Covid-19 may have put a serious dent in the finances of Major League Soccer, but not even a worldwide pandemic can stem the increase in the value of its teams.
And the Seattle Sounders are no exception.
According to the latest valuation from Sportico, the Sounders are worth $705 million, good for fourth among all MLS sides. The Sounders entered MLS in 2009, having paid an estimated $30 million expansion fee. Los Angeles FC is currently ranked first, with a valuation of $860 million. The average MLS franchise is worth $550 million, according to the sports businesss’ publication’s valuation. Not surprisingly, the NFL is first among US leagues with an average team value of $3.09 billion.
The valuation of the Sounders may surprise some, given that they are the only team among the top four that doesn’t control their own stadium. Still, neither does NYCFC, who, with a valuation of $655 million, sit just behind the Sounders in fifth place.
“Soccer in the United States is still in the growth stage, compared to many of the leagues both domestically and abroad,” said Inner Circle Sports co-founder Steve Horowitz in an interview with Sportico.
The valuation of MLS teams stands in stark contrast to its television contract and the ratings it garners for games. The current MLS TV deal — which it bundles with U.S. Soccer — pays the league about $60 million per year (or just over $2 million per team), and is up for renegotiation after the 2022 season. U.S. Soccer announced that they were severing marketing ties with MLS at the end of its deal with the league. Additionally, the league’s TV ratings (350,000 according to Nielsen ratings) lag behind such leagues as Liga MX and the English Premier League in the United States, to say nothing of the other four major sports.
It’s unclear what a new TV deal will mean for the league overall. Without U.S. Soccer, MLS will still most likely see an increase in its rights, but it will surely be less than if they still had the partnership intact. Still, the elephant in the room has a big 2026 stamp on it in the form of the World Cup, which is set to be staged primarily in the United States. The worldwide event is expected to be a financial boon to nearly all parties in the United States, and MLS will be no exception.
MLS will also have labor peace for the next 8 years, having renegotiated its collective bargaining agreement with the MLS Players Association earlier this year. Many of the increases the players initially bargained for in 2020 were stripped away after the coronavirus pandemic decimated revenues for the league. The league has claimed that it lost upwards of $1 billion in 2020, and stand to lose a similar amount in 2021.
Those losses will likely pale in comparison to the gains that will be made with labor peace, a new television deal and a World Cup in its backyard, and that means MLS owners stand to make a pretty penny over the next eight years. And that means the value of the league and its teams will continue to rise.
VALUE OF EACH MLS TEAM (PER SPORTICO):
2021 MLS team valuations
|1||Los Angeles FC||$860 million|
|2||Atlanta United||$845 million|
|3||LA Galaxy||$835 million|
|4||Seattle Sounders FC||$705 million|
|5||New York City FC||$655 million|
|6||Toronto FC||$650 million|
|7||Portland Timbers||$635 million|
|8||D.C. United||$630 million|
|9||Austin FC||$575 million|
|10||Sporting Kansas City||$550 million|
|11||Columbus Crew||$540 million|
|12||Chicago Fire FC||$535 million|
|13||Philadelphia Union||$530 million|
|14||Inter Miami CF||$525 million|
|15||Minnesota United FC||$520 million|
|16||San Jose Earthquakes||$510 million|
|17||New York Red Bulls||$505 million|
|18||FC Cincinnati||$500 million|
|19||New England Revolution||$480 million|
|20||Nashville SC||$460 million|
|21||Houston Dynamo FC||$425 million|
|22||Real Salt Lake||$420 million|
|23||FC Dallas||$415 million|
|24||Orlando City SC||$400 million|
|25||Vancouver Whitecaps FC||$385 million|
|26||CF Montreal||$380 million|
|27||Colorado Rapids||$370 million|