Major League Soccer’s Most Valuable Teams 2024

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Lionel Messi’s arrival at Inter Miami last season created MLS’s second billion-dollar franchise—but they’re still not No. 1.
By Justin Birnbaum , Forbes Staff
In January, as Inter Miami arrived in El Salvador for its first preseason match of 2024, hundreds of cheering fans greeted the team’s convoy of pink buses, jostling past one another just to catch a glimpse of, arguably, the most famous athlete on the planet, Lionel Messi. Such an impassioned welcome in a foreign country would have been unimaginable eight months ago when Inter Miami, one of the more recent additions to Major League Soccer, was a last-place club with little global recognition beyond its minority co-owner, David Beckham. But that all changed in June when Messi announced that South Florida would become his next soccer home, forever altering the franchise’s trajectory.
“From the European mentality, a club, an institution is always bigger than an individual because an individual is part of the story,” says Xavier Asensi, Inter Miami’s chief business officer, who previously ran commercial operations at FC Barcelona for more than a decade. “Messi is huge in terms of FC Barcelona’s story. When you go to Inter Miami, here it’s not that the player is bigger than the club—the player is bigger than the league.”
His impact was immediate. A month after his arrival, Messi led Inter Miami to its first-ever trophy, at the inaugural Leagues Cup, with a dramatic penalty shootout victory. Off the field, the eight-time Ballon d’Or winner supercharged the team’s business operations, with revenue more than doubling to $118 million in 2023, from $56 million in 2022. The rapid change in fortune has fueled the club’s appreciation. Forbes estimates Inter Miami is now the second-most-valuable MLS team, worth $1.03 billion after a 72% bump from a year ago. The franchise is the second in league history to achieve a billion-dollar valuation, following in the cleated footsteps of LAFC, which did so in 2023 and remains MLS’s most valuable team, at $1.2 billion.
However, Messi’s presence on the roster isn’t solely responsible for Inter Miami’s $430 million value increase year-over-year. The club has shrewdly capitalized on its megastar’s commercial potential, starting even before he arrived. During its years-long courtship of Messi, Inter Miami pushed to add escalator clauses to its sponsorship agreements that would take effect if it acquired a player of the 36-year-old soccer legend’s caliber. It also lined up several partnerships to expire around Messi’s anticipated arrival, including its kit sponsorship with cryptocurrency exchange XBTO. Last month, Inter Miami officially announced that Royal Caribbean would take over that spot in a deal the largest of its kind in MLS history.
The first full season with Messi in the United States offers even more upside, including increased stadium attendance and higher average ticket prices. Inter Miami finished selling its entire 2024 season ticket inventory two weeks after the 2023 season concluded. The Argentine forward’s massive popularity has also opened new lines of business for the club, like its 23,000-mile global preseason tour through El Salvador, Dallas, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong and Japan. Inter Miami projects it will surpass $200 million in revenue this year, which would set a league record.
“This is a tsunami, and either you are ready to surf it—or you are beneath it,” Asensi says. “I think we were ready to swim and surf, but mindset-wise, it’s something that we still have to work on.”
Inter Miami now has an unparalleled window to transform its business, but it could close soon. Messi is under contract for only two seasons, with an option for 2026, and the franchise risks regressing financially after his departure. The club will get a boost in 2025 when it moves into its new stadium, Miami Freedom Park, although it still must figure out how to retain as much fan interest, global popularity and brand equity as possible from the Messi era.
The league faces a similar quandary. While MLS has thrived locally, it lacks the blockbuster national media rights revenue of other major North American sports leagues like the NFL and the NBA. Magnifying the issue is the fact that more than half of MLS teams are money-losing enterprises, leaving owners responsible for financial shortfalls and capital calls to finance league operations. “A lot of folks that have money want to make sure they keep the money and aren’t willing to continue to fund losses into perpetuity,” says Edwin E. Draughan of sports investment bank Park Lane.
Messi’s move to Miami doubled the subscriber count of MLS Season Pass, the league’s subscription streaming service with Apple, which will bring in at least $2.5 billion over 10 years. Retaining those customers after Messi finishes his MLS tenure will be crucial, especially considering the deal’s upside. At an undisclosed subscriber threshold, Apple and MLS share revenue. (Messi’s compensation includes a cut either way.) The streaming service hasn’t reached that threshold yet, although Messi’s popularity has inspired optimism that it could come sooner rather than later.
