Most Valuable Franchises in Every Sport

The business of sports is becoming an increasingly popular topic. Because, after all, never before has sports been more of a business.


Indicators abound when looking for evidence of how lucrative professional sports have become. Look at TV deals. Look at athlete salaries. Look at their endorsements. Look at how many different lines and options sports betting sites offer now compared to a decade or so ago. Heck, look at coach and manager salaries, too.


Of course, there is no better harbinger of professional sports’ lucrativeness than the value of entire teams and franchises. In recent years, these net worths have gone from predominantly nine figures to 10 figures. 


And yes, that means billions.


To put this in perspective, we’ve researched the most valuable franchises across all five major sports: Soccer, football, basketball, baseball and hockey. All numbers come from Forbes and are accurate as of the end of 2020. Let’s dig in.


Soccer: Real Madrid $4.24 Billion

Soccer franchises are among the most valuable across all sports, and no single one is worth more than Real Madrid. They are actually the sixth-most valuable franchise in the world, regardless of sport.


This is no surprise. Only Barcelona ($4.02 billion) and Manchester United ($3.81 billion) come close to touching Real Madrid’s net worth. And only Manchester United sniffs its popularity when it comes to the global fanbase.


The latter point accounts for why so many soccer franchises are among the most valuable organizations on the planet. Soccer is the world’s sport, enjoyed and played by millions upon millions of people around the world. No other sports comes close to matching its popularity, though both tennis and basketball are at least comparably popular.


“Real Madrid” by Wikimedia is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 

Football: Dallas Cowboys ($5.5 Billion)

The Dallas Cowboys are the most valuable sports franchise in the world. And for the time being, it isn’t particularly close. They have a half-billion dollar lead on second place.


While their popularity peaked in the 1990s when they were winning Super Bowls more often, the Cowboys are still known as America’s Team. Their fanbase spans the entire country; no football franchise has more fans in more places.


Basketball: New York Knicks ($4.6 Billion)

Market placement is sometimes everything. It certainly is here.


The New York Knicks have not been consistently good for more than two decades. And yet, they remain the NBA’s most valuable franchise—and the third-most valuable franchise overall.


What gives? Location and real estate. New York is the king of sports markets in the United States, rivaled only by Los Angeles. On top of that, they play at the world famous Madison Square Garden, which is connected to Penn Station, and they have their own TV channel that broadcasts games.

Baseball: New York Yankees ($5 Billion)

We told you New York was the king of sports markets.


The New York Yankees are the second-most valuable sports franchise, bar none. Their hold over the rest of Major League Baseball is almost hysterical. The second-place Los Angeles Dodgers come in at $3.4 billion—more than $1.5 billion less than the Yankees.


Much of what applies to the Knicks also applies here. The Yankees have their own network and prime real estate. However, they’re also good. They have 27 World Series championships, far more than any other team.


“New York Yankees” by Wikimedia is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 

Hockey: New York Rangers ($1.65 Billion)

Imagine a world in which a sports franchise worth nearly $1.7 billion doesn’t even crack the list of the top 50 most valuable organizations.


Actually, you don’t have to. You’re living in it.


Though the New York Rangers are worth more than any other NHL team, they fail to crack that top-50 list. It speaks to the lack of popularity of hockey in the United States, relative to the four other sports we just talked about.


It is a little bit surprising that the most valuable NHL franchise doesn’t come from Canada for this reason. Hockey is religion there. And yet, while both the Toronto Maple Leafs ($1.5 billion) and Montreal Canadiens ($1.34 billion) rank second and third overall, respectively, the Rangers control first place on the back of their New York market and private sports network.


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