The Most Valuable Sports Teams In The World
See which pro sports teams are worth the most dough.
Despite the global popularity of soccer and moneymaking juggernauts like the New York Yankees, the National Football Leauge is still tops when it comes to team profits.
Every year, Forbes puts together a list of the world’s 50 most valuable sports teams, and for 2019, more than half of them are NFL teams. And an NFL team that crossed a big financial threshold, garnering a total value of $5 billion, tops this year’s list.
Forbes analyzes teams from multiple sports around the world for 12 months to compile their list. According to the magazine, “Forbes’ team values are enterprise values (equity plus net debt) based on the multiples of revenue of historical transactions as well as offers to buy and invest in teams currently on the table. The values are based on each team’s current stadium (with adjustments for pending new stadiums and renovations).”
Here are the top 35 teams from Forbes’ 2019 list.
35. Minnesota Vikings
Value: $2.4 billion
The Vikings dropped two slots from last year’s list, where they were ranked 33rd — and at the same value of $2.4 billion. (Moving up on this list requires growth!)
Forbes notes that after 2017 NFC Conference championships, when the team was embarrassed by the Philadelphia Eagles (who went on to win the Super Bowl), the organization decided to put some money into a quality quarterback and signed Kirk Cousins to a three-year, $84 million contract. Unfortunately, Cousins has proven he’s not worth the steep price, and now the Vikings are stuck with him.
34. Oakland Raiders
Value: $2.42 billion
The Raiders are relocating from California’s Bay Area to Las Vegas, but before they can complete the big move, they need a new stadium in Sin City — and building a stadium is never cheap.
The cost for their new 65,000-seat home in Vegas? $1.8 billion. However, the organization will only be forking over $850 million for its construction; the public will be paying $750 million for the stadium, with the NFL pitching in a $200 million loan the Raiders will have to pay back. If the bet doesn’t pay off, the Raiders could drop on this list in years to come.
33. Miami Dolphins
Value: $2.58 billion
Like the Vikings, the Dolphins held steady at last year’s value, which caused them to drop from 25th on last year’s Forbes list.
The team has put $537 million into a stadium renovation, and they’re counting on season-ticket increases to offset the cost of that investment. Their finance staff must be happy: The Dolphins had higher revenue ($414 million) last year and lower operating income ($56 million) than the previous year. Their strategy for earning a buck seems to be working.
Value: $2.58 billion
Chelsea made a big leap forward on this year’s list: the English soccer team was ranked just 46th on last year’s list.
What’s behind the bump? Chelsea turned a record-breaking profit thanks to player sales, sponsorship deals and broadcast contracts. The club is bringing in $1.1 billion in broadcasting revenue alone, and what’s more, Chelsea doesn’t seem to have any debt on its balance sheet. However, they did recently get ordered to pay the full severance package to Antonio Conte, the coach they sacked (who was blamed when the football club didn’t make it to the Champions League in 2018).
31. Seattle Seahawks
Value: $2.58 billion
Though the team has had some star-power turnover in the past few years, the Seahawks are holding steady, moving up just one spot on this year’s list.
Between injuries and departures, the team’s roster has certainly changed. But one of the biggest changes to Seattle’s finances happened when it inked a deal to extend its naming rights to CenturyLink for 15 more years. The contract’s worth $162 million — more than twice their previous deal.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers
Value: $2.585 billion
In February 2018, the NFL ended its relationship with Papa John’s after the pizza company’s founder suggested that player protests were linked to declining pizza sales. The league lined up a new pizza partner, and the Steelers, who’d had an individual deal with Papa John’s, did the same: Both brought on Pizza Hut and put together a more profitable contract than they had before. The Hut even partnered with individual players, and Steelers players starred in the first national TV campaign for the partnership last fall. Pizza Hut’s deal with the team provides them with content for their social channels and website.
29. Baltimore Ravens
Value: $2.59 billion
The Ravens dropped two spots from last year’s list, but their value over the past year is up 4%. Forbes noted that like the Atlanta Falcons, the Ravens decided to offer fans some extra value last season by cutting prices on popular eats at M&T Bank Stadium: hot dogs for $3, soft pretzels for $2, domestic brews for $5. Seems like a good way to acknowledge the fans, who are paying $118 on average per ticket — and hey, when a pretzel’s only two bucks, why not get two?
The team is also consistently decent, which helps draw a loyal following to the stadium.
28. Atlanta Falcons
Value: $2.6 billion
Last year, the Falcons built on the success of the opening of Mercedez-Benz Stadium in 2017.