The World Cup in 2026 could also be a growth engine for MLS. Having emerged in the aftermath of the 1994 tournament, the league is banking much of its future growth on the games returning to North American soil. The Messi-driven surge in popularity, plus other major events coming to the U.S. like Copa América in 2024, could act as a bridge. How MLS will directly commercialize the opportunity is still unclear, though.
“When Team USA is doing well in the World Cup, all of a sudden America loves soccer,” Draughan says. “There’s a way that MLS is perfectly well positioned to capitalize on that success just from increased interest, increased demand. In terms of a direct way, it’s hard to really quantify.”
In the meantime, Inter Miami isn’t the only franchise reaping the rewards of its game-changing acquisition. Clubs lucky enough to host games against Miami in 2023 scored massive gate-revenue increases, including the New York Red Bulls, Nashville SC and the Chicago Fire, which drew 62,124 fans to Soldier Field for a game in which Messi never actually played. Those bumps, additional games from the Leagues Cup and a move by MLS to decrease the ticket revenue it collects from teams to 10%, from 33%, helped power a 20% increase in average revenue across the league to $66 million in 2023. Also bolstering the league are the rising valuations across other major American sports; for ultra-high-net-worth individuals with dreams of owning a sports team, MLS remains a cost-friendly option. Forbes now estimates the average MLS club is worth $658 million, up 14% from a year ago.
Making its first-ever appearance on the list is St. Louis City SC, which ranks 11th at $680 million after joining the league for a $200 million expansion fee in 2019. The club was a roaring success in its first season in 2023, winning an MLS-expansion-team-record 17 games, selling out all 18 of its home matches and ranking second in merchandise sales on the league’s online store, behind only Inter Miami. St. Louis posted an estimated $70 million in revenue for 2023, tied with NYCFC for the 10th-best mark in MLS.
LAFC, which claims the No. 1 spot for the second consecutive year at $1.2 billion, turned a $9 million operating profit on a league-high $140 million in revenue for 2023. The club added a 10-year, $100 million stadium naming rights pact with BMO prior to last season and, in July, drew an MLS single-game record 82,110 fans to the Rose Bowl for its rivalry match with the LA Galaxy. LAFC pads its bottom line with a suite of non-MLS businesses, including concerts and other events. BMO Stadium sold more than 1.3 million tickets in 2023, and Pollstar ranked the venue No. 5 on its year-end top 100 stadiums list with a gross of $109 million despite a capacity of only 22,000. LAFC has also dabbled in building its own network of soccer teams, adding a 90% stake in Switzerland’s Grasshopper Club Zurich to a portfolio that includes a piece of Austrian fourth-tier club FC Wacker Innsbruck and a joint venture with German powerhouse Bayern Munich.
“Clearly, the market is very strong here in L.A.,” Draughan says. “And they’ve been able to capitalize.”
MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER’S MOST VALUABLE TEAMS 2024
Nos. 1-7
No. 1. $1.2 billion
Los Angeles Football Club
2023 Revenue: $140 million | Operating Income: $9 million | 1-Year Change: +20%
Key Owners: Bennett Rosenthal, Brandon Beck, Larry Berg, Peter Guber
Shaun Clark/Getty Images
No. 2. $1.03 billion
Inter Miami CF
2023 Revenue: $118 million | Operating Income: $8 million | 1-Year Change: +72%
Key Owners: Jorge Mas, Jose Mas, David Beckham
Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images
No. 3. $950 million
LA Galaxy
2023 Revenue: $95 million | Operating Income: $3 million | 1-Year Change: +3%
Key Owners: Philip Anschutz
Chris Gardner/Getty Images
No. 4. $900 million
Atlanta United FC
2023 Revenue: $95 million | Operating Income: $9 million | 1-Year Change: +6%
Key Owners: Arthur Blank
Michael Zarrilli/Getty Images
No. 5. $850 million
New York City FC
2023 Revenue: $70 million | Operating Income: -$9 million | 1-Year Change: +6%
Key Owners: City Football Group (Sheikh Mansour)
Andres Kudacki/AP
No. 6. $785 million
Seattle Sounders FC
2023 Revenue: $75 million | Operating Income: $2 million | 1-Year Change: +19%
