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MLS Appears Ready For Sovereign Investment While NFL Waits

  • MLS commissioner Don Garber confirmed the league is discussing sovereign investments.
  • Roger Goodell said the NFL will contemplate the idea at some point.
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Sovereign wealth funds were a major topic at the annual “summer camp for billionaires” wrapping up in Idaho on Friday. 

Sports are always a big subject at the Allen & Co. Sun Valley Conference, which brings together the world’s top business executives and power brokers — and this year, respective NFL and MLS commissioners Roger Goodell and Don Garber pulled back the curtain on their leagues’ attitudes toward foreign investment.

Garber confirmed that MLS is open to sovereign money investing in franchises. “The NHL and NBA have looked at having sovereign funds and pension funds,” Garber said. “MLS (is) looking at the same thing. Very timely news. We’ll likely discuss that at our board meeting in D.C. next week at our All-Star Game.”

The NFL, on the other hand, isn’t as amenable — at least not yet. “We haven’t made the move as other leagues have to have any kind of public investment,” Goodell said. “It’s something we’ll contemplate at some point in time, but we really like our basic model now, where we have private ownership.”

Both comments are perhaps unsurprising. Although Garber said MLS hasn’t had discussions with wealth funds, the league’s unique ownership structure makes it much easier for foreign investment. Several MLS owners also own NBA or NHL teams — which appear to have no issue with Washington Capitals and Wizards owner Monumental Sports & Entertainment recently selling a stake to Qatar.

Even more MLS owners are also NFL owners, making their evolving views on sovereign money in soccer a strong indicator of where the NFL could ultimately be headed.

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