Major League Soccer’s Most Valuable Teams – Forbes
When MLS kicked off its 2017 season this past March, it expected to do so with the fanfare of two new expansion teams based in Atlanta and Minnesota. What it maybe didn’t plan for, however, was one team to sell out its stadium for the league’s coldest-ever game, and the other to not only play its first home game in front of one of the world’s biggest soccer crowds, but to maintain that popularity throughout its inaugural season. It’s a tremendous statement for the league, and one that’s hard to overstate.
“We opened up in Minnesota in the middle of a blizzard with 35,000 people,” remarks MLS president Mark Abbott, “and Atlanta has almost 50,000 people per game, which is the highest average attendance for any professional sports team in the United States or Canada outside of the NFL.” It’s true, and what’s more is that, at over 46,000 fans per home game through mid-August, Atlanta has knocked Seattle off the top of the MLS attendance chart for the first time since the Sounders joined the league in 2009.
It’s that sort of immediate success that helps illustrate why prospective MLS team owners across the country are clamoring for a piece of the league, even with the next round of expansion now costing new owners a fee of $150 million, a whopping 275% increase from just five years ago when the Montreal Impact paid $40 million. And it’s that tremendous demand that goes a long way toward explaining why the average MLS team is now worth $223 million, up 20% from last year.
The LA Galaxy is now the league’s most valuable team with a value of $315 million, a 19% increase from last year. The five-time MLS Cup winners generated an estimated $63 million in revenue last season, far and away the most of any team. Los Angeles is one of the league’s founding franchises, and in its two-plus decades the club has provided the model for long-term success. The Galaxy currently boast the league’s most valuable broadcasting ($5.5 million per year) and stadium naming rights deals ($10 million-plus per year).
The Sounders, now worth $295 million, remain a close second, which ought to be no surprise considering that the team is coming off its first ever championship victory in 2016. And that timing couldn’t be much better: The Sounders recently announced that they have partnered with WME-IMG to sell a sponsorship package that will include the team’s jersey-front, match-day field and training ground rights after the team’s current deal with Microsoft’s Xbox expires following next season. Rounding out the top five are Toronto FC ($280 million), New York City FC ($275 million) and Orlando City SC ($272 million).
Toronto, last year’s MLS Cup runner-up, recently completed stadium renovations to expand capacity and is showing how significant player investments – the club’s $16.5 million in total designated player salary is tops among MLS teams this year – can pay off. New York and Orlando have meanwhile been sterling examples of the league’s recent expansion success. The two teams remain top-five in attendance in their third season of play. And as noted above, Atlanta United is off to such a tremendous start that even the most bullish supporters have been blown away. “Atlanta is really remarkable,” says MLS commissioner Don Garber, “We never expected to see that level of support. It’s just absolutely stupendous, breaking records and showing that soccer can succeed in any part of this country.”