Most Valuable Soccer Clubs 2024: Man United Leads, Top 50 Worth $80B

This Premier League season has largely been one to forget for Manchester United fans. The 20-time English champions sit in eighth place in the league standings with three games to go, and if the result holds, it would mark the club’s worst finish since the league was founded in 1992—the previous low point was a seventh-place finish during the 2013-14 season. Another setback: getting bounced in the group stage during the UEFA Champions League.

But despite the stumbles on the field and 11-year EPL title drought, British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe was willing to spend $1.6 billion to acquire 28% of the team, ending a 16-month sale process from the time the Glazer family hired investment bank Raine Group to explore “strategic alternatives” in November 2022.

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The hefty cash outlay for a limited partnership stake reinforced the allure of United and its spot as the world’s most valuable soccer team. Sportico values Manchester United at $6.2 billion in our second annual look at the top 50 clubs, which was compiled based on a review of financial statements and more the 50 conversations with bankers, investors, consultants and team executives.

The value represents eight times United’s average revenue over the last three full seasons. Revenue multiples remain the standard that most bankers apply to valuing sports franchises.

Click here for the full list of teams and a complete methodology.

There is a clear hierarchy of clubs in Europe when it comes to valuations. There are 10 teams worth at least $3.4 billion, by Sportico’s count, and these clubs all have massive IP that fuel commercial revenues that averaged $341 million during the 2022-23 season in addition to broadcast revenues of $257 million on average. They are all valued at five to eight times revenue.

The drop-off to No. 11 is $1.7 billion after Chelsea comes in at $3.47 billion. Another four clubs also insulated from relegation are valued between $1.06 billion (Inter Milan) and $1.77 billion (Juventus). There is another step down to the next European club at $780 million (Olympic Lyonnais), and the top 50 cutoff is $550 million (Houston Dynamo).

Top European clubs dwarf Major League Soccer ones on revenue, but MLS has the upper hand on cost controls, modern stadiums and a single-entity structure that fosters ownership collaboration. The lack of relegation also sets a floor for MLS values that has risen dramatically over the past decade.

Soccer purists might howl, but the league structure helped land 20 MLS clubs in the top 50, more than twice as many as the nine from the EPL. Serie A had six clubs and Bundesliga four, while LaLiga and Liga MX both secured three spots, and Ligue 1 had two. Eredivisie (Ajax), Primeira Liga (Benefica) and Brazilian Serie A (Flamengo) all had a single team make the cut.

Los Angeles FC is the top MLS club, which ranks No. 15 overall at $1.15 billion, based on Sportico's MLS team valuations in January.

MLS teams are valued at an average of 9.6 times revenue, versus five times for the non-MLS teams in the top 50 list. In addition to the financial advantages of its structure, MLS owners are bullish on the future of the league. Lionel Messi’s arrival, along with the new Apple deal, 2026 World Cup and Leagues Cup competition with Liga Mx are a quartet of levers to pull that provide a foundation for the league to increase revenue and grow into its rich revenue-multiple valuations.

Investing in soccer franchises is not for the faint of heart. Despite these clubs being the 50 most valuable in the world, most of them have some warts. You have top clubs in need of stadium solutions, such as Chelsea, AC Milan and Inter Milan. There are western hemisphere teams with massive followings—such as Club America, Guadalajara and Flamengo—located in countries, Mexico and Brazil, that give some investors pause. Recent TV rights renewals for LaLiga and Ligue 1 showed softness, and even the EPL’s new domestic deal signed in January dipped on an annualized basis.

Shahid Khan’s team investments offer a window into the economic structure of different sports leagues. In 2011, he spent $770 million to buy the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars. The club turns a hefty profit each season that can top $100 million in a good year, and the Jags are now worth just over $4 billion.

Two years after buying Jacksonville, Khan bought EPL club Fulham for more than $200 million. Fulham was relegated to the Championship, England’s second division, the following season, where it has spent six of 11 seasons under Khan. He has piled up nearly $500 million in operating losses at Fulham, based on current exchange rates, and the current value sits below our $550 million cutoff.

However, Khan is not alone in losing money. Another red flag of owning a soccer team: almost everyone loses money.

