Atlanta United owner Arthur Blank has claimed that most Major League Soccer teams are profitable.
Blank’s view on MLS’s financial status is effectively the opposite of league commissioner Don Garber, who has repeatedly said in the past year that most MLS teams are operating at a loss.
“[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,” Blank, who is also owner of the National Football League’s Atlanta Falcons and the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, told The Athletic.
“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,” Blank added.
In sharp contrast to Blank’s statement, Garber told the New York Times last year: “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 labor of love. They are willing to run their businesses at a loss. But they are not philanthropists. They ultimately want to make a profit.”
Garber repeated this statement at the VenuesNow Conference in New York City a month later. “Most [MLS] teams are operating at a loss,” he said.
MLS team finances remain private, but team values are rising rapidly with Charlotte recently paying a reported league record $325m for an expansion team.
In a wide-ranging interview, Blank urged other MLS team owners to financially invest in their clubs to try to replace the success of Atlanta United, which consistently has the highest attendances in the league. “[Team owners] have to be willing to make investments and not put limits on the upside,” Blank said. “There’s no other business. This is your only business: soccer. You hire the best people.”
“The beauty of what we’ve done here, I think you can do it at any place,” he added.
Blank said Atlanta United’s recent partnership with Scottish Premier League club Aberdeen FC will help the club’s global ambitions. “The connection with Aberdeen will allow us to continue to develop that [plan], and develop players over there and bring them back over here and vice versa,” he said.
Blank also revealed that New England Revolution owner Robert Kraft, who also owns the NFL’s New England Patriots, is considering building a 25,000-seat stadium for the team in downtown Boston. The Revolution currently share Gillette Stadium with the Patriots.