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|
|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 Guzan||Chivas U.S.A.||Aston Villa||$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|
|Onandi Lowe||Kansas City||Rushden||$300,000|
|Josh Wolff||Kansas City||1860 Munich||$191,000|
|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.