Manchester United has lost money each of the past four years. Fout of the top 11 clubs had an operating loss greater than $100 million after player trading during the 2022-23 season. PSG lost $117 million, but it was an improvement on the $400 million shortfall the previous year. The losses are also steep further down the table with Lyon (-$80 million), Roma (-$75 million), Newcastle (-$80 million) and Aston Villa (-$140 million) posting big red numbers.

Manchester City was the most profitable EPL club during the 2021-22 season at $59 million, and one of seven teams in the league to make money. Every NFL team had a higher profit during the 2022 season with the Dallas Cowboys on top at an estimated $460 million.

German teams tends to have the most financial discipline. One problem: you can’t buy a Bundesliga club due to the league’s “50+1” rule that requires club members to be the controlling shareholder.

Some soccer teams are bought as ego or trophy buys, as well as those for geopolitical reasons, but for investors looking to make a return, the math can get tricky. An investor might get their heads around a $700 million price tag for certain clubs, but a $50 million a year loss means you are into the franchise for $1.2 billion after 10 years. It would require a sale nearly four times what you paid for it, or roughly $2.7 billion, to salvage a 10% annual return.

The lousy economic model explains why Manchester United and Real Madrid are the only soccer teams to crack the top 20 among the world’s most valuable sports franchises, which skews heavily towards the NFL with its strict salary cap and $400 million a year TV checks, along with a few NBA and MLB teams mixed in.

The top 50 soccer clubs are worth a combined $79.6 billion, compared to $165 billion for 32 NFL teams and $120 billion for the 30 NBA teams. The $1.6 billion average value in soccer is up 8.7% versus last year. The gain is a fraction of jumps in other major sports leagues where there is an insatiable appetite for these assets and greater scarcity. The most recent one-year value increase in the NBA was 33%, followed by the NHL at 29% and NFL at 24%.

The most recent control sales of teams in the top 50 were a trio of deals in 2022 with Chelsea sold for $3.2 billion, AC Milan at $1.2 billion and Olympique Lyonnais for $825 million. Inter Milan has been on the market but has struggled to find a buyer as its debt piles up. Everton fell out of the top 50 this year, as its financial situation worsened, and its sale to 777 Partners looks to be toast.

There have been LP deals over the past 12 months. Besides Ratcliffe’s United investment, Liverpool secured between $100 million and $200 million from sports team investment fund Dynasty Equity, and Ares Management doubled down with another $75 million preferred equity investment in Inter Miami after first investing in 2021. Additionally, Arctos Partners’ struck a deal to purchase up to 12.5% of Paris Saint-Germain at a valuation of just over $4 billion.

Arctos just closed its second sports team investment fund and has roughly $7 billion under management. Along with PSG, it owns stakes in European soccer with Atalanta as well as Liverpool through its investment in Fenway Sports Group. Arctos was attracted to PSG due to its global brand and home base of a city like Paris, but it plans to keep its focus on the North American market.

“A big part of our effort has been educating the institutional investor community about the very unique attributes of North American sports,” Ian Charles, Arctos co-founder, said in an interview last month for a story on the close of the second fund. “These are IP businesses, they are royalty businesses with a global customer base, long-term revenue streams and really attractive business fundamentals that are not easy for institutional investors to access.”

The EPL is looking to bring stricter cost controls to its teams. The existing profit and sustainability rules that triggered points deductions for Everton and Nottingham Forest this season are going away. Starting in 2025, teams will be limited to spending 85% of their total revenue on wages, transfer payments and agents’ fees.

A new proposal would work in conjunction with these squad cost controls and serve as more of a hard cap that also goes into effect in 2025. The “anchoring” system would be tied to the TV revenue of the club that finished in 20th place. Last season, Southampton earned £104 million from TV—$131 million based on current exchange rates—and a multiple of five times that benchmark, or $653 million, would have been the cap had the rules been in place.

As is the case in most European soccer leagues, it is hard to get all the teams on the same page with disparate interest and goals by different ownership groups. Manchester United, Man City and Aston Villa voted against the proposal, while Chelsea abstained. A final vote is expected in June.

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