Forbes values eight MLS franchises at more than $100 million

BradEvansSeattleSounders2-ColoradoRapids (USATodaySports)

By DAN KARELL

In the wake of Major League Soccer’s decision to expand to 21 teams by 2015 with the inclusion of Orlando City Soccer Club, the league received some more positive news on Wednesday.

According to a report in Forbes, eight MLS franchises are valued at more than $100 million each, with the Seattle Sounders leading the way at a value of $175 million. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Chivas USA occupies the final spot in Forbes’ valuation numbers, at $64 million. All numbers in the report are Forbes estimates taken from the 2012 season.

Behind the Sounders are the Los Angeles Galaxy ($170 million), Portland Timbers ($141 million), Houston Dynamo ($125 million), Toronto FC ($121 million), and the New York Red Bulls ($114 million). Rounding out the eight most valuable teams are Sporting Kansas City ($108 million) and the Chicago Fire ($102 million).

The last time that Forbes published their valuations of MLS clubs was in 2008 and only the Galaxy was valued at $100 million or more. In addition, 10 MLS teams are currently either breaking even or making a profit with their operating income, a major improvement for the league.

Forbes highlighted soccer-specific stadiums as a major factor in teams’ increased valuations, noting that they have given teams full operating control and a bigger share of the game-day revenue. Currently there are 12 soccer-specific stadiums in the league, with new stadiums in San Jose and Orlando on the way. Also, Forbes cited the league’s national TV contracts as big sources of revenue.

According to a separate report from Forbes, the Columbus Crew were sold this year for $68 million, five million dollars short of their 2012 valuation. Nonetheless, it was a record sale for an MLS team.

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What do you think of this report? Happy to see the league’s growth? Do you believe the numbers have grown this season? Do you expect them to grow more once the league finishes expanding in 2020?

Share your thoughts below.

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61 Responses to Forbes values eight MLS franchises at more than $100 million

  1. Deno says:

    Chicken feed compared to the Cosmos.

    • Ian says:

      The de jure second division team that plays in Hempstead, or the club that went bust almost 30 years ago?

    • yankiboy says:

      Thanks for some comic relief, my man. That was funny.

    • AcidBurn says:

      Ahh, so you are valuing the “Pele Nostalgia” at a cool $150 mil?

    • AristotleTimVickery says:

      We’ve arrived. Probably only 5 teams in Mexico would be valued over $100mil, and probably only 5 in Brazil (2 in Arg).

      • john says:

        There are four Mexican teams in the top 10 richest clubs in the Americas. The LA Galaxy is the only MLS team in the top 10 and this particular valuation doesn’t even take into account some aspects of Club America and Chivas’ worth.

        • AristotleTimVickery says:

          that wasn’t a recent valuation. Its based on those 2009 numbers. I’ve seen it. With the number numbers, there’d probably be 4 mls teams in top 10 of the Americas.

  2. Supa says:

    LOL, and I’m a Cosmos fan.

  3. El Paso tx says:

    So if sounders had a SSS, will they even be more valuable.
    I hope someone buys chivas USA, sooner than later and do something with them.
    I also wonder if dynamo, earthquakes, fire, rsl, union, will be in the market in the next 10 years, given that soccer popularity is growing and growing.

    • Jay says:

      Why wouldn’t they be? Will they be the teams known are pound the world probably not but every league has teams like those. As for the Sounders a SSS would be great but my motto is if it isn’t broke don’t fix it. They just have to work with the Seahawks on a better turf they both can use.

    • mouf says:

      I doubt it, SKC has a 200 plus million dollar stadium and is only 7th overall

    • Bill Brasky says:

      Actually, I’m sure not having the debt service for a new stadium helped the Sounders bottom line. Rent at CenturyLink is much cheaper than carrying the cost of a brand new facility by yourself.

  4. Eugene says:

    Kind of a crappy valuation, Forbes didn’t even explain how they valued these franchises. And if you look at the valuations in comparison to revenues or “operating profit” as Forbes labeled earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization, the multiples were VERY high.

    Pretty much meaningless.

    • Michael F. SBI Mafia Original says:

      Agree. No investment bank would even consider a purchase etc., without a transparent formula. It reads more like a popularity contest than a valuation. But any press is good press for MLS.

    • Dave says:

      Given that the Crew sold for a value only 5 mil away from their 2012 valuation I’d guess that Forbes might have some tiny clue about what they are doing.

      • Eugene says:

        Well, I would bet you that they looked at that sale, and probably all of the recent sales of minority or majority stakes in teams, but they didn’t say that was the basis of their valuation in their piece.

