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Is Major League Soccer making money?

They need to get more players on steroids and have them hit harder.

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With the bidding war for soccer giants Manchester United heating up — bids are reportedly in the region of $6bn — and the MLS season kicking off on Saturday, we thought we’d explore the finances behind one of America’s fastest-growing sports.

Although some way off the largest European clubs, soccer in the US is big business, with last season’s champions Los Angeles FC becoming the first MLS franchise to hit a $1 billion valuation earlier this month, per Forbes.

Off-field finances

The MLS was founded 30 years ago as part of the 1994 US World Cup bid and has grown steadily ever since, building on the strong grassroots participation in the sport. Last year the MLS hit a record 10 million in annual attendance, helping the league to ink a lucrative $2.5 billion decade-long streaming deal with Apple.

Teams will be hoping that some of that fortune trickles down, as 18 of the 28 competing clubs in the 2022 season lost money, with New York City FC, Chicago Fire and Toronto FC among the clubs who lost $10m+.

Despite those losses, Forbes estimates that the average MLS club is now worth ~$580m, presumably because of the potential for growth over the coming decade. That valuation is up 85% from 2019 — and sides like Atlanta, and the other team in Los Angeles, LA Galaxy, are approaching the $1bn mark too.

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