In-Their-Prime MLS Players Retiring: Why and what it means

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HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 26: Joe Willis #23 of Houston Dynamo makes a save as Andrew Wenger #11 looks on in the second half against the Philadelphia Union during the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final at BBVA Compass Stadium on September 26, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Editorial (January 6, 2018) – This off-season has seen several out-of-nowhere MLS players retiring, particularly those at relatively young ages for retiring and in a position to help their club in 2019. A number of players have retired this off-season who clearly had years left in their legs to play the game.

In-Their-Prime MLS Players Retiring: Why and what it means

Brandon Vincent and Christian Dean both retired from the Chicago Fire this off-season. From the Houston Dynamo, Andrew Wenger and Dylan Remick retired as well. Kip Colvey has departed the Colorado Rapids to enroll in a Physicians Assistance program at the University of Denver.

Some of these retirements aren’t complete surprises or at least have reasoning that makes sense in hindsight. Dean and Remick both suffered from injuries that factored in their decisions to retire. Remick had issues with concussions.

Remick isn’t the first MLS player to retire due to head injuries and concussion concerns, but he is one of the youngest. While MLS has made improvements to player safety with their concussion protocol, but more is needed to prevent these potential injuries and diagnose them earlier, as former MLS striker and ESPN color commentator Taylor Twellman has advocated, having had his season end due to concussions.

The retirement of Colvey and Wenger speaks to a different issue. Wenger’s guaranteed compensation was $230,000 this year while Colvey’s salary was near the league minimum. Rookie minimum salaries in the other major sports in America would be TAM or DP contracts in MLS. MLS still lags behind leagues around the world it claims to be chasing when it comes to compensation.

In his first year as a PA, Kip Colvey’s highest annual salary will come that year, not as a player. There’s a number of variables at play here and raising player salaries significantly doesn’t seem viable right now.

Most college soccer powerhouses are quality universities like Stanford, UCLA, Virginia, and Wake Forest. Many players making the league minimum would be making similar or even more money pursuing a job in what they majored in. And unlike the NBA, NFL, or NHL, most MLS players aren’t making enough money to set themselves and their families up financially after they retire.

These players have to think seriously about their lives after playing. Some appear to be choosing getting a head start on that rather than pursuing soccer as long as their body allows.

These factors will continue to be factors for MLS budget players as they navigate their careers.

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