
Myers' 2013 stats* were better (almost across the board) than that average stat line. In fact, you could clearly categorize him as an "above average*" right back. Literally. The only category in which he lags behind the "average" is in clearances per game.
*For the sake of comparison, Sinovic's stats for 2013: 32 games played, 1 goal (including playoffs), 3 assists, 78.9% passing accuracy, 2.1 tackles/game, 3.1 interceptions/game, 3.6 clearances/game and 1.5 aerial wins/game. He would also be considered slightly above average. Also: A pretty decent bargain too.
At 26 years old, Myers is just entering his athletic prime, he plays a coveted but often undervalued position and over the past year has performed at a level equal to or greater than the majority of his peers.
It's hard to argue he hasn't earned a raise.
Based off all of the information above, the going rate for an average top-line MLS fullback with a few years of experience should probably be somewhere north of $130,000 per year. While it's conceivable that Myers is asking for Franklin money,* his market value is probably somewhere closer to that of Beltran and Jewsbury.
*I don't think Myers is going to get into that stratosphere. It's a lot of money for a team to pay for a fullback, despite what I've written about its importance in the modern game. I think it's sort of telling that Los Angeles didn't feel the need to pay Franklin that sort of money anymore and let him walk away to D.C. United as part of the re-entry draft. That's a lot of money for a guy who doesn't score, create or directly prevent a lot of goals.
Does Kansas City have enough room under the salary cap to make him an offer in that range? An offer commensurate with his experience, abilities and desires? An offer that will make Myers happy?
It's hard to know without all of the information available. What we do know is what Vermes had to say not he matter: Sporting KC offered Myers a contract (which they believe is fair) and the ball is in Myers' (and his agent's) court. Talks are ongoing and Vermes said on Tuesday that the two sides are very close.
Which means we'll have to wait and watch in the coming days to see whether the modern economics of Major League Soccer and the desires of one of its above-average players can find common ground.