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Cowboys Are Third Most Valuable Sports Team In The World

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According to Forbes Magazine, the Cowboys are worth $1.85 billion, tying them with the New York Yankees as the third most valuable sports team in the world. The Cowboys miss out on the top two spots, which are held by soccer superpowers Manchester United with $2.23 billion and Real Madrid with $1.88 billion.

But the Cowboys still hold a comfortable lead over all other NFL franchises. Forbes explain why:

The Cowboys are the kings of the NFL thanks to their $1.2 billion stadium, which generates more than $100 million annually from premium seating and nearly $60 million from sponsors like AT&T, Bank of America, Ford Motor and PepsiCo.

Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones is a master salesman and has attracted the NBA All-Star game, the Super Bowl, a Manny Pacquiao fight, soccer matches, concerts and more to Cowboys Stadium since the $1.2 billion venue opened in 2009. It will host the 2014 NCAA Men's Final Four as well. The stadium can hold 110,000 people, including standing room. One thing Jones has not been able to sell is naming rights to the building, which could fetch $15 million annually.

The other top NFL franchises in order: #5 Washington Redskins, #6 New England Patriots, #9 New York Giants, #12 New York Jets, #13 Houston Texans and #14 Philadelphia Eagles. Which makes the NFC East easily the most valuable division in any sport. All 32 NFL teams make Forbes' list of the world's 50 most valuable sports teams. Even the lowest ranked NFL team, the Jacksonville Jaguars at #47 are worth more than the Phillies, Mets and Rangers.

But despite the apparent success of the NFL teams, the suits at the NFL league offices in 280 Park Avenue, New York, are looking at this list with a lot of concern.

Why? Because there are five soccer teams in the top 11 on the Forbes list versus only four NFL teams. To make matters worse, the value of the top five soccer franchises has increased by a cool $1.4 billion, or +22%, versus 2011, while the value of the top five NFL franchises has increased by only $300 million, or +4%, as the table below shows.

Top Five Global Soccer Teams Top Five NFL Teams
'11 Value
'12 Value
Change in % '11 Value
'12 Value
Change in %
Manchester United 1.86 2.23 20% Dallas Cowboys 1.81 1.85 2%
Real Madrid 1.45 1.88 30% Washington Redskins 1.55 1.56 1%
Arsenal London 1.19 1.29 8% New England Patriots 1.37 1.40 2%
Bayern Munich 1.03 1.23 19% New York Giants 1.18 1.30 10%
FC Barcelona 0.98 1.31 34% New York Jets 1.14 1.23 8%
Total 6.51 7.94 22% Total 7.05 7.34 4%

And underlying this value disparity is a simple fact: Soccer is global, while the NFL's appeal is mostly limited to North America. Ultimately, this limits the NFL's growth potential. The NFL has long recognized this and has made repeated, unsuccessful attempts to branch out overseas.

Yet when your top three teams (and many more below that) are growing at only 1-2% in value, you are effectively falling below the inflation rate and thereby destroying value. This is one of the key reasons you've been hearing about possibly having two regular season games overseas and possibly even locating an NFL team in London. And you'll hear more suggestions along those lines over the coming months and years. If the NFL wants to continue to grow, it needs to tap into the overseas markets.