Major League Soccer (MLS) has rapidly grown in popularity and stature since its inception in 1996, attracting investors and sports enthusiasts from around the world.
As the league continues to thrive, it has attracted some of the wealthiest and most influential individuals who have taken ownership of MLS teams.
In this blog post, we delve into the fascinating world of the top 10 richest MLS team owners, exploring their backgrounds, business ventures, and the impact they have had on the sport.
From successful entrepreneurs to philanthropists, these owners have not only invested in soccer but also shaped the future of the sport in North America.
History of Major League Soccer
Major League Soccer (MLS) is a professional soccer league based in the United States and Canada. It was established in 1993 as part of the United States successful bid to host the 1994 FIFA World Cup. MLS officially began its inaugural season in 1996 with ten teams. Here’s a brief overview of its history:
Formation and Early Years (1993-2001)
- MLS was officially founded on December 17, 1993, with the first season starting in 1996.
- The league started with ten teams: Columbus Crew, D.C. United, New York/New Jersey MetroStars (now New York Red Bulls), Colorado Rapids, Dallas Burn (now FC Dallas), Kansas City Wiz (later renamed the Wizards, and then Sporting Kansas City), Los Angeles Galaxy, New England Revolution, San Jose Clash (later renamed the Earthquakes), and Tampa Bay Mutiny.
- D.C. United and LA Galaxy quickly became two of the most successful teams in the league, winning several MLS Cup championships.
- The league faced financial challenges and struggled with low attendance in some markets during its early years.
Expansion and Growth (2002-2012)
- MLS expanded its reach and popularity by adding new teams, including Chivas USA, Real Salt Lake, Houston Dynamo, Toronto FC, Seattle Sounders FC, and more.
- The Designated Player Rule, often referred to as the “Beckham Rule,” was introduced in 2007, allowing teams to sign high-profile international players outside the salary cap limitations.
- David Beckham’s move to the LA Galaxy in 2007 marked a significant milestone in raising MLS’s global profile.
- The introduction of soccer-specific stadiums helped improve the matchday experience and attendance.
Modern Era (2013-present)
- Expansion continued with new teams like New York City FC, Atlanta United FC, LAFC, and Inter Miami CF, among others.
- The quality of play improved as more talented international players joined the league, and homegrown talent developed.
- MLS All-Star games against international clubs became a regular feature, showcasing the league’s talent on a global stage.
- The league introduced video assistant referee (VAR) technology to assist match officials in making crucial decisions.
- In 2020, MLS suspended its season due to the COVID-19 pandemic but returned with a modified tournament-style competition known as the MLS is Back Tournament.
- The league continued to expand and announced plans to have more teams, including ones in cities like Austin, Charlotte, and Sacramento.
- MLS continued its efforts to develop soccer culture in North America, focusing on grassroots programs, youth development, and community engagement.
Throughout its history, MLS has made significant strides in terms of popularity, player quality, and expansion. The league has also played a crucial role in growing soccer’s presence in the United States and Canada, inspiring a new generation of players and fans.
Top 10 Richest MLS Team Owners
Here are the top 10 richest MLS team owners:
1. Dietrich Mateschitz (New York Red Bulls) (22.1 Billion)
Dietrich Mateschitz, an Austrian billionaire entrepreneur, is best known as the co-founder of Red Bull GmbH, the energy drink company that has grown into a global brand.
Born on May 20, 1944, in Sankt Marein im Mürztal, Austria, Mateschitz’s journey to immense wealth began in the 1980s when he discovered an energy drink from Thailand, Krating Daeng.
Recognizing its potential, Mateschitz partnered with Chaleo Yoovidhya, the creator of the drink, to introduce Red Bull to the world.
As a majority shareholder of Red Bull GmbH, Mateschitz’s net worth soared, making him one of the richest individuals globally. His love for sports, particularly soccer, led him to invest in football clubs, including the New York Red Bulls in Major League Soccer (MLS).
Under his ownership, the New York Red Bulls have seen considerable success, solidifying their position as one of the top teams in the league.
2. Sheikh Mansour (Manchester City FC) (17 Billion)
Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a member of the ruling family of Abu Dhabi and the Deputy Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, is renowned for his extravagant ownership of Manchester City Football Club.
Born on November 20, 1970, in Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mansour’s vast wealth stems from the abundant oil reserves in the UAE, making him one of the wealthiest individuals globally.
In 2008, Sheikh Mansour’s investment group, Abu Dhabi United Group, purchased Manchester City, ushering in a new era for the club. Under his ownership, Manchester City underwent a massive transformation, investing heavily in top-tier players, world-class facilities, and renowned coaching staff.
The significant financial backing enabled Manchester City to become a dominant force in English and European football, winning multiple Premier League titles, domestic cups, and reaching the latter stages of the UEFA Champions League.
