‘Most MLS teams are profitable’: Atlanta United owner Arthur Blank
Blank, 77, runs the team with the league’s highest average attendance – 52,510 in 2019 – and, according to Forbes, last year secured an operating profit of US$7 million on revenues of US$78 million, just one of seven MLS franchises to do so.
However, Blank insists the picture is prettier, telling the Athletic: “[MLS] has grown and yet maintained, I think, financial integrity and stability. Not all the clubs are profitable, but most are, and most are getting more profitable.
“I think the league continues to attract a higher level of investor that is willing to invest not only more money, but bring their business expertise, their sense of marketing and management to the league and to their own clubs, which is really good. I couldn’t be more excited about the direction of the league.”
According to Forbes, revenues for MLS franchises are rising, but the business publication’s latest projections align better with MLS Commissioner Don Garber’s statements over the past 12 months that most teams in the league are operating at a loss.
“I need to convince our owners to make investments in the future of the league that will force them to operate at a loss. This is a labour of love,” Garber told the New York Times last year. “They are willing to run their businesses at a loss. But they are not philanthropists. They ultimately want to make a profit.”
However, an indication of MLS franchise viability comes from the host of cities throwing their weight behind securing an expansion outfit. Most recently, Charlotte was confirmed as the 30th and potentially final MLS franchise, paying a record US$325 million to bring top-tier soccer to North Carolina.
Previously, St Louis and Sacramento, which were awarded the 28th and 29th spots, are each paying an expansion fee of US$200 million. Furthermore, the average value of an MLS franchise has now climbed 30 per cent from US$240 million to US$313 million, according to Forbes.
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