Whether and how much UPSL players get paid depends on the team.
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This post is provided for general information only. Please confirm the details and circumstances of your unique situation with your tax accountant or other appropriate advisor before taking action.
How much do UPSL players get paid?
UPSL is an amateur or semi-pro soccer league.
Many teams are pay-to-play. Players pay registration fees, uniform costs, and other expenses. The teams don’t pay the players anything. For the players, it’s just like joining a Sunday league team with better competition.
Some teams don’t charge their players but also don’t pay them.
For the teams that do pay, it’s usually just to reimburse expenses. This is often gas money or rental cars to away games or money for meals while traveling.
Very few teams pay for lodging during the season.
Does playing in the UPSL affect NCAA eligibility?
Playing in the UPSL generally shouldn’t affect your NCAA eligibility. This will typically include if you receive reimbursements for expenses but not if you’re paid more than that.
Player payment practices vary by region, NCAA rules vary by division, and the new rules on NIL deals may also come into play. To make sure you stay eligible, talk to your college coach or other appropriate representative at your school before you play for a UPSL team or any team in a league where players may be paid.
Do UPSL players have a chance at making a professional team?
UPSL doesn’t have age limits, but the league targets players in the age 17 to 23 range. The typical path to pro soccer for players in this age range is either playing at a Division 1 college or being part of a pro team’s academy.
UPSL does announce several professional signings per year. These are typically in lower-tier leagues such as USL or foreign second and third divisions.
Do UPSL players have to pay taxes on what their teams pay them?
UPSL players may be able to avoid taxes (legally) with the help of their teams. Expense reimbursements are generally not taxable as long as 1) the team documents the expenses with expense reports and 2) the expenses are within IRS limits. For example, mileage payments should be less than or equal to the IRS standard mileage rate.
The tax term for this is “creating an accountable plan.” It really just means following good bookkeeping practices.
When teams pay more than expenses or don’t properly account for reimbursements, the payments will usually be taxable. For most players, this will probably amount to hobby income since most players won’t make enough to profit. You report hobby income as other income on your tax return but don’t get to deduct expenses.
If you’re receiving a wage from a team, you’ll probably have to pay taxes as an independent contractor unless they signed you as an employee.
What about under the table payments?
The reality is that many teams are likely paying players under the table and players aren’t reporting their taxes. This happens in all leagues as team owners and players often don’t think things through, don’t want to pay taxes, or think no one they know getting in trouble means it’s OK.
As a player, you should report taxable income even if you don’t get a 1099. Otherwise, you could face penalties from the IRS if you’re selected for an audit.
As a team owner, if you don’t properly track your expenses and report payments, you may lose any business deductions you claimed if you get audited.