Quick Bit: MLS has grown exponentially over the past decade, attracting famous investors from across the athletic, acting, and musical landscapes, among other famous owners.
Major League Soccer’s growth over the past decade has attracted the attention of some of the most famous — and most wealthy — celebrities in the nation.
With the league expanded to 32 teams, as Charlotte FC became the latest club to add its name to the standings, there’s plenty of room for famous athletes, actors, singers, and other celebrities to invest in the league.
While the addition of star names to ownership groups presents a clear strategy by the league to increase its visibility in new markets or engrain a club’s name in its city’s athletic landscape, it also represents a true sign of growth. Celebrities wouldn’t invest money in a league at this level without believing in the business model and expecting growth over the years.
As such, the league has attracted celebrities from all walks of life as it continues to build on its success year to year.
Austin FC — Matthew McConaughey
Austin FC was founded in 2018 and joined Major League Soccer in 2021, and along for the ride is an Oscar-winning actor.
Matthew McConaughey joined the ownership group Two Oak Ventures, led by Anthony Precourt, and has been a fixture at Austin FC matches. Austin was a natural fit for McConaughey, who’s also a well-known Texas Longhorns fan.
The mercurial actor is also an ambassador for MLS, doing publicity tours and interviews.
D.C. United — Mark Ingram
The former Heisman Trophy winner stated he met majority owners Jason Levien and Stephen Kaplan while playing for the Baltimore Ravens back in 2019.
Ingram said he was in attendance at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and has been to an Arsenal game in England, and got on board because he “believes in the growth of soccer”.
Houston Dynamo — James Harden & Oscar de la Hoya
NBA star James Harden and boxing legend Oscar de la Hoya are both part of the Houston Dynamo ownership group. Both are also minority owners of the NWSL club Houston Dash, owned by the same conglomerate.
Harden reportedly bought in for $15 million back in 2019 while still a player for the Houston Rockets. Like Ingram, Harden has also spent time at the Emirates Stadium in London taking in the Arsenal flair.
De la Hoya has been with the Houston ownership group since 2015. When the two clubs were sold to New York businessman Ted Segal in the summer of 2021, the two celebrities stayed aboard through the switch.
LAFC — Will Ferrell, Magic Johnson, Mia Hamm-Garciaparra, & Nomar Garciaparra
LAFC’s ownership group is maybe the most star-studded roster in the league.
Comedian Will Ferrell has been the most outspoken and public celebrity in the group when it comes to supporting the team, attending training, joining the broadcast booth, going to matches, and doing interviews decked out in LAFC gear. A frizzy-haired Ferrell did a famously weird interview with ESPN in 2020 at halftime of the MLS is Back match between LAFC and rival LA Galaxy where he claimed he wears his Talladega Nights helmet as a good luck charm during LAFC matches.
Joining Ferrell in the ownership group is former LA Lakers superstar Magic Johnson, along with USWNT legend Mia Hamm-Garciaparra and her husband, former LA Dodgers shortstop Nomar Garciaparra. While Nomar rose to fame during his long stint with the Boston Red Sox, he played for the Dodgers from 2006-08 and resides in Los Angeles, doing broadcast work for the team for a number of years.
Inter Miami — David Beckham
One of the most visible celebrity owners in MLS is David Beckham, whose rollercoaster ride in charge of Inter Miami has been an extremely public saga with plenty of ups and downs.
Beckham, one of the biggest and most visible star players in MLS history as a midfielder for the LA Galaxy from 2007-2012, found himself in charge of the expansion club thanks to a clause in his contract while with the Galaxy that gave him an option to purchase an expansion team for $25 million.
The former England captain exercised that option in 2014, and the club began to play in 2020 after numerous delays. The journey towards securing a soccer-specific stadium in Miami has been extremely rocky, but the saga took a positive turn recently with the approval of a 99-year lease at the Freedom Park site, with an expected open date in 2025.
Nashville SC — Derrick Henry, Reese Witherspoon
Ahead of the opening of Nashville SC’s new soccer-specific stadium GEODIS Park, the club announced the addition of Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry and actress Reese Witherspoon as part of the ownership group.
Both have deep ties to the city. Henry has been a Titan his entire NFL career, drafted in 2016 in the second round out of Alabama. He is the fourth NFL player to join an MLS ownership group, according to the club’s announcement.
Witherspoon was born in Louisiana, but attended high school in Nashville. Her mother was a professor of nursing at Vanderbilt University. Witherspoon’s husband, tech investor and former talent agent Jim Toth, also joined the ownership group as part of the announcement.
NYCFC — New York Yankees
Yankee Global Enterprises, ownership company of the New York Yankees, has been a significant part of the NYCFC ownership since the club’s inception in 2013. Hal Steinbrenner, principal owner of the Yankees, is also a significant owner of NYCFC.
