MLS Record Transfer Fees

What are the biggest transfer fees paid to MLS teams to sign players? Just how much money has the MLS made selling soccer players to clubs in Europe and beyond? And just how much have MLS teams or the league itself paid to clubs to buy top players?

New: The biggest transfer fee paid was to Atlanta by Newcastle to sign Miguel Almiron (Newcastle, 2019) for $24 million. And then Bayern Munich paid $13.5 million to the Vancouver Whitecaps to sign Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich, 2019). Which looks like a steal now since he’s playing as a defender and playing like a veteran.

Major League Soccer is nearly 20 years old now, so it should be able to develop players and then funnel those players to other leagues to generate revenue. However, it has been a bit slow going, with a few big transfer fees coming in but not as many as you might expect for a soccer league that’s been around this long.For the the individual MLS teams, when they sell a player, they receive two-thirds of the transfer fee, which can go a long way in building a team.

One team, Real Salt Lake, who recently won the MLS Cup, may have had some success since they sold Freddy Adu a few years ago and could then free up that money to buy three or four strong players. Of course, I think it goes a bit deeper than that and isn’t the main reason they won the MLS Cup title, but it certainly helps if you can make money selling players.

It looks like three MLS clubs have had the most players sold to European clubs and earned money with transfer fees, those teams are Kansas City (3 players), Colorado (3 players), and then the New York Red Bulls and New York Metro Stars (7 players).

Let’s take a look at what top soccer players in the MLS have earned their former MLS teams and the league some coin. Also, let’s see just how much money some MLS teams have paid out in transfer fees for players they’ve signed.

Player Old Club New Club Transfer Fee
Alphonso Davies Vancouver Bayern Munich $13,500,000
Jozy Altidore New York Villareal $10,000,000
Michael Bradley Roma Toronto $10,000,000
Clint Dempsey Tottenham Seattle Sounders $9,000,000
Miguel Almiron CA Lanus Atlanta $8,000,000
Giovani Dos Santos Villareal LA Galaxy $7,000,000
Nicolas Lodeiro Boca Juniors Seattle Sounders $6,000,000
Eddie Johnson Kansas City Fulham $6,000,000
Matt Miazga NY Red Bulls Chelsea $5,000,000
Lucas Melano CA Lanus Portland Timbers $5,000,000
Sebastian Blanco San Lorenzo Portland Timbers $5,000,000
Maurice Adu Toronto Glasgow Rangers $5,000,000
Brek Shea FC Dallas Stoke City $4,000,000
Jonathan Dos Santos Villareal LA Galaxy $4,000,000
Clint Dempsey New England Fulham $4,000,000
Tim Ream NY Red Bulls Bolton $3,600,000
Diego Valeri CA Lanus Portland Timbers $3,600,000
Tim Howard New York Manchester United $3,600,000
Stern John Columbus Nottingham Forest $3,000,000
Paul Arriola Club Tijuana DC United $3,000,000
Andy Najar DC United Anderlecht $3,000,000
DaMarcus Beasley Chicago PSV Eindhoven $2,500,000
Obafemi Martins Sounders Shanghai Shenua $2,000,000
Freddy Adu Real Salt Lake Benfica $2,000,000
Damani Ralph Chicago Rubin Kazan $2,000,000
Eddie Lewis San Jose Fulham $1,900,000
Brad Friedel Columbus Liverpool $1,700,000
Brad Guzan Chivas U.S.A. Aston Villa $1,500,000
Brain McBride Columbus Fulham $1,500,000
Bobby Convey D.C. United Reading $1,500,000
Shaun Bartlett New York Zurich $1,300,000
Tory Perkins D.C. United Valerenga $750,000
J.P. Peguero New York Brondby $700,000
Mamadou Diallo New York Al Ahli $600,000
Nat Borchers Colorado Grenland $300,000
Onandi Lowe Kansas City Rushden $300,000
Josh Wolff Kansas City 1860 Munich $191,000
Marcus Hahnemann Colorado Fulham $150,000
Giovanni Savarese New York Viterbese $100,000
Michael Bradley New York Heerenveen $100,000

Yes, it’s funny to look back at some of the older transfer fees that teams earned or paid when the league was just starting out. That last one for instance, where New York, when they were the Metro Stars, earned a $100K transfer fee when they sent Michael Bradley to Dutch club Heerenveen. Crazy to then look and see how much Roma made when they sold Bradley back to MLS side Toronto FC.