At the core of sports is a spirit of friendly competition, but business interests aren’t far behind. Whether athletic or not, most people still consider themselves a fan of their local sports team. Sure, they may not buy out season tickets, but they’ll purchase a jersey or hat when their side makes it to playoffs. Aside from looking to become national champions, a sports franchise will also go above and beyond in order to build out a fan experience. And attending live games and purchasing team retail are two popular ways to follow a team. Since 2018, there’s also been an uptick in sports betting. Now that many states have legalized online betting markets, free bets are on offer from a variety of sportsbooks. This, along with enhanced broadcasting options that enable things like live betting, has helped invigorate interest in professional sports across the US.
For the most part, people want to back successful teams or leverage their knowledge to pick out a dark horse. But there’s also a clear correlation between a team’s historical success, the size and tenacity of their fandom, their location, and a franchise’s pocketbooks.
Despite the fact that North American sports lag behind global staples like soccer, leagues like the MLB, NBA, and NFL pull in billions each year—and, in some cases, individual franchises might have a comparable net worth. While fans love to see expansion teams set up shop in their cities, is there a future for newer franchises to make it onto a list of the most valuable sports teams in the near future? Though the possibility is always there, 2022’s most valuable sports teams won’t be deviating greatly from rankings in the last five years as released by Forbes World’s Most Valuable Teams reports. In fact, last year’s report hints that, despite a touch-and-go 2020, the world’s most lucrative teams actually posted growth of 9.9% from 2020 to 2021.
First Place, MLB: New York Yankees
Valued at $5.25 billion
As the second-most lucrative sports team in the world (behind Jerry Jones’ Dallas Cowboys), the New York Yankees are one of the few teams on this list that can point to a clear correlation between its success (historical and modern), location, fandom, and pocketbooks.
First and foremost, the team benefits from its location in New York City, which brings it some of the most profitable broadcasting markets in the world. Second, the team has brought home World Series titles in almost every decade since it set up shop as the Yankees in 1913. The team’s fans outnumber cross-town rivals Mets fans in the city and across the country.
Second Place, MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers
Valued at $3.57 billion
In the last decade, the LA Dodgers have managed to elbow the Yankees out of contention for World Series titles. In fact, the 2010s are a decade the Yankees lack silverware from—but the Dodgers took home the 2020 title and have been on a whirlwind rise since. Like the Yankees, they benefit from dominating the LA-based sports scene and rake in hundreds of millions from broadcasting deals. However, the team has a more polished executive branch. Owned by the Guggenheim Baseball Management group, the team has been treated like a business since its purchase in 2012 for $2 billion.
First Place, NBA: New York Knicks
Valued at $5 billion
Think reputation alone can’t keep a franchise afloat? The Knicks are a shining example of a franchise that has harnessed its fandom’s memory to the fullest; they have only two championship titles, both from the 70s during their last dynastic roster. That hasn’t stopped millions of fans from waiting for their next comeback—or from the Knicks management from snagging the third place for world’s most valuable franchises.
Once again, New York City’s undying love of sports and the Knicks’ home field at Madison Square Garden means owners make a huge chunk of change from broadcasting and ticket sales. However, the NBA has a particularly successful retail sector, which will see jerseys and hats for sale around the world. Unlike the MLB and NFL, the NBA is able to leverage a global fandom.
Second Place, NBA: Golden State Warriors
Valued at $4.7 billion
To the great surprise of many, the second-most valuable NBA team isn’t the Lakers. Instead, the San Francisco-based squad has had a meteoric rise in valuation in the last ten years. Not only have the Warriors taken home three championship titles in the last decade, but they’ve also renewed interest in basketball in their city.
And when that city is one of the wealthiest in the world, the result is a huge leap in revenue. According to Forbes, the team posted a 147% jump in value in the last five years, due to broadcasting deals, major sponsorships, and, once again, a global retail market.
First Place, NFL: Dallas Cowboys
Valued at $5.7 billion
Similar to the New York Knicks, the Dallas Cowboys are a team that relies on a cultural memory of success from the 1970s and 90s. However, as the world’s most valuable franchise, the Cowboys owner Jerry Jones also has business sense to thank for his incredible success.
First and foremost, Jones invested in his team. He created a state-of-the-art stadium, which helped capitalize on interest in the team—especially after their success in the 90s. What’s the secret of Jerry World? It’s about Jones’ scope of business; Jerry World, as the stadium is called, isn’t just used for the NFL. Every group that pays to use the venue for a concert or other show is paying a check directly to Jones and his Cowboys.
Second Place, NFL: New England Patriots
Valued at $4.4 billion
Similar to the Warriors, the Patriots have benefitted greatly from their team’s success in the last twenty years. Though star quarterback Tom Brady now plays for the Buccaneers, both he and head coach Bill Belichick reignited passion for the Patriots in the Boston market.
While owner Robert Kraft has drawn some criticism over the years, he, Belichick, and Brady were a cohesive team that leveraged their team’s success into a franchise overhaul. The more successful Belichick’s Patriots became, the more fans were willing to spend to be a part of that championship-winning story. Hate them or love them, the Patriots largely have their success to thank for their jump in value.