Soccer tops baseball to be world’s best-paid sport

U.K. soccer club Manchester City is the best-paid sports team in the world, beating both the New York Yankees and LA Dodgers, according to Sportingintelligence's global sports salaries survey for 2014.

Manchester City's Spanish midfielder David Silva (R) celebrates during the English Premier League football match in England on April 13, 2014.
Andrew Yates | AFP | Getty Images

The survey, which was compiled with sports publisher ESPN The Magazine, found the average first-team player at Premier League side Manchester City earned $8.1 million per year, or $155,960 per week. The soccer club was transformed into one of Europe's elite teams when it was taken over in 2008 by the Abu Dhabi United Group, owned by billionaire Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

The New York Yankees and LA Dodgers of Major League Baseball (MLB) were the second and third best-paid teams, according to the survey, with average annual salaries for first-team players of $8.0 million and $7.8 million respectively.

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Spanish soccer giants Real Madrid and Barcelona came in at fourth and fifth. The Brooklyn Nets was the best-paid basketball team, coming in at number six overall, and was followed by soccer's Bayern Munich and Manchester United, basketball's Chicago Bulls and soccer's Chelsea.

Nine European soccer clubs made the top 20 for pay, ranking alongside six MLB teams and five National Basketball Association (NBA) teams.

However, while soccer dominated the top 20, the NBA ranked as the highest-paying league, with 441 players across 30 teams earning an average of $4.5 million per year in the 2013-14 season.

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In the NBA, the Brooklyn Nets was the top payer while the Philadelphia 76ers was the worst: the average Nets first-team player earned $6.8 million in a year, compared to $2.9 million for a 76ers player.

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Sportingintelligence's key metric is "average first-team pay," which measures the salaries of the"first-team squad," or its closest equivalent.

Its use of "first-team" wages explains why its results differed from the Associated Press (AP)'s latest study of major league baseball contracts. AP placed the Dodgers ahead of the Yankees for the first time in 16 years, taking into account the combined sum of salaries and pro-rated shares of signing bonuses for players on the active roster, disabled lists and restricted list, as well as players teams committed to putting on their rosters. AP stated the Dodgers had a payroll of $235 million, compared to the Yankees' $204 million.

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Sportingintelligence's first survey, back in 2010, saw the Yankees out on top. However, Barcelona usurped the 27-times World Series champions in 2011 and 2012, with Manchester City claiming the title last year and retaining it in 2014.