Who are the richest MLS owners by net worth?
MLS may not be on a par with the world's best leagues on the field, but it's right up there when it comes to the sizeable wallets of many of its teams' owners.
MLS, which returns on Saturday for its 27th season, remains a work in progress. Since its inception in 1996, it has attracted some of world soccer’s biggest names - the likes of David Beckham, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Andrea Pirlo, David Villa and Thierry Henry. But these are all players who were unwilling to move to the league until they were past their peak.
Clearly, to say only over-the-hill elite stars go to the US is hardly a fresh, never-before-seen analysis of MLS’ place in the global game. Moreover, it is becoming less true. Just look at Toronto FC’s capture of Napoli captain Lorenzo Insigne, a top-level performer who is only just the wrong side of 30 and was a Euro 2020 winner with Italy last summer.
Meanwhile, South American giant River Plate's close-season pursuit of New York City FC striker Valentín 'Taty' Castellanos, the scorer of 23 goals in the 2021 campaign, is testament to the quality of some of the young talent making a name for itself in the league.
However, as things stand, MLS remains a long, long way off challenging the on-field supremacy of European leagues such as England’s Premier League, Spain’s LaLiga and Germany’s Bundesliga.
New York franchises lead moneybags MLS rich list
One area where MLS can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the planet’s biggest domestic divisions, though, is the financial clout of many of its teams' owners.
That is partly, of course, because they not infrequently turn out to be individuals or groups who also control clubs in major leagues outside the US. Take the two New York franchises, which come out on top in MLS' ownership rich list. City Football Group, the holding company at the helm of New York City FC, also owns Premier League champions Manchester City, while New York Red Bulls belong to Red Bull GmbH, which also owns clubs such as Germany’s Red Bull Leipzig.
New York Red Bulls: Red Bull GmbH
New York Red Bulls, who were previously known as the New York/New Jersey MetroStars, have been owned by Red Bull GmbH, the energy drink company co-founded by Dietrich Mateschitz and Chaleo Yoovidhya, since 2006. The pair established Red Bull in 1984, developing the drink from Krating Daeng, a beverage Yoovidhya had invented in his native Thailand in the 1970s.
Mateschitz, an Austrian who at the time was working as a marketing executive for a German shampoo company, went into business with Yoovidhya after finding that Krating Daeng helped him with the jet lag he suffered on his frequent trips to Thailand in the 1980s. Together, Yoovidhya and Mateschitz adjusted the drink’s recipe to meet international standards, before launching it onto the global market in 1987.
Mateschitz has since amassed a fortune which, according to Forbes’ current estimate, stands at $21.9bn. Yoovidhya died in 2012, leaving his 51% stake in Red Bull in the hands of his family. A small part of that stake - 2% of the company - is solely owned by Yoovidhya’s son Chalerm. According to Forbes, the Yoovidhya family’s total net worth is presently $24.5bn.
Despite the significant combined wealth of their owners, New York Red Bulls are yet to enjoy major silverware success. They have claimed the Supporters’ Shield, a secondary award given to the team with the best regular season record in MLS, on three occasions - in 2013, 2015 and 2016. However, the closest the Red Bulls have come to winning the league title was in 2008, when they were beaten by Columbus Crew in the MLS Cup final. They have also twice been runners-up in the US Open Cup, in 2003 and 2017.
In addition to New York and Leipzig, Red Bull GmbH’s portfolio of sports organisations also includes Austrian soccer club Red Bull Salzburg and F1 team Red Bull Racing.
New York City FC: City Football Group
City Football Group, which founded New York City FC in 2013, is in turn chiefly owned by the investment fund Abu Dhabi United Group, which belongs to Emirati sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Sheikh Mansour’s net worth is reported to be about $22bn.
The 51-year-old royal is also chief executive of Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Investment Company, which oversees the emirate's $243bn sovereign wealth fund; a board member of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company; and chairman of the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank and Emirates Global Aluminium. He additionally serves as deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, as well as minister of presidential affairs.
An MLS team since 2015, New York City already have one league title to their name. The Boys in Blue defeated Portland Timbers in a dramatic 2021 MLS Cup final in December, recovering from a last-gasp Timbers leveller to win on penalties at Providence Park. Currently, NYCFC remain in the hunt to add a first CONCACAF Champions League title to their trophy cabinet: Ronny Deila’s men are through to the quarter-finals after completing a 6-0 aggregate win over Costa Rica’s Santos de Guápiles on Wednesday.
In addition to NYCFC and Manchester City, the clubs owned either wholly or in part by City Football Group include Australia’s Melbourne City, Japan’s Yokohama F Marinos and Spain’s Girona.
Elsewhere in MLS: Charlotte, Dallas, Galaxy, Rapids
Behind New York City and New York Red Bulls, there are at least four other teams with ownerships that remain in the 11-figure bracket and would win out in a wallet-weighing contest with most of their counterparts around the world. Newcomers Charlotte FC, who kick off their maiden MLS season against D.C. United on Sunday, belong to hedge fund manager David Tepper, whose net worth is currently placed by Forbes at $15.8bn.
FC Dallas are owned by Clark and Dan Hunt, whose father, MLS co-founder Lamar Hunt, purchased the team in 2003. The family’s fortune, which stems from Clark and Dan’s grandfather, oil tycoon HL Hunt, is $15.5bn. Another of the league’s co-founders, Philip Anschutz, is the owner of five-time MLS champions Los Angeles Galaxy. Anschutz’s net worth is presently estimated by Forbes at $10.8bn. Just behind Anschutz is Colorado Rapids chief Stan Kroenke, whose company, Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, also counts Premier League club Arsenal among the teams in its portfolio. Kroenke is valued at $10.7bn.