Key Owners: Adrian Hanauer
No. 7. $775 million
D.C. United
2023 Revenue: $85 million | Operating Income: $10 million | 1-Year Change: +11%
Key Owners: Jason Levien, Steven Kaplan
Nos. 8-14
No. 8. $750 million
Austin FC
2023 Revenue: $87 million | Operating Income: $3 million | 1-Year Change: +10%
Key Owners: Anthony Precourt, Eddie Margain
No. 9. $725 million
Toronto FC
2023 Revenue: $69 million | Operating Income: -$12 million | 1-Year Change: +5%
Key Owners: Larry Tanenbaum, Rogers Communication, Bell Canada
No. 10. $690 million
Charlotte FC
2023 Revenue: $80 million | Operating Income: $6 million | 1-Year Change: +10%
Key Owners: David Tepper
No. 11. $680 million
St. Louis City SC
2023 Revenue: $70 million | Operating Income: -$2 million | 1-Year Change: N/A
Key Owners: Taylor Family, Kavanagh Family
No. 12. $670 million
Philadelphia Union
2023 Revenue: $69 million | Operating Income: -$7 million | 1-Year Change: +17%
Key Owners: Jay Sugarman, Richard Leibovitch
No. 13. $660 million
Portland Timbers
2023 Revenue: $67 million | Operating Income: $1 million | 1-Year Change: +2%
Key Owners: Merritt and Hank Paulson
No. 14. $650 million
FC Cincinnati
2023 Revenue: $71 million | Operating Income: $10 million | 1-Year Change: +16%
Nos. 15-21
No. 15. $640 million
Columbus Crew
2023 Revenue: $61 million | Operating Income: -$6 million | 1-Year Change: +16%
Key Owners: Haslam family, Johnson family, Edwards family
No. 16. $630 million
Sporting Kansas City
2023 Revenue: $65 million | Operating Income: -$1 million | 1-Year Change: +7%
Key Owners: Illig family, Patterson Family
No. 17. $600 million
Minnesota United FC
2023 Revenue: $62 million | Operating Income: -$5 million | 1-Year Change: +11%
Key Owners: Dr. Bill McGuire
No. 18. $570 million
Nashville SC
2023 Revenue: $57 million | Operating Income: $0 million | 1-Year Change: +14%
Key Owners: John Ingram
No. 19. $560 million
New York Red Bulls
2023 Revenue: $56 million Operating Income: -$2 million | 1-Year Change: +7%
Key Owners: Red Bull GmbH (Mateschitz family)
No. 20. $530 million
Houston Dynamo FC
2023 Revenue: $45 million | Operating Income: -$10 million | 1-Year Change: +22%
Key Owners: Ted Segal
Carmen Mandato/USSF/Getty Images
No. 21. $520 million
New England Revolution
2023 Revenue: $45 million | Operating Income: $0 million | 1-Year Change: +9%
Key Owners: Kraft family
Nos. 22-29
No. 22. $515 million
Chicago Fire FC
2023 Revenue: $45 million | Operating Income: $0 million | 1-Year Change: +21%
Key Owners: Joe Mansueto
Nam Y. Huh/AP
No. 23. $505 million
San Jose Earthquakes
2023 Revenue: $49 million | Operating Income: -$5 million | 1-Year Change: +12%
Key Owners: John Fisher, Katie Hall
No. 24. $500 million
FC Dallas
2023 Revenue: $45 million | Operating Income: -$9 million | 1-Year Change: +25%
Key Owners: Hunt family
No. 25. $485 million
Real Salt Lake
2023 Revenue: $47 million | Operating Income: $0 | 1-Year Change: +10%
No. 26. $475 million
Orlando City SC
2023 Revenue: $46 million | Operating Income: -$3 million | 1-Year Change: +13%
Key Owners: Wilf family
No. 27. $430 million
CF Montréal
2023 Revenue: $40 million | Operating Income: -$8 million | 1-Year Change: +15%
Key Owners: Saputo family
No. 28. $420 million
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
2023 Revenue: $25 million | Operating Income: -$14 million | 1-Year Change: +2%
Key Owners: Greg Kerfoot, Jeff Mallett
Jordan Jones/Getty Images
No. 29. $400 million
Colorado Rapids
2023 Revenue: $38 million | Operating Income: -$5 million | 1-Year Change: +14%
Key Owners: Kroenke family
METHODOLOGY
To rank the most valuable Major League Soccer franchises, Forbes examined recent transaction data, reviewed publicly available financial information and spoke to more than 60 team executives, owners, investment bankers and industry insiders. All published figures are Forbes estimates; team values do not include stadiums, real estate, additional assets or debt. Revenue and operating income are estimates for the 2023 season, and the latter represents earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. Playoff games, player transfers and shared distributions from MLS were excluded from revenue calculations. Teams’ ancillary revenue streams, such as non-MLS events, were included.
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