NY/NJ Gotham FC — Eli Manning, Sue Bird, Kevin Durant, Carli Lloyd
NY/NJ Gotham FC, the NWSL club in the New York metropolitan area, has also attracted a significant celebrity following. In May 2022, USWNT superstar and former Gotham FC player Carli Lloyd joined the ownership group, and Kevin Durant’s company Thirty Five Ventures joined a month later.
Then in July, it was announced that former New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning and WNBA superstar Sue Bird had joined the ownership group of Gotham FC for about a massive $40 million value.
Bird is a native of Syosset, New York on Long Island, and is engaged to Megan Rapinoe, who plays for rival NWSL club OL Reign.
Philadelphia Union — Kevin Durant
In June, 2020 the Philadelphia Union announced that NBA superstar Kevin Durant had joined the ownership group as an investor, purchasing a 5% stake in the club with the option to add another 5% in the future.
Durant’s investment in the Union is an odd one considering he has few, if any, ties to the city. Durant is from Washington, DC, played high school basketball in Virginia and Maryland, attended the University of Texas, and has played for NBA franchises in Seattle, Oakland, and Brooklyn.
The 33-year-old confirmed to ESPN that he attempted to acquire an ownership stake of D.C. United, his hometown team, but that negotiations didn’t get far enough.
“[The Union], they broke everything down, from what they wanted to do in the community, to the campus that they want to build in Chester, how they want to impact the youth leagues even more, and putting it all back in a community that is predominantly black,” Durant told ESPN when the investment was announced. “It just made sense.”
“The partnership between Kevin and the Philadelphia Union is based on a set of shared values and philosophies,” said Jay Sugarman, Principal Owner of the Union upon the announcement of Durant’s investment. “We want to be known as an innovator in our league and a team that is never satisfied with the status quo. Kevin brings us unique perspectives as a person, as a champion, and as a sports icon.”
Sporting KC — Patrick Mahomes
In July of 2021, Sporting KC announced that Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes had joined the ownership group, acquiring a 1% stake in the club.
Mahomes has been in Kansas City his entire professional career, drafted by the Chiefs in 2017 out of Texas Tech and developing into one of the best quarterbacks in the league. Mahomes brought a Super Bowl to the city in 2020, winning Super Bowl LIV over the San Francisco 49ers.
Mahomes also has a connection to the city’s MLB franchise, the Kansas City Royals, purchasing a 1% stake in the team a year prior, in July of 2020. Mahomes’ interest in baseball makes sense, as his father played 11 seasons in Major League Baseball.
Seattle Sounders — Drew Carey, Ciara, Russell Wilson, Macklemore & Ken Griffey Jr
Like LAFC, the Seattle Sounders ownership group is bursting with celebrities, from athletes to singers to actors.
Former Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and wife Ciara were one of 11 investing families in the August 2019 buyout of Joe Roth’s ownership. Wilson’s connections were surely helpful in getting former Seahawks teammate Marshawn Lynch to star in a team hype video ahead of the CONCACAF Champions League final.
Rapper and Seattle native Macklemore was also part of the 2019 investment group, later joining with Lynch to purchase a stake in the NHL franchise Seattle Kraken in April 2022.
Another Seattle sports legend, Ken Griffey Jr, joined the ownership group a year later, as he and his wife Melissa became an investor in November, 2020. The former Mariners superstar and MLB Hall of Famer is one of the most recognizable names and figures in Seattle sports history.
Actor and host Drew Carey has been involved in sports across the years, a fan of the Cleveland franchises as a Cleveland native. Carey was a part-owner of the club in the previous, Joe Roth-led ownership group, and maintained his ownership through the transition. Carey was a contestant on Season 3 of the show The Masked Singer, and when unmasked early in the season, he noted a clue of his identity referencing Seattle was a nod to his ownership of the Sounders.
Vancouver Whitecaps — Steven Nash
While many of the individuals on this list decided to buy in to an MLS franchise at a later date, thanks to the growth of the league financially and visibly, Nash has been there since the beginning.
The 48-year-old Canadian is a co-owner of the Vancouver Whitecaps, and has been since the club’s MLS debut in 2011. He occasionally attends training and matches, and even took over training for one day in 2020.
Nash’s younger brother Martin played for the Whitecaps from 2004-2010 while the team was still a member of USL-1, making 30 appearances for the Canadian national team as well.
“I was born in 1974 [the same year the club was founded],” Nash said during a club event in 2017. “I grew up a Whitecaps fan. I still have a picture, somewhere in my mom and dad’s house, getting Carl Valentine’s autograph. My brother won championships here with the Whitecaps. So it’s been a big part of our family.”
Originally found on Sporting News Read More