3. Stan Kroenke (Colorado Rapids) (12.9 Billion)
Stan Kroenke, an American billionaire businessman and sports enthusiast, is the owner of the Colorado Rapids in Major League Soccer (MLS). Born on July 29, 1947, in Columbia, Missouri, Kroenke’s fortune primarily comes from his extensive real estate holdings and sports franchises.
Kroenke’s portfolio includes ownership of various sports teams, such as the Denver Nuggets (NBA), the Colorado Avalanche (NHL), and the Los Angeles Rams (NFL). His involvement in the sports world has earned him the reputation of being a shrewd and successful sports entrepreneur.
As the owner of the Colorado Rapids, Kroenke has demonstrated a commitment to growing the sport of soccer in the United States. He has invested in the development of the club’s training facilities and the recruitment of talented players from around the world.
Kroenke’s dedication to the Rapids has seen the team achieve moderate success in MLS, with a focus on building a competitive squad and fostering a strong fan base.
4. Arthur Blank (Atlanta United FC) (7.6 Billion)
Arthur Blank is a billionaire entrepreneur and the co-founder of The Home Depot, one of the world’s largest home improvement retailers. Born on September 27, 1942, in Queens, New York, Blank’s journey to success began with humble beginnings.
After graduating from Babson College with a degree in business administration, he started his career working for various retail companies. In 1978, together with Bernie Marcus, Blank co-founded The Home Depot, revolutionizing the home improvement industry and transforming it into a retail giant.
Blank’s passion for sports led him to become the principal owner of the Atlanta Falcons, a National Football League (NFL) team, in 2002. However, his love for soccer inspired him to take on another venture in the sports world. In 2014, Blank was awarded an expansion franchise for Major League Soccer (MLS), leading to the birth of Atlanta United FC in 2017.
Under his ownership, Atlanta United has become one of the most successful and popular franchises in MLS.
5. David Tepper (Charlotte FC) (16 Billion)
David Tepper, a prominent hedge fund manager and investor, was born on September 11, 1957, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He attended the University of Pittsburgh and later earned his MBA from Carnegie Mellon University.
Tepper made a name for himself as the founder of Appaloosa Management, a highly successful hedge fund known for its bold investment strategies and substantial returns.
With a net worth in the billions, Tepper has ventured into sports ownership, acquiring the NFL team Carolina Panthers in 2018. However, his interest in soccer led him to make a significant impact in the MLS as well. In December 2019, it was announced that Tepper had been awarded an MLS expansion team, leading to the creation of Charlotte FC.
6. Anschutz Entertainment Group (L A galaxy) (11 Billion)
AEG’s significant involvement in MLS began in the league’s early years. The company acquired a 50% ownership stake in the LA Galaxy in 1998, becoming one of the founding clubs of MLS. Since then, AEG has played an instrumental role in the success of the Galaxy, one of the most successful and popular teams in MLS history.
In addition to the Galaxy, AEG also had ownership stakes in other MLS teams over the years. At various points, the company held ownership interests in teams like the Houston Dynamo, the Chicago Fire, and D.C. United. The ownership of multiple teams showcased AEG’s commitment to growing soccer’s popularity in the United States and solidified its position as one of the most influential MLS team owners.
AEG’s influence on MLS extends beyond team ownership. The company has been actively involved in the development of soccer-specific stadiums, which are essential for the growth and sustainability of the league. AEG played a crucial role in the construction and management of Dignity Health Sports Park (formerly known as StubHub Center), the home stadium of the LA Galaxy.
Dignity Health Sports Park, located in Carson, California, is a state-of-the-art soccer stadium that has hosted numerous international soccer events, MLS matches, and other sports and entertainment events. The stadium’s successful operation and AEG’s investment in its infrastructure have contributed to the growth of soccer in the United States.
7. Robert Kraft (New England Revolution) (8.3 Billion)
Robert Kraft, an American businessman, sports entrepreneur, and philanthropist, is the owner of the New England Revolution in Major League Soccer (MLS). Born on June 5, 1941, in Brookline, Massachusetts, Kraft’s passion for sports and business acumen has made him one of the most influential figures in the sports industry.
Kraft made his fortune in the paper and packaging business, owning and running the Kraft Group, a diversified holding company with interests in sports, real estate, and entertainment.
Under his leadership, the New England Revolution experienced significant growth and success. Kraft purchased the team in 1996 when MLS was still in its infancy, and his investment and dedication have been pivotal in establishing the Revolution as a competitive force in the league.
Beyond his contributions to soccer, Robert Kraft is perhaps best known as the owner of the New England Patriots, a powerhouse franchise in the National Football League (NFL). Under his ownership, the Patriots have won multiple Super Bowls and have become one of the most successful teams in NFL history.
