In a country where the biggest sports like football, basketball and baseball pay their superstars millions of dollars a year to perform soccer is definitely in a different, much lower, league.
Nonetheless, the 27 clubs that make up Major League Soccer in 2021 are all far wealthier than one might first assume.
It’s true that they’ll never match the wealth of Europe’s biggest soccer clubs whose values are measured in billions (anytime soon anyway), but a number of factors may help to narrow the gap.
One of these factors goes right back to the original reason why the league was set up in 1993. This came as preparation for hosting the World Cup in 1994 and, with the tournament due to be held here again in 2026, this is certain to give the sport a further boost.
In the meantime, here are the ten wealthiest clubs in the league, and a little about what has helped to put them there.
10. Sporting Kansas City $325 million
Owned by a group of Kansas City investors under a consortium called Sporting Club, Sporting KC have been in existence since 1995, making them one of the older clubs in the league. With 14,000 season ticket holders, and a long waiting list of others waiting to join them, they generally have no trouble filling out their 18,000-capacity stadium.
9. DC United $330 million
DC United first entered the league in 1996 and the team’s first owner was the famous investor George Soros. Since then, the club has changed hands several times and its current owners are a consortium called DC United Holdings. Perhaps the biggest ever coup was attracting the English striker Wayne Rooney to the team in 2018.
8. Chicago Fire $335 million
Chicago Fire made the headlines in September 2019 when local billionaire Joe Mansueto paid $204 million to gain a 100% stake in the club. This kind of confidence in their future also helped to fire up betting on the team. With a prospective move to a new stadium, which will cost less and have a far higher capacity, we can expect them to start climbing up the top 10 list soon.
7. New York City FC $385 million
The team was the city’s first ever entrant into MLS playing their first games in 2015. 20% owned by Yankee Global Enterprises and 80% by City Football Group, they play their home matches at the legendary Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. With a 28,000 capacity it offers them plenty of potential for additional ticket sales.
6. Portland Timbers $390 million
One team that has no trouble selling all the tickets for its home matches is the Portland Timbers. First inaugurated in 2009, they were winners of the MLS Cup in 2015 and runners-up in 2018. This consistent success has seen attendances steadily rise over the years.
5. Toronto FC $395 million
The only Canadian club in the top 10, Toronto FC have proved to be a big success in a country where hockey is undoubtedly the major sport. The team is owned by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. who also control the NHL team the Maple Leafs and the Raptors basketball team.
4. Seattle Sounders $405 million
The Sounders have their many seasons of success to thank for their high position. In the 13 years of their existence, they have been four-time winners of the US Open Cup and double winners of the MLS Cup in 2016 and 2019 as well as being runners-up twice. They also have the highest average attendance in the league.
3. Los Angeles FC $475 million
As the first of the two LA-based clubs in the top three, Los Angeles FC is majority owned by Brandon Beck, Larry Berg and Bennett Rosenthal, along with a long list of other partners that even include Will Ferrell and Magic Johnson. A main source of revenue comes from ticket prices that are among the highest in the league, as well as around $13 million a year for stadium-naming and jersey sponsor rights.
2. LA Galaxy $480 million
The fierce rivalry between LAFC and LA Galaxy has been nicknamed “El Trafico” by fans and ensures huge interest whenever the two team’s clash. For example, when they met in the 2019 play-off semifinal an estimated 900,000 viewers tuned in to ESPN. What really put them on the map was signing David Beckham in 2007, a move which arguably raised the profile of MLS in general, even on the international stage.
1. Atlanta Utd $500 million
Leading the way by quite a margin is Atlanta Utd. The club is unusual in a number of respects, the first of which is that it even makes a profit – $7 million a year on revenues of almost $80 million. The team’s Mercedes Benz Stadium is also large enough to accommodate the 52,000 fans who attend home games – a number that equals or exceeds attendances in many of the world’s major leagues. They have also succeeded where others have failed in selling players overseas with the most notable example being Miguel Almirón, bought by Newcastle United for $27 million in 2019.
All in all, things are looking pretty good for MLS going forward. As well as the World Cup in a few years’ time, renegotiations for TV rights are due to be held next year which should provide a real boost to clubs’ finances. There are also reports that David Beckham is starting to invest heavily in Inter Miami, one of the newest entrants to the league.
So, perhaps one day, MLS will be up there with La Liga or the Premier League – and there are many people who would relish that prospect.