Branko Segota of the Sockers will make $102,000 this season and is the highest-paid player in the Major Indoor Soccer League. Defender George Fernandez, the MVP of this year's MISL All-Star Game and a seven-year veteran who has played in 120 consecutive games, will make $30,000.
A list of Socker player salaries, obtained from sources within the MISL, shows that indoor soccer players have a long way to go to catch their counterparts in other professional team sports. Major league baseball players, for example, will earn a minimum of $100,000 under their new collective bargaining agreement.
It's no secret that Segota hasn't been happy with his salary since it was virtually sliced in half two years ago. It was then that owners decided to set a salary cap of $875,000 after financial trouble nearly caused the MISL to fold. Segota, who has one year left on his contract, once said he was the only pro athlete at the top of his game who had to take a pay cut after each season.
Segota's salary is $12,000 more than the MISL individual cap because his contract was partially grandfathered in when players agreed to concessions in April 1988. Tatu, star for the Dallas Sidekicks, is one player who makes the maximum of $90,000.
Fernandez, who will receive a salary increase next year, according to owner Ron Fowler, says he isn't thrilled with his paychecks but shrugs it off because he likes playing for a championship team.
"It bums me out," he said. "I think I should be getting paid more. I'm sure I could get more somewhere else. But I like it here in San Diego. (The management) has been honest, and they've been good to me."
Still, Fernandez said he can't help but dream a little of what it would be like to make the big bucks.
"Sometimes I think about those guys that make $3 million a year," he said. "I try to break it down by month, then by week. It's kind of mind-boggling. Maybe I should go up to one of them and say 'Hey, can you spare a million?' "
One reason players say they stay with the Sockers is a feeling that Fowler is committed to helping them find careers after soccer. Defender Kevin Crow and midfielder Brian Quinn each make $60,000 but have chosen to stay in San Diego though they could undoubtedly make more with other teams. Both work in the offseason for Mesa Distributing, a company owned by Fowler.
"Since Ron (Fowler) took over, they've treated us really well," Quinn said. "I think there are opportunities for us, and for other players as well, to learn other skills necessary to have another career and stay in San Diego after we're finished playing soccer."
The MISL, Quinn and Fowler point out, won't be able to offer big salaries until the league expands beyond eight teams and signs a better television contract. Players such as Quinn, Crow, Fernandez and Segota might not be around to see that happen.
"What are you going to do?," Quinn asks. "Stop playing? You hope to recoup it elsewhere. Kevin and I have never made great money, but we never griped about it. We get by."
Aside from opportunities to work for Fowler's companies, players can also make money by teaching at summer clinics.
"We have to make sure we find other opportunities for our players to make some money in order to keep them," Fowler said. "I think the players legitimately feel that we are trying to help them in areas beyond soccer."
The Sockers face negotiations at season's end with forward Damir Haramina, who has missed most of the season because of injury but is the sixth-highest paid player on the team at $45,000. The Sockers will likely ask Haramina to take a severe cut. Among players in line for a raise, along with Fernandez, are Paul Wright, a second-year midfielder who makes $25,000 and was recently traded back to the Sockers from the Cleveland Crunch, and midfielder Jacques Ladouceur, a solid midfielder who makes $20,000.
According to President Ron Cady, the Sockers completed negotiations Wednesday night with rookie forward Wes Wade. Wade, a developmental player whose original contract was due to expire April 30, excepted terms to have it extended through the end of the season.
Thien Nguyen, another developmental player who has agreed to play outdoors for the San Diego Nomads, said Wednesday night he was not satisfied with the financial arrangement offered by the Sockers and will not sign an extension.
MISL teams have to freeze rosters by midnight today.
SOCKER SALARIES REGULAR ROSTER Branko Segota, forward, $102,000
Zoltan Toth, goalie, $68,000
Brian Quinn, midfielder, $60,000
Kevin Crow, defender, $60,000
Waad Hirmez, midfielder, $54,000
Damir Haramina, forward, $45,000 (plus $15,000 paid by Kansas City Comets)
Ralph Black, defender, $42,000
Victor Nogueira, goalie, $40,000
Ben Collins, midfielder, $40,000
Cacho, defender, $31,500
George Fernandez, defender, $30,000
Paul Wright, defender, $25,000
Steve Zungul, forward, $22,500
Rod Castro, forward, $22,500
Jacques Ladouceur, midfielder, $20,000
Jim Gabarra, forward, $20,000
Donald Cogsville, defender, $18,000
Rene Ortiz, midfielder, $18,000
Wes Wade, forward, $6,000 (Nov. 1-April 30)
Thien Nguyen, midfielder, $6,000 (Nov. 1-April 30)
Arturo Velazco, defender, $6,000 (estimated)