8 athletes who own stakes in MLS teams

June 5, 2020, 10:32 PM UTC

Step aside, tech startups. The newest enterprise where athletes are investing their money? Major League Soccer teams.

Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets became the latest to join the trend with the purchase of a minority stake in the Philadelphia Union, Sports Business Daily reported Thursday. According to the outlet, the stake runs somewhere between 1% and 5%, and it’s not yet clear if the investment is a personal one or through Thirty Five Ventures, the business Durant cofounded with his manager, Rich Kleiman. The firm declined Fortune’s request for comment.

But K.D. isn’t alone: A number of world soccer stars and NBA players have a mutual fandom in each other’s respective sports. Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James is a notable fan of Liverpool Football Club, a team that plays in England’s Premier League, and went so far as to purchase a 2% stake in the team in 2011, which was reportedly worth more than $32 million as of 2018. The late Lakers star Kobe Bryant was a passionate supporter of FC Barcelona. And speaking of Barcelona, one of the team’s stars, Antoine Griezmann, is ardent fan of the NBA, going so far as to say he’d prefer watching an NBA game over a match in his own sport.

In the U.S., soccer is growing in popularity as the MLS continues its expansion from 10 teams in 1996 to 26 today—with four more teams set to round out the league by 2022. With an average attendance of more than 21,000, the MLS has the third highest attendance of the five major U.S. sports leagues—beating out the NBA and NHL.

Athletes in the U.S. appear to have taken notice of soccer’s growing appeal in the country, and are in turn buying stakes in MLS teams. Here are the others investing in the MLS:

James Harden and Oscar De La Hoya

James Harden cheers for the Houston Dynamo during the Leagues Cup in Houston in July 2019.
Omar Vega—Getty Images

In 2019, the Houston Rockets star and 2018 NBA MVP purchased a 5% stake in the Houston Dynamo as well as the Houston Dash, the National Women’s Soccer League team (the Dynamo and Dash are part of the same ownership group). According to Front Office Sports, Harden’s investment put the organization’s value at $475 million.

“Houston is my home now, and I saw this as a way to invest in my city and expand my business interests at the same time,” Harden said in a statement at the time. “Soccer in general, and especially MLS, have exploded in this country throughout my lifetime.”

Well before Harden got involved, world and Olympic boxing champion Oscar De La Hoya acquired a 25% stake in the Dynamo in 2008. “I invest in soccer because I love it,” De La Hoya said in 2018. “I see a lot of promise in the MLS.”

Magic Johnson, Mia Hamm, and Nomar Garciaparra

LAFC owners Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Nomar Garciaparra, and Mia Hamm with author Tony Robbins on Oct. 30, 2014, in Hollywood.
Charley Gallay—Getty Images for LAFC

The trio—a Los Angeles Lakers Hall of Famer, a two-time World Cup champion, and a six-time All-Star shortstop—are cofounding partners of Los Angeles Football Club, which began playing in 2018. Johnson, Hamm, and Garciaparra are part of a large ownership group that also includes comedic actor Will Ferrell and a number of business executives and private equity managers.

In February, a handful of the LAFC’s owners bought half of businessman Vincent Tan’s 20% stake, sending the club’s valuation to over $700 million—the most-ever for an MLS team. It’s unclear if the trio of athlete owners were part of that deal.

Russell Wilson

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (right) and recording artist Ciara during the MLS Cup Champions Parade on Nov. 12, 2019, in Seattle.
Alika Jenner—Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks quarterback, along with his wife, R&B star Ciara, and the rapper Macklemore, became part of the Seattle Sounders ownership group in 2019. The total ownership stake of the club’s 12 owners came out to $58.6 million, according to an SEC filing, though it’s unclear what percentage each of the owners holds.

“Ciara and I are fired up to announce we are team owners of the Seattle Sounders, one of the best soccer franchises in the world!” Wilson wrote in a tweet. “We can’t wait for our kids to grow up loving soccer!”

David Beckham

David Beckham (right) talks with Inter Miami CF goalie Luis Robles on Feb. 25, 2020, in Fort Lauderdale.
Michael Reaves—Getty Images

Perhaps the least surprising name on this list is David Beckham, one of soccer’s most recognizable stars.

Beckham rose to fame as a Manchester United player in England, but spent the tail end of his career playing for the Los Angeles Galaxy. His unprecedented contract in the MLS included an option to purchase an MLS expansion team for $25 million—which he exercised in 2014. Four years later, Inter Miami CF was officially unveiled.

The club made its MLS debut on March 1, just weeks before the coronavirus pandemic interrupted the league’s season, with a 0-1 loss to LAFC.

Steve Nash

Whitecaps FC co-owner Steve Nash cheers his team on as they play against D.C. United during their MLS game at BC Place, Oct. 12, 2011, in Vancouver.
Jeff Vinnick—Getty Images

The South African–born, Canadian-raised Nash made his mark in the NBA as a point guard, notably for the Phoenix Suns—but he’s a huge soccer fan as well. That led him to purchase a minority stake in Vancouver Whitecaps FC, one of three Canadian teams in the MLS.

Nash is one of four investors in the club, though the exact size of his ownership stake is not publicly known. He purchased it in 2011, while he was still playing in the NBA, and his since gone on to purchase a minority stake in Spanish soccer team RCD Mallorca.

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