After making waves by offering the league’s cheapest concession prices, the team did it all over again, announcing in March that they’re lowering prices even more, cutting the cost of a hot dog to $1.50 and ATL Bud Burgers to $7.50. The good-faith effort for Atlanta fans worked: Forbes said ticketholders came to the stadium earlier and spent more. It also cushioned the blow of an increase in personal seat licenses for season ticketholders.
27. Green Bay Packers
Value: $2.63 billion
The Packers grew their sponsorships last year, making for a 3% increase in their value since last year’s list, where they placed No. 26. The team pulled in deals with Kwik Trip and U.S. Cellular, but they’re also investing on the ground at home: For a few years now, the Packers have been building out partnerships in the mixed-use area around Lambeau Field. As Titletown grows, so do the team’s coffers.
26. Denver Broncos
Value: $2.65 billion
The Broncos have been in flux for several years running. After an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, longtime Broncos owner Pat Bowlen stepped away from the team and put his ownership into a family trust in 2014. When Bowlen died on June 13 of this year, fans began speculating about which of his seven children would succeed him at Broncos HQ.
Meanwhile, Broncos Stadium at Mile High hasn’t had a proper naming sponsor since Sports Authority went under in 2016, though the team’s CEO said in March it hoped to be closing in on a deal. Oh, and new head coach will lead the team in 2019. It’s a lot of change, and the Broncos have dropped three spots from last year’s list, but Denver still saw a 2% increase in the team’s value year over year.
25. Manchester City
Value: $2.69 billion
This Premier League club increased in value by 9% year over year, jumping up from No. 30 on last year’s list, and we’re expecting them to keep moving up the ranks. They signed a lucrative 10-year deal with Puma starting with the 2019-20 season, and the soccer club’s owner, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, has proven he’s not afraid to put money into his team.
The Guardian reported that Mansour, who is a member of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family, has invested 1.3 billion pounds, or $1.5 billion, into Manchester City since he took over ownership in 2008. And Forbes found no debt in the club’s books.
24. Philadelphia Eagles
Value: $2.75 billion
After winning the Super Bowl early in 2018, the Philadelphia Eagles upped ticket prices at Lincoln Financial Field from $5-$25 a game. The price hike came after a series of increases since the stadium opened in 2003, but fans didn’t seem to mind — the waiting list for season tickets topped 40,000. The Eagles were No. 22 on last year’s list, but they still had a 4% increase in value from last year.
22. Boston Celtics (tie)
Value: $2.8 billion
The home of the Celtics is growing. TD Garden closed this summer for a $100 million renovation that includes expanding the Garden into a 50,000-square-foot addition. The move is designed to buy the team around 400 more seats for spectators and a whole lot of room for more concessions. It’s a small investment for an organization worth nearly $3 billion that should pay off in even more revenue. Plus, Boston drew in more viewers on NBC Sports New England last year, and the team has a waiting list for season tickets for the first time since 2008.
22. Houston Texans (tie)
Value: $2.8 billion
Houston’s value has held steady since last year, which caused them to drop three spots, from No. 19 on last year’s list.
Fans are probably hoping for some steadiness heading into the 2019 season, though, because the team saw a lot of change over the past few years: Much of the coaching staff under Bill O’Brien turned over, and the team was going through starting quarterbacks faster than any other team in the league. But Deshaun Watson impressed as QB last year, and the Texans lineup is looking solid going into the season.
Ticket prices went up just 3.7% going into 2018, but the increase was 5.58% for 2019, so Houston’s placement on this list could rise next year.
21. New York Jets
Value: $2.85 billion
The Jets held their spot from last year’s list, where they also ranked 21st, though the team’s value has increased 4% since last year. Forbes notes that the Jets took a big gamble during the 2018 NFL draft by trading so much away to score QB Sam Darnold. The organization has high hopes for Darnold’s sophomore season with the Jets … and after a 4-12 season last year, you could say they have nowhere to go but up.
19. Chicago Bears (tie)
Value: $2.9 billion
Bears fans saw a reversal of fortunes for the team in 2018. Chicago’s new head coach, Matt Nagy, led the team to a 12-4 season after a hard three years under the previous coach, John Fox. The Bears’ finances were less showy: The team’s value increased by 2% year over year, which made them drop two slots on the list. But, Soldier Field will soon be the smallest in the NFL, and slightly smaller capacity in a market like Chicago (the country’s third biggest) means one thing — tickets are in demand, and the owners can charge a lot for them.
19. Chicago Bulls (tie)
Value: $2.9 billion
Chicago loves the Bulls. Fans helped the team top the league in attendance for years — the Chicago Tribune reported that the Bulls’ sellout streak of 315 games ended Nov. 17, 2017 — but some lousy seasons have soured some of the romance, as has the perception among fans that the ownership made bad trades for cash. The team did increase its value by 12% year over year, but it’s unclear whether that will hold without some serious investment in a winning coaching staff and roster.
