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The Highest-Paid MLS Defenders

  • Walker Zimmerman is the highest-paid MLS defender in 2024, earning $3.2 million a year with Nashville.
  • Only the top eleven highest-paid MLS defenders earn over $1 million a year.
Jul 7, 2024; Portland, Oregon, USA; Nashville SC defender Walker Zimmerman (25) controls the ball during the first half against the Portland Timbers at Providence Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

The MLS has enjoyed record attendance and millions of new streaming subscribers over the past season. The highest-paid players tend to be forwards and attacking midfielders, who score goals and entertain fans.

Defenders don’t get as much attention, but the highest-paid at the position are valuable in slowing down skilled attackers.

Walker Zimmerman is the highest-paid MLS defender in 2024, earning $3.2 million a year with Nashville. Zimmerman signed a 2-year, $9 million deal in 2023 to solidify Nashville’s defense. 

Even though he’s the highest-paid defender on the list, Zimmerman is only fourth-most in career tackles among the top 10.

NYCFC’s Thiago Martins is second with his $2 million salary. The Brazilian has played for New York since 2022. He is the only other defender to make at least $2 million a year.

Third on the list is Matt Miazga of FC Cincinnati. He earns $1.53 million on the 2-year deal he signed in August of 2022. Miazga spent eight seasons playing in Europe before settling in the MLS. 

Coming in fourth is Miazga’s teammate in Cincinnati, Miles Robinson. He earns $1.43 million a season and is signed until December. Robinson played with Atlanta for eight seasons before his deal with Cincinnati.

In fifth is Rafael Czichos of the Fire. He makes $1.3 million a season playing in Chicago. Czichos has earned over $6.2 million in his career playing in Germany and now the MLS.

Only eleven MLS defenders earn over $1 million a year. Cincinnati is the only club with multiple defenders among the top 15 highest-paid in the MLS. 

Philadelphia leads all clubs with three defenders on the highest-paid list. But their combined salaries are $525K less than Walker Zimmerman’s $3.2 million.

Ranking the Highest-Paid MLS Defenders

Here is the entire list of the highest-paid MLS defenders. The list was compiled with data from Capology.

  • Updated: July 8, 2024
RankPlayerCareer TacklesTeamTotal Compensation
1Walker Zimmerman207Nashville SC$3.2 million
2Thiago Martins110NYCFC$2 million
3Matt Miazga140FC Cincinnati$1.53 million
4Miles Robinson195FC Cincinnati$1.43 million
5Rafael Czichos353Chicago Fire$1.3 million
6Aaron Long169LA FC$1.26 million
7Jordi Alba265Inter Miami$1.25 million
T-8Andreas Maxsø63Colorado Rapids$1.15 million
T-8Justen Glad209Real Salt Lake$1.15 million
10Joakim Nilsson121St Louis City$1.14 million
T-11Jakob Glesnes186Philadelphia Union$1 million
T-11Tim Parker176St Louis City$1 million
T-11Stian Gregerson153Atlanta United$1 million
T-11Henry Kessler118NE Revolution$1 million
T-11Bruno Wilson87San Jose Earthquakes$1 million
16Richie Laryea194Toronto FC$990K
17Kai Wagner305Philadelphia Union$875K
T-18Robin Jansson134Orlando City$850K
T-18DeAndre Yedlin256Inter Miami$850K
T-18Sam Vines147Colorado Rapids$850K
21Sam Adekugbe87Vancouver Whitecaps$825K
22Steve Birnbaum105DC United$815K
T-23Mathías Laborda59Vancouver Whitecaps$800K
T-23Maya Yoshida142LA Galaxy$800K
T-23Jack Elliot279Philadelphia Union$800K
T-23Steven Moreira267Columbus Crew$800K
T-23Shaq Moore236Nashville SC$800K

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