Saturday, March 19, 2011

Top Six MLS Clubs

Forbes magazine has finally come around to publishing a list of the 'top' professional soccer teams in Major League Soccer, by which they really mean 'most profitable.'  As there are 18 teams currently in the MLS, this short but surprising list reveals where the MLS is currently being the most successful:

No. 1 Los Angeles Galaxy
Owner: Philip Anschutz
Stadium: Home Depot Center
Value: $100 million
Revenue: $36 million
Operating Income: $4.0 million

The Galaxy was already the league’s marquee team before the arrival of David Beckham, soccer’s most renowned superstar, last summer. Now they’re in another stratosphere--L.A.’s $36 million of revenue in 2007 was double that of any other team.

No. 2 Toronto FC
Owner: Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE)
Stadium: BMO Field
Value: $44 million
Revenue: $17 million
Operating Income: $2.1 million

Hailed by the commissioner as a model team, Toronto FC sold out every game in its inaugural season. The average spectator spent $4.03 on souvenirs a game--that’s a higher rate than MLSE's flagship sports property: hockey’s Maple Leafs.

No. 3 Chicago Fire
Owners: Andrew and Ellen Hauptman
Stadium: Toyota Park
Value: $41 million
Revenue: $16 million
Operating Income: -$3.1 million

In exchange for $98 million of public financing to construct Toyota Park, the Fire share revenues from parking, premium seating and general ticket sales with the Village of Bridgeview, Ill. The upside for the team: no debt service on a state of the art soccer stadium, which is a far cry from cavernous Soldier Field, where they once went 53 days between home games, playing second fiddle to the NFL’s Bears.

No. 4 FC Dallas
Owner: Hunt Sports
Stadium: Pizza Hut Park
Value: $39 million
Revenue: $15 million
Operating Income: $0.5 million

The franchise once known as the Dallas Burn, which for a time called a high school football stadium home, has undergone dramatic changes in recent years. Highlights include moving into a soccer-specific stadium in 2005--complete with a 20-year, $25 million naming rights deal--increased TV exposure and, of course, the new name. The next step in their extreme makeover: trying to secure a jersey sponsorship.

No. 5 New York Red Bulls
Owner: Red Bull GmbH
Stadium: Giants Stadium
Value: $36 million
Revenue: $10 million
Operating Income: -$4.5 million

The Red Bulls hope their days as a small fish in the big New York sports pond will be over once they begin play at Red Bulls Arena in Harrison, N.J., next year. The Austrian energy drink giant is betting big on a turnaround: paying $150 million for the team, its naming rights and construction costs since 2006.

No. 6  D.C. United
Owners: Victor MacFarlane and William Chang
Stadium: Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium
Value: $35 million
Revenue: $13 million
Operating Income: -$3.0 million

The most storied team in the league’s brief history is languishing in 47-year-old RFK Stadium. “The stadium does not generate enough revenue on game day because it’s so antiquated,” says Kevin Payne, the team’s president. The team is in talks with both the District of Columbia and Prince George’s County, MD, and hopes to announce plans for a new stadium in the fall.'

And thus, the brutal conclusions: (1) the Galaxy is worth more than twice as much money, as the next closest team, and is hence officially the only legitimate 'Superclub' in North America; and (2) our beloved DC United is 'languishing,' all apparently due to the absence of a stadium deal.  The team's valuation depends in part on having a shiny new stadium. 

But I'd rather be a United fan with four titles, than a Galaxy fan with two.  Let's see what the team's valuations are, once United gets the stadium they say they need.