How Much Do Athletes Make As Salary In The US and Around The World

With a few exceptions, athletes salaries are amongst the highest paid to people for their services and skill set. This is why top athletes are often ranked amongst the highest-paid individuals on the planet.

The rapid increase in the paycheque athletes receive is down to a number of factors that include the dramatic increase in the deals between television networks and sports associations as many people are willing to pay top dollar for subscription in order to tune in to watch their favorite athlete from the comfort of their living room. Advertisers have further had to pay more money to both the teams and the networks since they are now able to reach a wider audience while teams have invested in building bigger arenas and stadiums that are able to contain more fans, thus, increasing their revenue which translates to higher wages for the players.

Endorsement deals are another factor that contributes to the earnings of a player, particularly for those athletes who play in individual-based sports, like boxing, tennis, and golf. Their salaries boil down to their performance, meaning that if they are injured or are not able to get in the ring or play in a tournament, they are not getting paid. The average salaries of these athletes further appears to be lower than their counterparts in other sports, however, the top athletes in these sports are able to singularly negotiate their earnings, while others make up the difference and are even able to gain entry into highest-paid athletes lists as a result of what they make from endorsement deals.

An example of athletes that fit into this category is boxer Canelo Alvarez and tennis player Roger Federer. In 2019, Forbes reported that the Mexican boxer made $92 million from salary/winnings and only $2 million from endorsements. The Swiss tennis player, on the other hand, took home $7.4 million in salary/winnings, and $86 million in endorsements, putting his bottom line earnings at $93.4 million. This made him the 5th highest-paid athlete in the world while Alvarez ranked as the 4th highest-paid athlete.

But while top athletes around the world seemingly earn very high wages, there happens to be a little difference in their salaries due to the location in which they ply their trade. This is the main reason why many athletes have chosen to go play in certain countries and leagues in order to get as handsomely rewarded as their counterparts from that region.

Athletes Salaries In The United States Compared To Other Countries

The list of 2019 highest-paid athletes by Forbes magazine shows that more than half of the top 100 earners on the list are athletes who play in the United States, either in the National Football League (NFL) or in the National Basketball Association (NBA). The non-US athletes who made the list are either from soccer or individual-based sports, which is as a result of the popularity of the sports outside of the US and the huge endorsement portfolios the players receive.

Below is a breakdown of athletes salaries in different sports from around the world and the US.

Association Football (Soccer)

Soccer players in the United States do not earn anything close to that of their counterparts in Europe. This is evident in the 2019 Forbes list where the top 3 are soccer players and a total of 12 players, all of whom play outside of the US, made the list. To further put that into perspective, the highest-paid player in Major League Soccer, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, earned a total of $7.2 million while the lowest entrant from soccer on the list, #98 – Mohamed Salah, has a salary of $16.1 million which sums up to $25.1 million when endorsements are included.

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Athletes Salaries
Canelo Alvarez (image source)

In 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2018, the now-retired American boxer, Floyd Mayweather Jr., ranked number one on each of those year’s highest athletes salaries list by Forbes. During that time in which he dominated the sport, the next highest-paid boxer was the Philipines’, Manny Pacquiao. In the 2019 list, Mexican boxer Canelo Alvarez was the highest paid with a salary of $92 million. the next boxer on the list is England’s Anthony Joshua who took home $45 million in salary and $10 million in endorsements.

With this, it can be said that there is no significant discrepancy in the earnings of athletes from either the United States or elsewhere. It rather boils down to the individual’s marketability and talent.


Basketballers in the US earn way higher than their counterparts elsewhere. On the 2019 world’s highest-paid athletes list, 35 of the 100 are basketballers, with the lowest entrant, Marc Gasol, having a salary of $24.1 million. The highest-paid basketballer outside of the United States, Nikola Mirotic, plays for Barcelona in the EuroLeague and earns a salary of $5.4 million.


Tennis players from outside the United States, particularly in the men’s version of the game, dominate the sport. For the past few years, Roger Federer has been known by a huge margin as the highest-earning tennis player. He continued to dominate the sport in 2019 with total earnings of $93.4 million while the next highest earner, #17 Novak Djokovic, took home $50.6 million.

The only US athlete to make the list is Serena Williams who comes in at #63 with total earnings of $29.2 million.

American Football

Athletes Salaries
Russell Wilson (image source)

While there are foreigners who play in the NFL, American Football is a sport that is only played in the United States. With that, there are no players from outside the United States to use and compare the sport’s athletes salaries with. The highest-paid player in the NFL in 2019 is Russell Wilson who ranks at number 6 on the list of top earners with total earnings of $89.5 million.

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By a significant margin, golfers from the United States earn higher than their counterparts from elsewhere. This is backed up by the fact that four American golfers (Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson) are named on the list of highest-paid athletes of all time.

In 2019, Tiger Woods was ranked at number 11 with total earnings of $63.9 million. The next golfer on the list is Phil Mickelson at number 19 with total earnings of $48.4 million. Northern Irish man Rory Mcllroy is the third highest-paid golfer at number 32 with total earnings of $39 million.


While other places around the world like Central and South America, the Caribbean, and East Asia, particularly Japan and South Korea, play and have quite a huge interest in baseball, the sport is played at its highest level in the United States where it is regarded as America’s favorite pastime. This means that the salaries of athletes in the sport in the US are much more than their counterparts elsewhere. A total of 15 baseball players from the US made the 2019 list of top earners where the highest-earning baseball player was Mike Trout at number 17 with total earnings of $50.6 million.


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