Photographer: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Buying a New Major League Soccer Team Now Costs $150 Million

  • League wants two more teams by 2020, followed by two more
  • Expansion fees are up 15-fold from $10 million a decade ago

On the heels of a record-breaking season, Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber announced the price to buy one of the league’s planned expansion teams: at least $150 million, a number that’s risen exponentially since Toronto FC paid $10 million a decade ago.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber

MLS Commissioner Don Garber

Photographer: Andy Mead/YCJ/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After league meetings in New York, Garber outlined for the first time the league’s plan to add four teams, bringing the total to 28. Applications are due in January, and the first two cities will be named by the end of the year, to start playing in 2020.

The $150 million expansion fee is only one piece of the overall cost to bring an MLS team to a new market. The league expects prospective owners to have a financing plan for a new or renovated stadium, commitments from corporate sponsors and plans for training facilities and youth academies.

“If you add all that together, an investment in Major League Soccer is now well north of $300 million going forward,” Garber said.

MLS will add two more teams at a later date -- and possibly with a higher expansion fee -- from the same pool of applicants. Groups from at least 10 cities have expressed interest, including Charlotte, Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville, Sacramento, St. Louis, and San Diego.

The league has grown rapidly in the last decade, adding eight teams since 2006 with another five to come before 2020, and their value has skyrocketed. On average, MLS teams are worth $185 million, an 80 percent jump from 2013, with seven clubs valued at more than $200 million, according to Forbes’s annual rankings.

The expansion fees were set after what Garber has called one of the best seasons in MLS history. The league set all-time highs in attendance, TV ratings and merchandise sales. The MLS Cup last week sold out its public allotment in three minutes, and was the most-watched championship game in league history. Off the field, LAFC, which will join the league in 2018, scored a 15-year, $100 million naming rights deal to its new stadium, an agreement larger than sponsorships for many NFL teams.

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