For the spectator, sport can be a way of life as it offers excitement, drama and a sense of belonging as you cheer on and support your favourite team. But for people behind the scenes, sport is a lucrative business, with the US having four of the most profitable sporting leagues in the world. From ticket sales and sponsorship to broadcast deals and gambling with US League betting, organized sport is a multi-billion-dollar enterprise. We give you the lowdown on the most powerful sporting leagues in the US.
National Football League (NFL)
While soccer may be the world’s most popular sport, American football is actually the most profitable, with the National Football League – or NFL – currently valued at an eye-watering $13 billion a year. And this is driven by its dedicated fan base which connects the sport deep into the North American and Canadian psyche. The NFL currently has 29 out of the world’s richest sporting franchises, which is even more remarkable, when you consider the league currently has only 32 teams. And of these, the Dallas Cowboys are largely considered the most valuable sporting franchise in the world. The NFL has also effectively capitalized on sponsorships and brand endorsements as well as lucrative TV and broadcast contracts and the rise of sports betting and fantasy football.
Major League Baseball (MLB)
Baseball may not have the global appeal of some other US sports but thanks to its loyal fanbase, Major League Baseball is the second most profitable sporting league in the US. Bringing in a not too paltry $10 billion a year, a large portion of MLB’s income comes from lucrative deals with the sports and regional TV networks. And the teams also directly benefit, with each of the MLB’s 30 franchises profiting by around $300m a year. Spectator attendance is also a key source of income for the teams, thanks to the volume of games which are played each season. And with America being the global focus for the sport, the MLB attracts the world’s best players to its multi-million-dollar contracts.
National Basketball Association (NBA)
Basketball is a worldwide sporting phenomenon and is a leading US sport on the international stage. And while not as wealthy as the NFL or the MLB, it is still substantially lucrative, bringing in around $7.4 billion every year. And this wealth is shared by the NBA’s 30 franchises, with each team believed to worth at least $1 billion – a first in NBA history. And the wealthiest is the New York Knicks at an estimated $1.87 billion in 2019. But the power of the NBA comes with its global appeal, claiming the largest international spread of any US sport. As one of the top 10 most followed sports in the world, the NBA and its teams command a global audience of more than 800 million fans.
National Hockey League (NHL)
The largest ice hockey league in the world, the sport may seem like it has a niche appeal, but outside of the US and Canada, hockey is also one of the most popular sports in some of the richest countries in northern Europe. This lucrative fanbase means the NHL is consistently listed as one of the most profitable sports in not just the US, but also the world. With annual revenue of almost $4.5 billion, NHL is not quite in the same league as the NFL but it more than holds its own as one of the most powerful sporting leagues in the USA.