    • NE Revs says:

      What the bleep you know about EBITDA son???!!?!? You ain’t from the mean streets of Forbes.com you better take a principles accounting course before you come in here talking bleep like that!!! That kind of thing can get a jawn kilt

    • NE Revs says:

      Also Eugene, normally you have to pay to see how people get their valuations. If you’re looking for a handout look elsewhere.

      • Annelid Gustator says:

        Yes!! Nobody sane is using a valuation published in open press to make an investment decision!!

      • TimbersGary says:

        “Yes sir, due diligence complete. I read the Forbes article for crying out loud!”

      • Eugene says:

        Lol. Yes, I am clearly looking for a handout, what gave it away? Actually, when people do professional valuations, they usually disclose what process and assumptions they used and Forbes here discloses nothing other than the result and two figures for each franchise. Which is my point — looking at what was disclosed, it’s not clear what the result was based on, so the result has very little credibility. On top of that, if you look at the results vs. revenues or vs. EBITDA (what they labeled as operating profit), the valuations look pretty high.

  5. nickp91 says:

    MLS made a $33 million profit as a league this season

  6. TomG says:

    Why is Toronto so highly valued? I find that extraordinarily strange.

    • yankiboy says:

      I’m sure that one of our Canadian cousins could give a much better educated and intelligent answer than I, but what the heck–I’ll give it the old college try:

      They are right their in popularity up in TO when it comes to teams not named not the Maple Leafs and they don’t have the overhead that the Blue Jays and Raptors do. Just imagine how they would move up the list if they started WINNING…

    • MLSfan says:

      If Toronto had ever put a winning product on the field they’d likely be challenging LA for top spot. Too bad their management is ‘tarded.

    • Jubez says:

      Fourth biggest market on the continent. Essentially, a national television deal. Very well situated, recently built and still exapandible stadium.

      As others have said, a little more winning, and tickets will once again be difficult to come by. Even modest improvement ant this team and profits will soar.

      Like Chicago, Toronto could support a second team with no issues whatsoever… unless of course they were to be Chivas Toronto…

      If I were Garber, I’d be looking at adding teams in Chicago and Toronto before moving into some of the other oft mentioned locales. Four inter-city derbies in the four largest cities on the continent makes a lot of sense, especially if significant expansion is part of the longer term plan.

      • SE says:

        To grow the league you gotta bring in new fans. Expansion into new markets means new fans and that much closer to a National network TV contract reaching also new fans. TV is where the money’s at.

    • Vic says:

      Toronto’s ticket prices are at least double the average MLS team. There are a few tickets for Toronto’s games below $50 but most range from $50-$120 per game. Considering Toronto averages 19-20k fans per game, thats alot of money. Add $5 million a year for shirt sponsorship and another 4-5 million per year in stadium naming rights thats a good source of revenue.

  7. Dimidri says:

    Chivas’ owner is supposedly refusing to sell unless he gets the same 100 million NYCFC spent to get in the league, saying that’s the going rate for big market MLS teams these days.

    Chivas in its current state is clearly not worth anything near that. But if I were MLS, I would pay that in an instant. Sure, is it an overvaluation? Yeah, but think about what it gets you. Not only does it get the albatross of Chivas USA out of the league, it, assuming you get the right owner, can give you another Galaxy in the league. For youth development (which Chivas have actually been okay at), star power, league revenue, league attendance, diverse geographic penetration in a huge market like LA, etc. it would absolutely be worth overpaying the extra 34 million dollars.

    • THomas says:

      The Chivas number made me wonder too. Beckham is going to buy a team for $25 million, then he can literally do nothing, and it will already be worth at least that $68 million and maybe over $100 million if they get their own stadium. What a genius.

      • AcidBurn says:

        This. Beckham is going to get a 300% return on his investment just for getting MLS to put a team in Miami.

        No wonder he is working the crowd. Sweet deal for Becks.

    • TimbersGary says:

      Great point. I think I’d much rather have spent my share of the Dempsey transfer on buying out Chivas.

    • AcidBurn says:

      Since it’s Vergara, don’t you mean 100 million pesos? That seems more in line for the value of Chivas USA.

  8. Coco says:

    $100 million dollar clubs with $3 million salary cap.

    Something is not right about this.

    • Gerald says:

      Yeah I have to agree with you there

    • Dave says:

      Future expectation is built into those valuations. Given the league’s ability to last two decades and slowly but surely grow these prices make sense.

      • NE Revs says:

        Amazing to see someone in the comment section with a little business acumen who actually gets it rather than saying the valuations suck without having any knowledge of how a valuation actually works.

    • NE Revs says:

      It’s not that complicated to make a valuation. All you need is an Excel spreadsheet and a valuation model to plug numbers in from a company’s financial statements. If you’re really curious you can go to your local university and pick up an FSA textbook. All you’re doing is forecasting future cash flows and adjusting for perceived risk.

