Best bargains: MLS' 15 most salary cap-friendly players

With most teams maxing out their designated player slots, you need to find bargains to stay competitive in Major League Soccer. Here Paul Tenorio picks out 15 players who helped their teams stretch their salary cap dollars.

Matt Polster - $99,000

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The 23-year-old Chicago Fire midfielder has proved to be a reliable central midfield starter in his first two seasons in MLS, and at under $100,000, that’s a bargain.

The former first-round MLS SuperDraft pick still needs to hone his passing skills, but his work rate and passion would pair well with a veteran holding midfielder, which is one of the top priorities for the Fire going into the offseason.

Wil Trapp - $178,250.00

It’s almost amazing that Trapp is still just 23 years old, especially when you consider how long he has been discussed as one of the top young players in MLS.

Trapp is a special talent, a deep-sitting midfielder capable of picking out the right passes and covering ground defensively to protect the back line. Columbus is at its best when Trapp is at his best, and checking in at less than $200k makes him a steal, especially because he’s considered a Top 5 defensive midfielder in MLS.

Dominique Badji - $53,472.00

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

MLS teams have many ways to stretch the budget, the most obvious being homegrown players and Generation Adidas signees that stay off the cap. Another way is to unearth steals in the later rounds of the MLS SuperDraft.

That’s where Colorado found Badji, grabbing him out of Boston University with the 67th overall pick. He has played in 42 games over the past two seasons, starting 26 and scoring eight goals with four assists, including six and four this season. That’s pretty good value for the league minimum.

Michael Barrios – $70,000

When Fabian Castillo moved to Turkey, FC Dallas had to find a way to replace his production on the wings. That was an impossible task, but Dallas knew it at least had some speed and goals on the wings thanks to the Colombian. 

Barrios has produced 16 goals and four assists since joining FC Dallas in 2015, and he’s started 49 games. That’s superb production for his low salary number.

Matt Hedges - $152,000.00

Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

There is a premium on center backs in MLS. Reliable starters are hard to find, and getting them for cheap is even more difficult.

That makes Hedges – an MLS Defender of the Year candidate every year – even more valuable for FC Dallas. Hedges has been a consistent presence in the middle of the FC Dallas back line for a price any team would be happy to pay for a third center back, let alone a top-end starter.

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