What is an MLS team worth?

Many folks have mistaken growth in number of teams and the amount of franchise fees paid for MLS teams as signs the MLS is doing well.

But, the jury is still out.

I think people are paying the high franchise fee lining up to pay for two reasons (or really, the first reason).

  1. Bundled with their MLS team comes a share of TV revenue from the 2026 World Cup. I’d say this is probably the bulk of why folks paid $200 – $300 million for a team. And, I think the MLS is selling those future World Cup cash flows because they need the cash to keep the lights on, like someone taking a second mortgage out on the home to invest in their band.
  2. A hope and prayer that somehow, someway MLS catches on and someday their team might be worth multiples of what they paid. I hope that works out for them.

So, the real value of an MLS team is close to zero.

From this Forbes article on when the the MLS Chicago Fire was bought in 2019:

“It is unclear why Mansueto paid such a premium in the latest transaction, and specific details of the transaction are unknown…”

Perhaps he paid that much expecting he’d get most of that back in 2026.


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