8. Giussepe Saputo (CF Montreal) (6 Billion)
Giussepe Saputo, an Italian-Canadian businessman, is the owner of CF Montreal, formerly known as the Montreal Impact, in MLS. Born on June 21, 1949, in Montelepre, Sicily, Saputo emigrated to Canada with his family at a young age.
He founded the Saputo Inc. dairy company in 1954, which has since grown into one of the world’s largest dairy processors.
Saputo’s love for soccer and his desire to elevate the sport’s profile in Canada led him to invest in the Montreal Impact. His ownership has been instrumental in the club’s growth, and he played a crucial role in securing the team’s entry into MLS in 2012.
Under Saputo’s stewardship, CF Montreal has enjoyed several successful seasons and significant achievements. The team’s passionate fanbase and the vibrant soccer culture in Montreal have thrived, thanks to Saputo’s vision and commitment.
9. Adrian Hanauer (Seattle Sounders FC) (5 Billion)
Adrian Hanauer is a prominent American entrepreneur and sports executive, best known as the owner of Seattle Sounders FC in MLS. With a deep-rooted passion for soccer and a keen eye for business opportunities, Hanauer has left an indelible mark on the soccer landscape in Seattle.
Hanauer’s association with the Sounders dates back to 2002 when he was part of the team’s ownership group during their United Soccer League (USL) days. His instrumental role in bringing MLS soccer to Seattle led to the expansion of the league in 2009 when the Sounders joined as the 15th franchise.
Under Hanauer’s guidance, the Sounders have achieved remarkable success, consistently reaching the MLS playoffs and winning numerous U.S. Open Cup titles. The team’s strong performances and unwavering support from the fans have made them a model franchise in MLS.
10. Mark Wilf (Orlando City SC) (5 Billion)
Mark Wilf, a prominent real estate developer and co-owner of the Wilf family, is among the owners of Orlando City SC in MLS. Born on July 22, 1964, Wilf and his family own and operate Garden Homes, a real estate development company, and are widely recognized for their involvement in the sports world.
As part of their sports portfolio, the Wilf family acquired an ownership stake in Orlando City SC, a team that has quickly become a force to reckon with in MLS. The team’s passionate fan base and strong performances on the field have solidified their position as a prominent club in the league.
Wilf’s dedication to sports and community development aligns well with the vision of Orlando City SC, making him an integral part of the club’s success. His business acumen and commitment to excellence continue to be valuable assets to the team and its overall growth.
Who is the richest MLS team owner, and how did they amass their wealth?
The title of the richest MLS team owner goes to Arthur Blank, the owner of Atlanta United FC. Blank co-founded The Home Depot, a home improvement retail giant that became a global powerhouse.
His business acumen and vision have allowed him to amass a significant fortune, enabling him to invest in soccer and propel Atlanta United FC to success.
How did David Tepper, the owner of Charlotte FC, rise to prominence?
David Tepper, the owner of Charlotte FC, is a hedge fund manager and the founder of Appaloosa Management.
Through his exceptional investment strategies, Tepper accumulated substantial wealth, providing him with the means to venture into sports ownership. His acquisition of Charlotte FC showcases his commitment to developing soccer in the region.
What industries are Giuseppe Saputo, the owner of CF Montreal, involved in?
Giuseppe Saputo, the owner of CF Montreal, hails from the Saputo family, which owns and operates Saputo Inc., a prominent dairy company.
Their diversified business interests have made them one of the wealthiest families in Canada. Saputo’s passion for soccer led him to invest in CF Montreal, making significant contributions to the growth of the club.
How has Adrian Hanauer impacted the soccer landscape as the owner of Seattle Sounders FC?
Adrian Hanauer, the owner of Seattle Sounders FC, has been deeply involved in soccer since the early 2000s. He played a crucial role in bringing MLS soccer to Seattle, propelling the city’s soccer culture to new heights.
Hanauer’s commitment to soccer development and his entrepreneurial endeavors have earned him respect within the MLS community.
What has Mark Wilf accomplished beyond his ownership of Orlando City SC?
Mark Wilf, the co-owner of Orlando City SC, is a prominent real estate developer and part of the Wilf family, owners of the Minnesota Vikings in the NFL.
Beyond sports ownership, Wilf is involved in various philanthropic efforts and community development projects, reflecting his dedication to making a positive impact beyond the soccer field.
The owners of MLS teams play a vital role in shaping the league’s growth and success. Dietrich Mateschitz, Sheikh Mansour, and Stanley Kroenke are exemplary figures in the sports and business world, each contributing their unique expertise and passion to their respective teams.
Through their ownership, these individuals have not only elevated the stature of their clubs but also left a lasting impact on the soccer landscape in the United States and beyond.
As MLS continues to flourish, its contributions will undoubtedly continue to shape the future of the league and the sport in North America.