Major League Soccer is a league whose stature is divisive among soccer fans, to say the least. Some say it’s growing and flourishing enough to become an eventual top league, others think it’s not even good enough to be a third-tier league in Europe. Whatever your opinion is, the MLS is still raking in millions of dollars each year, and with two teams in New York and Orlando entering the league in 2015, there’s a chance for the MLS’ pocketbook to expand even more.
Some may also consider the league to be a semi-retirement home for past-their-prime European stars – David Beckham, Thierry Henry and Alessandro Nesta come to mind. That said, more money is being put into Major League Soccer teams than ever before, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down.
It’s not even the home of the best American soccer players – most of those players are plying their trade in leagues across Europe – but it’s quickly providing a spectacle for North American soccer fans to enjoy without having to spend a fortune to fly across the Atlantic to see a competitive soccer match. However, the quality of the MLS isn’t quite what it is overseas – you only need to go to a pre-season game between an MLS team and a major European club on a US tour for proof of that.
Eight of the teams listed in this countdown are based in the United States, while the others are two of the three teams representing Canada – two teams still struggling in some areas, but continuing to make good coin on the north side of the border. Either way, this top 10 list is a testament to how fast the MLS is expanding and growing in a continent saturated with far more successful sports leagues. Let’s take a look.
10. Montreal Impact – Team Value: $96 Million
The newest Canadian club to enter the MLS, the Montreal Impact are already becoming quite profitable for a team that’s only played two full seasons thus far – but for a couple good reasons. One: the Joey Saputo-owned club plays their games between the smaller Saputo Stadium and the much bigger Olympic Stadium just around the corner, though the latter is used for big-ticket events such as the team’s home opener. Two: the team has also benefited from adding Italian stars such as Alessandro Nesta and Marco Di Vaio to their squad. The Impact are worth $96 million, and saw a revenue of $26.2 million in 2012-13.
9. FC Dallas – Team Value: $97 Million
This team has come a fairly long way from their days as the Dallas Burn. Despite a poor season where they finished 15th overall and saw head coach Schellas Hyndman step down, FC Dallas are still among the most profitable teams in the league, racking up $24.2 million in revenue in 2012. Owned by Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt, the Hoops don’t have any particularly big names, but will be hoping to sign a new designated player in the new year, as well as travel to the United Arab Emirates for their preseason for two weeks in January and February.
8. Chicago Fire – Team Value: $102 Million
While googling this team will bring you to a same-named TV show instead, the Chicago Fire are still making great coin despite not having won the MLS cup for 15 years. Owned by Andrew Hauptman of Los Angeles-based investment firm Andell Holdings, the Fire lost German defender Arne Friedrich to retirement this past June, but were making $24.5 million in revenue in 2012. The team is currently worth roughly $102 million, but lost $3.2 million in profit in 2012. Despite this and the Fire’s disappointing season this past year, they can still brag about the fact that forward/hometown boy Mike Magee is the MLS MVP and Golden Boot winner.
7. Sporting Kansas City – Team Value: $108 Million
Formerly the Kansas City Wizards, Sporting KC don’t necessarily boast the league’s biggest names, but they must be doing something right: they’re the defending champions from last season. With a value of $108 million and 2012 revenue of $27.7 million, Sporting will likely see that number rise after their run to the MLS cup in 2013, in which they beat Real Salt Lake on penalties in what was the coldest MLS championship game to date. With players Matt Besler and Graham Zusi quite possibly getting on the plane to Brazil next summer to play for Jürgen Klinsmann’s US national team, the defending MLS champs have got plenty to brag about.
6. New York Red Bulls – Team Value: $114 Million
The New York Red Bulls may be better known outside of North America – and probably in it, too – for having World Cup-winner Thierry Henry spearheading their strike force. But the Red Bulls are a bit more than just one legendary player. The team who finished first overall in the league last season also have veteran Australian attacking midfielder Tim Cahill, and have been lucky enough to see Youri Djorkaeff, Lothar Matthaus and Brazilian free kick maestro Juninho don the red and white in the past. The Red Bulls are valued at $114 million, with a $28.1 million revenue in 2012. They did, however, lose $6.3 million in profit that same year.
5. Toronto FC – Team Value: $121 Million
Despite their woes on the pitch and a revolving door of managers over the years – with former Kiwi player Ryan Nelsen currently at the helm – Toronto FC are still among the MLS’s most profitable sides. Although they had yet another disappointing season last year – as has seemingly been the case with most Toronto sports teams – the Reds are still valued at $121 million, with a 2012 revenue of $30.9 million. With the return of homegrown star Dwayne De Rosario to T.O., as well as the heavily-rumoured signing of Jermain Defoe from Tottenham Hotspur, TFC are likely to see their figures continue to rise over next season.
4. Houston Dynamo – Team Value: $125 Million
Co-owned by former boxing superstar Oscar De La Hoya, the Houston Dynamo are among the most successful MLS clubs both on the pitch and off it. Winning the MLS Cup in their first two seasons as a club is no mean feat, and being finalists in 2011 and 2012 has also been a huge signal of success for the Dynamo. As proof of that, the team is currently worth $125 million, as well as having earned $32.6 million in revenue in 2012. Although the team has announced no big changes to the squad following Brian Ching’s retirement after last season, the Dynamo is still expected to be a competitive team in 2014.
3. Portland Timbers – Team Value: $141 Million
The two-year-old Portland Timbers are a surprisingly profitable club given their location in one of America’s most under-served sports markets. However, the Timbers made last year’s Western Conference final, and finished third overall in the league. The team is valued at $141 million, with a 2012 revenue of $39.1 million. While Manchester United fans may recognize the team for having Mikael Silvestre – out with a torn ACL – it is players like Will Johnson and Diego Valeri who make up part of this team’s core. With an appearance at the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League in the cards, the Timbers can expect their pocketbooks to expand even wider this coming season.
2. Los Angeles Galaxy – Team Value: $170 Million
When one thinks of the LA Galaxy, they wouldn’t be blamed for immediately associating them with David Beckham. Although the former footballer/fashion icon has retired and left his mark on American soccer, Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane remain with the Galaxy, and the team will be looking to improve on a slightly disappointing fifth-place finish and conference semifinal appearance last season. The team just misses out on the top spot on this list with a value of $170 million, and a 2012 revenue of $44 million. With former US national team manager Bruce Arena at the helm, the Galaxy are bound to remain among the top contenders for next year’s MLS Cup.
1. Seattle Sounders – Team Value: $175 Million
Despite being well-known for a sitcom that had a theme song called “Cleveland Rocks”, Drew Carey is a minority owner of what is now the MLS’ most valuable club. Majority-owned by Joe Roth, movie producer and co-founder of Morgan Creek Productions, the Sounders have racked up a staggering $175 million in value – edging out the Galaxy for top spot on this list. The team itself also clocked up a revenue of about $48 million, and the team who finished sixth overall last season will surely see more cash come through following the signing of American star Clint Dempsey from Tottenham Hotspur.
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