      • NE Revs says:

        The valuation is only as good as the work you put into studying the business, the industry, the economy as a whole and the company’s statements. It’s all theory at this point and no one gets every valuation right. This is because all current valuation models use circular reasoning. If you can find one that doesn’t please let me know.

      • TimbersGary says:

        Not my specialty, but I’d argue valuation of a sports team is a different beast. Seems far removed from the typical indicators (cash flow, ROI) as many of the most valuable franchises operate at a loss. Seems far more speculative than the already speculative nature of valuation.

  9. Coco says:

    what raises the price of a club is the fact that MLS is a franchise league and the league has set a high franchise price. When you restrict supply you inflate price. For instance, Soviet Era breadlines where loaves of bread cost $40.

    I’m not saying MLS = Soviet Union, but the evaluations take into account that to buy into MLS costs as much as $100 million.

    • Yevgeniy says:

      First, where did you get this $40 idea from?!?!?!? Secondly, restricted supply is a part of valuation of any sports team in the world. It’s not like there is unlimited supply of EPL or La Liga teams that you can buy

      • patrick says:

        well, it’s not unlimited, but you could technically buy any team in England, or Spain and MAKE them an EPL/La Liga team. I think his point was that in MLS, there is a restriction on entry, and a finite number of spots. Sure, there are only 20 teams in EPL, but there’s a rotation of 3 every year. NOt the case in MLS.

      • Coco says:

        nope..only in franchise leagues.

  10. GJJ says:

    I once heard a joke from an Australian that went like this “How do you start a small company? Give a big company to a New Zealander and wait five years.” Sporting KC are a great team. But the fact that they come from a much smaller city and are valued higher than the Chicago Fire sheds some light on what a bunch of idiots the owners of the Fire are. Chicago has a massive, soccer friendly immigrant population, public transport, lots of participation in the games at all levels, etc, etc, etc and these guys have frittered that all away. Please, please, please get us some owners that know what they are doing.

  11. THomas says:

    I think the biggest news is in the fourth paragraph. First off, Forbes considers them valuable enough to make an evaluation. And secondly, over half of the teams are profitable, that’s something I didn’t expect.

  12. Quit whining about soccer in the US says:

    Man, I have to get on my soccer news earlier.

    THIS IS A WHINE FEST !

    What happens when all the wishful thinking the soccer stinks in this country and trolls hoping to make useless points about how it is Mickey Mouse are debunked by an article ?

    First try to discredit the article, second, up the whine dial to 11 !!

  13. Kiphino says:

    Can you say “bubble”? Yea, that’s what I want to do, pay $100 million on a team that loses me an additional $3MM a year after that.

    • Quit whining about soccer in the US says:

      First of all Waahhh.

      Second, Income numbers are always understated in sports because of crazy depreciation methods. Revenue is the true number especially when you are talking $3-10 million in salaries on revenue of $15-50 million.

      The numbers don’t add up to teams not be profitable.

      • Annelid Gustator says:

        “Second, Income numbers are always understated in sports because of crazy depreciation methods.”

        As in all enterprises: cash is a fact; profit is an opinion.

      • Kiphino says:

        Operating income defined by Forbes is EBITDA, which excludes depreciation.

    • TimbersGary says:

      Do you own a house? If you can operate at a small loss and it’s worth 200M in 10 years, well, you’re sitting pretty. You don’t operate a sports club for the net profit, it’s the investment value.

      • Kiphino says:

        Yes, I do own a house and I don’t spend 3% of its value a year on up keep. That would be stupid. Who does that?

        You’re assuming there’s a bigger fool out there to pay more. That’s how bubbles form.

        • Quit whining about soccer in the US says:

          Well, I guess you wouldn’t have invested in NYC II then.
          Plenty of others willing to do so.

          The Sounders are not complaining about their cash flows, I will guarantee you that. $50 million rev on $30 million in investment.

          My guess is you wouldn’t have done that either. Hoping the league will fail and coming up with reasons why it is isn’t worth it is looking more and more like a bunch of foolish bloggers dreams….but if those numbers are after depreciation and correct….wow, we ( US soccer community ) have come a long way baby.

          • Quit whining about soccer in the US says:

            I meant to say “even before depreciation”…working on three things at once.

        • Mke soccer fan says:

          Hmm. Don’t pay 3%? You must live in a tax friendly state. Property taxes alone are almost 3% in WI.

  14. Andy says:

    You are all missing the biggest issue with the Forbes story…

    They called David Beckham a striker. So obviously, bogus story…

  15. NUGUET says:

    ET NE PAS OUBLIER NEW-YORK COSMOS AUSSI GRAND CLUBS