Hoyoon Jung

First Advisor

Sung, Yoon Tae

Document Type


Date Created



Since Gary Becker’s (1971) discrimination theory, which provided the groundwork to investigate various forms of discrimination based on individuals’ demographic characteristics, wage discrimination has been a long-standing issue in labor economics and sport management. With this knowledge, it is of interest to examine whether sports labor markets offer equal financial opportunities. Although a growing body of literature has examined and uncovered evidence of pay discrimination in various sports settings, relatively little attention has been paid to Major League Soccer (MLS) because of its short history. In addition, there is a need to understand salary discrimination among superstars in MLS amid the adoption of the Designated Player rule, commonly known as David Beckham rule, to acquire star players as a strategy to achieve attendance and revenue goals. Despite the important role of superstars in improving the league and making MLS more competitive, it is unclear thus far whether superstars are discriminated against based on their demographic characteristics. This dissertation therefore aims to explore the existence of pay discrimination in MLS and the degree to which superstars are discriminated against based on their origin of birth. Using 4,280 observations of MLS players’ salary data from the 2007-2019 seasons and performance statistics from the 2006-2018 seasons, the results of both ordinary least squares estimation and quantile regression showed that there is salary discrimination in MLS—regular players from North America are paid less than comparable players from other areas. Findings also revealed possible evidence of discrimination among superstars where Asian superstars are favored, while South American superstars are discriminated against in certain salary distributions. This study contributes to the literature by providing possible evidence of and a new perspective on pay discrimination among MLS regular players and superstars, respectively, while combining discrimination theory and superstar theory in the context of professional sports. It also provides implications for MLS so that it can operate better, benefit from diversified superstars, and become a high-profile and competitive worldwide soccer league.


229 pages

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