D.C. United teenager Freddy Adu is the third-highest paid player in MLS, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post yesterday.

Adu, 16, will earn $550,000 this year, behind Landon Donovan of the Los Angeles Galaxy ($900,000) and Eddie Johnson of FC Dallas ($875,000).

Adu topped the list last year at $500,000, but Donovan, 23, returned to MLS after a short spell in Germany and was rewarded by having his total package nearly tripled.

Johnson, a 21-year-old forward who in the past year has emerged as a U.S. national team star alongside Donovan and has attracted interest from clubs overseas, earned only $86,250 last year, according to 2004 documents obtained by Soccer America magazine. He signed a new long-term deal this summer, but MLS has yet to formally announce it.

Unlike most U.S. pro leagues, the MLS has kept player salaries confidential for the most part since its birth in 1996, although with the formation of the MLS Players Union in 2003, those figures are starting to become more public. The information obtained by The Post was recently distributed to teams and player agents.

Bob Foose, the Bethesda-based executive director of the union, said he couldn't comment on individual player salaries.

Adu's base salary is the same as last year ($300,000), but the union calculates an "average annual guaranteed compensation" figure, which also includes signing and guaranteed bonuses as well as marketing perks. It does not include performance bonuses.

Adu's MLS contract is supplemented by endorsement deals with Nike, Pepsi and Campbell Soup, among others. He has played in 11 of 15 games this season, missing those four matches while with the U.S. under-20 national team at the World Youth Championship in the Netherlands last month. He has made five starts for United and contributed one goal and four assists.

On the other end of United's salary list, four developmental players earn only $11,700 apiece and three others are at $16,500. After Adu, the next D.C. players on the list are veteran midfielders Dema Kovalenko and Ben Olsen, who are guaranteed $165,000 each, followed by the team's top scorers, Argentine playmaker Christian Gomez ($158,500) and Bolivian forward Jaime Moreno ($157,750).

The club has not gotten its money's worth with its offseason acquisition of English midfielder Steve Guppy ($120,000), who has been sidelined most of the season with Achilles' injuries.

The bargains have been defender Bobby Boswell ($28,000), who has played every minute of his rookie season; second-year midfielder Josh Gros ($28,000), a starter in all but one game; and recently acquired defender John Wilson ($33,000), who has become a full-time starter after beginning the year in the minor leagues.

Around the league, Chicago forward Nate Jaqua, son of former Washington Redskin Jon Jaqua, might have the best case for a new contract next year. Despite being guaranteed only $43,450, the third-year forward is among the league leaders in scoring with seven goals and two assists. New England's Pat Noonan (eight goals, one assist) will make about $75,000.