Position Premium in Major League Soccer

David Butler
Dennis Coates

This research estimates the effect of specific player position on salary in Major League Soccer. We expand a mincer-style wage equation with indicators for precise roles as defined by the Football Manager™ simulation. Our salary data covers 1,174 salaries for the 2019 and 2020 seasons. We match this to 17 positions and consider generalist and specialist functions in wage determination. Estimating ordinary least squares and quantile regressions, we find that defensive salary penalties are incurred only by specific peripheral defensive and wing back positions. Premia exist for versatile, attacking midfield players. We show that multi-positional players—those that play in multiple positional zones—earn a premium. The findings bring nuance to any specialist-generalist debate as versatile defensive players incur a penalty whereas versatile attacking midfield players earn a premium. Practically, the results speak to player unions, intermediaries advising players on their developmental needs, and franchises who must optimize salary budgets.

DOI: http://doi.org/10.32731/IJSF/174.112022.02