We know Nashville has added tons of top–end USL talent in recent weeks, but is there a way we can quantify that? In Soccernomics, Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski assert that roster spend is the most important factor in determining league position (and imply a causal relationship – you can read my overall thoughts and some skepticism on the soundness of some of those takes in my review).
The best resource out there – and I say that fully understanding that it’s extremely flawed, but at the very least, better than nothing – for determining the market value of individual players is TransferMarkt. Let’s use that site to evaluate the value of players leaving Nashville SC this offseason, those joining, and of course the 14 individuals retained by the club from 2018 into next year.
According to the site, Nashville’s new players carry the following market values:
- Cameron Lancaster: $475,000
- Kharlton Belmar: $375,000
- Daniel Ríos: $350,000
- Ken Tribbett: $350,000
- Darnell King: $275,000
- Connor Sparrow: $175,000
Again, keep in mind that we’re not considering those values to be gospel (circumstantial evidence – who has signed an MLS contract and who has joined on an MLS contract) would imply at the very least that Ríos should be first- or second-most expensive on the list. We are going to use them as a rough estimate, though, and assume that the values are pretty strongly correlated with wages (as the Soccernomics principle concentrates on those, rather than the amount paid in a transfer, though only Ríos has joined on a transfer this season – the other five have been out-of-contract).
That’s an average value of $333,000 per player, with a median of $350,000. In six players, Nashville SC has added $2 million in value to the roster, per TransferMarkt.
The 12 players who were not retained by Nashville SC had a total value of $1,325,000. That means, in twice as many players, there was 66% of the value. With an average value among that group of $110,000 (median: $125,000), the six players Nashville has added are on average three times as valuable as those departing.
For a club that wasn’t among the biggest spenders in USL last year, it’s clear Nashville wants to make a statement in 2019 that they aren’t going to scrimp on the budget in their final year before heading to USL.
The 14 players retained have an average value of $183,900 (median: $175,000), so they tend to be in between those two groups: Nashville SC is retaining the core of last year’s group and adding reinforcements on the top end in terms of market value. (For what it’s worth, the highest-valued player retained is Michael Reed at $300k, and while he’s a good player, he’s also 31 years old and losing sell-on value, in case you haven’t read my many caveats so far about how TransferMarkt shouldn’t be taken as gospel).
Indeed: Five of the top six players on the 2018 and/or 2019 rosters are new signings, according to TransferMarkt, while nine of the bottom 13 are players who will be playing for other clubs next year. Among the four who are coming back, two are young developmental guys (Alan Winn and Ramone Howell) and two are MLS Champions whose assessed value is low only because they’re getting way up in years (Matt Pickens and Kosuke Kimura).
All told, NSC has netted an additional $675,000 in roster value, while netting six fewer players than were with the team last year. That means going from an overall average of $150,000 per player last year to $228,750 this year. That may not seem like a hug difference, but it’s half-again as valuable per player, and an indication of strong desire to invest in the roster to win now.
(One more warning about not taking the numbers of TransferMarkt too seriously, and as an estimate rather than gospel? Sounds good)