LAFC’s transformation into MLS Cup title contenders comes with a $10-million price tag

LAFC forward Gareth Bale and defender Giorgio Chiellini celebrate with teammates.
LAFC forward Gareth Bale, second from left top row, and defender Giorgio Chiellini, second from right top row, celebrate the team’s Supporters’ Shield award after a win over Nashville on Oct. 9.
(Ringo H.W. Chiu / Associated Press)
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LAFC spent approximately $10 million to sign five players this summer, lifting the overall team payroll above $19 million for the first time, according to figures released Monday by the MLS players association. And those investments paid off when the team won its second Supporters’ Shield in four years, finishing with the league’s best regular-season record.

The Galaxy, meanwhile, spent about $3.4 million for Riqui Puig, Gastón Brugman and Martín Cáceres, who combined to spark a late-summer surge that got the team into the playoffs for just the second time in six years. The Galaxy also saw the guaranteed compensation for captain Javier “Chicharito” Hernández and midfielder Douglas Costa jump a combined $4.24 million because of contract clauses, increasing the payroll to a franchise-record $27.3 million, second highest in the league.

Hernández, whose guaranteed compensation is now $7,443,750 million, is the third-best-paid player in MLS while Costa ($5.8 million) ranks fifth. LAFC’s best-paid player is captain Carlos Vela, who signed an 18-month contract in June that guarantees him $2.738 million a year.


The Galaxy and LAFC will meet Thursday in the MLS Western Conference playoff semifinals at Banc of California Stadium.

Julian Araujo scored his first goal in two years to lead the Galaxy to a 1-0 win over Nashville, setting up an MLS Cup playoffs showdown with LAFC.

Oct. 15, 2022

LAFC already had the league’s best record in mid-June when it began finalizing the deals that would extend Vela’s stay through 2023 while adding Welsh national team captain Gareth Bale and iconic Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini. But general manager John Thorrington, who had his eyes on the future as well as the present, didn’t stop there, acquiring designated players Denis Bouanga and Christian Tello in August, leaving LAFC with arguably the deepest roster in league history.

“I need to ensure that we are prepared to compete in the years to come, so every transfer window, every transaction is done trying to find the right balance,” Thorrington said.

“The way we prepare our budget and our resources, we are in a position where we can take advantage of these opportunities when they present themselves.”

While LAFC was signing whoever it wanted, the Galaxy were focused on filling holes with Puig, Brugman and Cáceres. Puig, who came from Barcelona, has become the play-making midfielder coach Greg Vanney sought. Brugman, acquired from Italian club Parma, has become a solid No. 6. Cáceres, a three-time World Cup player for Uruguay who last played in La Liga with Levante, has solidified an inconsistent back line.

“They’ve helped kind of reinvigorate our group,” Vanney said “and just provide balance and stability and quality inside of our team.”


Midsummer additions Riqui Puig and Gastón Brugman have reinvigorated the Galaxy as they prepare for their MLS Cup playoff showdown against Nashville SC.

Oct. 14, 2022

Six of the summer additions at LAFC and the Galaxy are among the 15 players with contracts worth at least $1 million who joined MLS since the start of the season, raising the number of millionaires to a league-record 106. Toronto’s Lorenzo Insigne is the most expensive player, with a contract worth a league-record $14 million a season. Teammate Federico Bernardeschi has a guaranteed salary of $6.27 million, making the combined value of the two deals greater than the total payroll for 24 of the 28 MLS teams, yet Toronto finished the season with the league’s second-worst record.

Philadelphia, which finished atop the Eastern Conference standings with the league’s second-lowest payroll, was the thriftiest team in the league, paying just $155,000 a point while Toronto was the biggest spendthrift. It spent $948,000 per point.

LAFC spent $284,000 a point to win the Supporters’ Shield, about half the Galaxy’s $546,000 per point.

The newest MLS expansion team, which will begin play next year in St. Louis, already has nine players under contract for approximately $7 million.

MLS team payrolls

1. Toronto $32,234,728, 2. Galaxy $27,303,314, 3. Miami $24,194,278, 4. Atlanta $22,431,357, 5. Chicago $19,355,763. 6. LAFC $19,001,888, 7. New England $18,584,553, 8. Columbus $17,892,808, 9. Seattle $16,983,746, 10. Houston $16,867,485 11. New York City $16,504,148, 12. DC United $16,282,352, 13. Cincinnati $16,281,087, 14. Dallas $15,761,683, 15. Vancouver $14,897,149, 16. Kansas City $14,736,204, 17. Austin $14,639,786, 18. Salt Lake $14,609,198, 19. Nashville $14,145,780, 20. Montreal $13,059,176 21. Orlando $11,956,012, 22. Charlotte $11,661,661, 23. Portland $11,377,505, 24. Minnesota $11,157,156, 25. San Jose $10,702,272, 26. Colorado $10,570,955, 27. Philadelphia $10,360,287, 28. New York Red Bulls $9,642,386

15 Best-paid MLS players (guaranteed compensation)

1. Lorenzo Insigne, $14,000,000 (Toronto FC); 2 Xherdan Shaqiri — $8,153,000 (Chicago Fire); 3. Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez — $7,443,750 (Galaxy); 4. Federico Bernardeschi — $6,256,322 (Toronto FC); 5. Douglas Costa — $5,800,000 (Galaxy); 6. Gonzalo Higuain — $5,793,750 (Inter Miami); 7. Hector Herrera — $5,246,875 (Houston Dynamo); 8. Alejandro Pozuelo — $4,693,000 (Inter Miami); 9. Luiz Araujo — $4,480,333 (Atlanta United); 10. Jozy Altidore* — $4,264,963 (New England Revolution); 11. Christian Benteke — $4,182,778 (D.C. United); 12. Josef Martinez — $4,141,667 (Atlanta United); 13. Lucas Zelarayan — $3,700,000 (Columbus Crew); 14. Carles Gil — $3,545,833 (New England Revolution); 15. Rodolfo Pizarro# — $3,350,000 (Inter Miami)
*Altidore is on loan to Puebla of the Liga MX; #Pizarro is on loan to Monterrey of the Liga MX