Italian Salary Cap – the End of Eurosnobbery?

Could more Italians be joining Alessandro Nesta in MLSMike Russell

Could more Italians be joining Alessandro Nesta in MLS?
Photo: Mike Russell


There should be a wry smile on the faces of many American soccer administrators and MLS fans this morning.

In fact, any of you who have sat and listened to EPL fans deride Major League Soccer and all it has to say could be forgiven a wide grin at the news coming out of Italy.

The Italian second division, known as Serie B, is adopting one of MLS’s most fiercely guarded principles, the salary cap.

The cap has two principle pillars justifying it; it enforces some degree of parity among clubs and secondly, it reins in spending on salaries to an agreed maximum.

Like many of the ideas that came out of American soccer, the cap once received degrees of derision although MLS Commissioner Don Garber has often pointed out in recent times that the seminars at world football conferences where key MLS figures such as Sounders GM Adrian Hanauer have spoken about the cap are very well attended by European administrators.

One person in now doubt about the significance of the move is Giuseppe Pezzano who owns OSA, a firm that specialises in bringing players from Italy to play in the United States:

“This marks a sea change both in Italian football but also in how MLS is viewed.

Firstly, it is a recognition that Italian football cannot spend endlessly and that football must face the same economic restraints as any other industry. This is a change in how football sees itself in Italy.

From our perspective here though, by adopting a clearly American soccer idea, this step marks the beginning of the end of the era when America was thought to have no good ideas to offer world soccer. The concept that if an idea is born in the USA, it stays there is now over.”

One accidental consequence may be that the limit on Serie B salaries may encourage more Italians to seek their playing career outside the nation.

Italians have been less prone to playing abroad until recently, partly because Italian football was the game’s economic powerhouse until recent decades and partly because Italians are less likely to speak other languages than their Dutch or Scandinavian peers.

That has begun to change as the balance of power moved westwards to Spain and northwards to the EPL. Fans can expect to see an increase in MLS interest in upcoming Italian players if MLS can stay competitive with the new rule.

The rule states that any Serie B club can only have 22 players over 21 which means that every year, a club that fails to win promotion will have to shed some of its talent if it comes of age. The number of permitted 21 and overs will drop to 20 in 2014/5.

It also places the maximum salary at €300,000 (net), which is about $384,000. This sum is split evenly between salary and maximum bonuses.

Fines will be levied for any breach of the guidelines.


Gazzetta Italia Article (in Italian)

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  1. Great to see, but it’s still worth noting how MLS has suppressed the median salaries. The best thing MLS could do to improve the product is to raise minimum salaries from 40k to 70k. No other change is really needed, but guys should be able to do this at higher-than-barista salaries.

  2. I tend to agree but the counter argument may run that higher base salaries make taking a risk on a player that may (or may not) make it, more expensive.

  3. Wow, how is that going to work with promotion/relegation?! Team’s have to get rid of all their old players if they relegate? And the teams coming up will need the funds to buy some players to compete. How can teams maintain any continuity with such seemingly large turnover of personnel? Will we see an erosion of Italian futbol and possible missing of World Cup Finals in the future? Makes one wonder. May as well go crazy with the speculation!

  4. Michael Ligot on

    I’ve read comments that salary caps would go against European Union commerce law. If true, this may be one for the legal/economic analysts.