MLS Record Transfer Fees

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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.

PlayerOld ClubNew Club Transfer Fee
Alphonso DaviesVancouverBayern Munich$13,500,000
Jozy AltidoreNew YorkVillareal$10,000,000
Michael BradleyRomaToronto$10,000,000
Clint DempseyTottenhamSeattle Sounders$9,000,000
Miguel AlmironCA LanusAtlanta$8,000,000
Giovani Dos SantosVillarealLA Galaxy$7,000,000
Nicolas LodeiroBoca JuniorsSeattle Sounders$6,000,000
Eddie JohnsonKansas CityFulham$6,000,000
Matt MiazgaNY Red BullsChelsea$5,000,000
Lucas MelanoCA LanusPortland Timbers$5,000,000
Sebastian BlancoSan LorenzoPortland Timbers$5,000,000
Maurice AduTorontoGlasgow Rangers$5,000,000
Brek SheaFC DallasStoke City$4,000,000
Jonathan Dos SantosVillarealLA Galaxy$4,000,000
Clint DempseyNew EnglandFulham$4,000,000
Tim ReamNY Red BullsBolton$3,600,000
Diego ValeriCA LanusPortland Timbers$3,600,000
Tim HowardNew YorkManchester United$3,600,000
Stern JohnColumbusNottingham Forest$3,000,000
Paul ArriolaClub TijuanaDC United$3,000,000
Andy NajarDC UnitedAnderlecht$3,000,000
DaMarcus BeasleyChicagoPSV Eindhoven$2,500,000
Obafemi MartinsSoundersShanghai Shenua$2,000,000
Freddy AduReal Salt LakeBenfica$2,000,000
Damani RalphChicagoRubin Kazan$2,000,000
Eddie LewisSan JoseFulham$1,900,000
Brad FriedelColumbusLiverpool$1,700,000
Brad GuzanChivas U.S.A.Aston Villa$1,500,000
Brain McBrideColumbusFulham$1,500,000
Bobby ConveyD.C. UnitedReading$1,500,000
Shaun BartlettNew YorkZurich$1,300,000
Tory PerkinsD.C. UnitedValerenga$750,000
J.P. PegueroNew YorkBrondby$700,000
Mamadou DialloNew YorkAl Ahli$600,000
Nat BorchersColoradoGrenland$300,000
Onandi LoweKansas CityRushden$300,000
Josh WolffKansas City1860 Munich$191,000
Marcus HahnemannColoradoFulham$150,000
Giovanni SavareseNew YorkViterbese$100,000
Michael BradleyNew YorkHeerenveen$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.

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