18. San Francisco Giants
Value: $3 billion
Though the past couple of seasons haven’t been the best, the Giants had the fourth-best attendance in the league in 2018. Another moneymaker for San Francisco: Oracle took over the naming rights to the ballpark in a 20-year, $300 million deal. They’ll lose manager Bruce Bochy at the end of this season, though, so next year could be a very different one for the ball club.
17. Bayern Munich
Value: $3.02 billion
Munich does so well in part because it’s doing what all financial advisors say to do — this club is diversified.
Forbes broke down soccer’s top earners in several categories, and Bayern Munich cracked the top five in matchday, commercial and brand value. It didn’t top their list for broadcast revenue, because the team only brought in $814 million in broadcast rights. Compare that to another team on this list, Manchester United ($1.264 billion in broadcasting alone), and Munich has some room for improvement.
The team declined in value since last year by a percentage point, but they have no debt and a consistently good team, and that’s a recipe for positive earnings.
16. San Francisco 49ers
Value: $3.05 billion
The 49ers are banking on a pricey investment they made in a new QB to pay off big in ’19. The organization gave Jimmy Garoppolo a then-record-breaking $137.5 million, 5-year contract last year, but an injury sidelined him. He wasn’t their only big-name injury in 2018, so it was an all-around disappointing season after some much-hyped trades. However, Garoppolo is looking good in training camp, so there’s hope for 49ers fans that 2019 will be the season they’ve been waiting for.
14. Chicago Cubs (tie)
Value: $3.1 billion
The Cubbies moved up one spot from last year’s list thanks to a 7% value increase, and the future is looking bright for the team. They haven’t disappointed in the seasons since their 2016 World Series win, and the fans keep showing up for them: The Cubs are one of seven teams to see attendance over 3 million during the 2018 season. Meanwhile, the Cubs formed a joint venture with Sinclair Broadcast Group to operate a regional sports network that will have an exclusive on Cubs games starting in 2020.
14. Washington Redskins (tie)
Value: $3.1 billion
Forbes’ valuation of the Redskins stayed steady this year — no change — so it’s no surprise that they dropped four spots to No. 14. Their once-strong waiting list for season tickets has faded from 200,000 to zip. The team hasn’t given fans a ton of reasons to turn out in force: They went 7-9 last year and have only made the playoffs twice in the past decade. What’s more, there’s talk of the team moving to another stadium. Uncertain times, but the organization is still doing better than the majority of NFL teams.
12. Los Angeles Rams (tie)
Value: $3.2 billion
It’s an exciting time to be a football fan in L.A. The Rams’ new stadium is slated to open for the 2020 season and host the Super Bowl in 2022. With an expandable capacity for 100,000 spectators and a $2.6 billion price tag, it’s the biggest and most expensive football stadium ever.
The San Diego Chargers will be tenants at the new stadium, and then there’s the mixed-use area around the stadium, which will open in phases starting in 2020. Owner Stan Kroenke has also thrown some money at player contracts (Brandin Cooks and Aaron Donald, for example), and all of the hubbub is paying off: The Rams’ value is up 7% from last year, and they’ve moved up two spots on the list, from 14th.
12. Boston Red Sox (tie)
Value: $3.2 billion
The Sox aren’t just the reigning World Series champs — they’re also killing it in ballpark revenue. With Billy Joel and the Foo Fighters headlining at Fenway Park last year, the team’s ownership sold more non-MLB tickets to park events than any other park in the league. The combo of Sox success and concert-goer revenue brought in a record $516 million. The team also has a lucrative broadcasting deal and good ratings. It all added up to a 14% increase in value for the team year over year.
10. Los Angeles Dodgers (tie)
Value: $3.3 billion
The Dodgers bumped themselves up from No. 14 from last year to crack the top 10 this year. After their 2018 World Series loss, the team shook things up, initiating a seven-player trade and snagging some prospects along the way. The trade dropped $17 million off their luxury-tax payroll for this year. Last year was the first time since 2012 that the team didn’t owe that tax — they paid $150 million in penalties over the previous five years, Forbes reported. The team also pulls in plenty from local broadcasting contracts, although many fans in L.A. still can’t watch games locally.
10. New York Giants (tie)
Value: $3.3 billion
The Giants purged both their general manager and head coach after a lousy 2017 season, and 2018 was better under Pat Shurmur — but not great. Some Giants-watchers are still hopeful about the team’s 2019 prospects, though, because the roster has some genuine points of light, especially running back Saquon Barkley, who crushed a few records along the way to becoming the 2018 Rookie of the Year. The Giants held their valuation from last year and fell two spots from last year’s list, where they were ranked No. 8.
9. Golden State Warriors
Value: $3.5 billion
The Warriors ranked No. 10 on last year’s list, and they inched up a spot thanks to a 13% increase in value. They inked the biggest jersey-patch deal in the league — $20 million a year — with Rakuten and have already contracted $2 billion for sponsorships, suites and season holder fees for their new arena, the Chase Center. The Warriors also have the highest local TV ratings in the league. They do have some debt on the balance sheet for renovations to Oracle Arena, but knocking that out shouldn’t be a problem with their income.
8. Los Angeles Lakers
Value: $3.7 billion
The Lakers backed superstar LeBron James with a four-year, $153 million contract, but they’ve been reluctant to spend on players who could help James bring home a championship. Perhaps that was a factor in the team’s 12% value increase, which has allowed it to hold down No. 8 on this list since last year. But even when the Lakers are losing, fans are watching, and it’s led to some of the most lucrative broadcast contracts in the league: $150 million a year in local TV and radio alone.
7. New England Patriots
Value: $3.8 billion
It’d be hard to argue against declaring the Patriots the most dominant team of the decade.
Since 2010, they’ve made five trips to the Super Bowl and won it three times, and the Brady-Belichick one-two punch has been a profitable one for the team … but they’re still not the top NFL team on this list. Still, the team’s success has been great for business. The average ticket price for a Pats game is $135, and the Kraft family (which owns the Patriots) has built out the mixed-use areas around the stadium to get even more bang for their buck out of the surrounding shopping and dining options.
6. Manchester United
Value: $3.81 billion
Manchester United topped the list of the world’s most valuable soccer teams last year and ranked second out of all sports teams.
But a net loss of $50 million hurt the team on this year’s list, and their value dropped by 8%. So, what happened? The club was hit hard by a tax reconfiguration, but they still have loads of cash, which let them hold onto the No. 6 spot on this year’s list. Manchester United is among the top three earners in each category Forbes broke soccer clubs into, despite their tax losses.
5. New York Knicks
Value: $4 billion
The Knicks have topped the list of most valuable NBA teams four years running. Though Madison Square Garden was renovated back in 2013, the team is still raking in the dough from that investment.
Owners tend to benefit when the team performs well, but Forbes called out the Knicks’ poor record, writing, “The Knicks have been an unmitigated disaster over the past 18 years.” Yikes. And yet owner James Dolan is still profiting off of high ticket and suite prices, sponsorships and broadcasting rights.
Value: $4.02 billion
Barcelona and Real Madrid both held their spots on this year’s list from last year. Like Manchester United, both of these teams are topping $1.2 billion in broadcasting revenue alone, and both Barcelona and Real Madrid top $1.5 billion of their value from commercial streams — sponsorships and merchandising.
The two Spanish clubs were also the only soccer clubs to surpass $4 billion in value this year. Last season, Barcelona started capitalizing on two big clothing deals topping $400 million alone.
3. Real Madrid
Value: $4.24 billion
Real Madrid topped the list of most valuable soccer teams this year, knocking Manchester United off the top spot. In addition to the aforementioned broadcasting and commercial moneymakers, the team put together a record-setting kit deal with Adidas that’s worth $113 million a year. The deal runs through 2028 and includes 20% of team merchandise sales. The club increased its value year over year by 4%.
2. New York Yankees
Value: $4.6 billion
The Yankees took the top spot among MLB teams on the list, and they’re the only baseball team to top the $4 billion mark. The team had a great year on the field, winning 100 games and increasing attendance at Yankee Stadium by 10%, and they did it without hitting the competitive balance tax threshold.
The Yankees top the MLB in bucks from broadcasting; at $712 million in broadcast revenue, they’re nearly $200 million above their nearest competitor, the Dodgers. And there’s more to come: the team led a group of heavy hitters (Amazon among them) to buy the YES network back from Disney, securing the regional network with the highest affiliate fee — where they also command the most average views per game out of any MLB team.
1. Dallas Cowboys
Value: $5 billion
Football is still king. This is the 12th straight year that the Dallas Cowboys have topped the list of the NFL’s most valuable teams, and they’ve also topped the list of world’s most-valuable teams in all of sport since 2016. The Cowboys have sponsorship revenue totals nearly twice their nearest competitor in the NFL — $340 million.
Owner Jerry Jones has long been savvy to marketing and sponsorship opportunities, so it’s no surprise that the Cowboys were the first team to partner with a casino when the league backed off of its rules about partnerships with gambling operations. The team also rakes in the broadcasting dough: nine of the 50 highest-rated sports television broadcasts of 2018 were regular-season Cowboys games.