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Cowboys Are Fifth Most Valuable Sports Team In The World

In Forbes' annual ranking of the world's most valuable sports teams, the Cowboys rank fifth globally, second overall in North America behind only the New York Yankees, and are easily the most valuable NFL franchise.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

According to Forbes Magazine, the Cowboys at $2.3 billion are the fifth most valuable sports team in the world. Thy are worth slightly less than the New York Yankees at $2.5 billion, and both teams miss out on the top three spots which are held by soccer superpowers Real Madrid ($3.44 billion), FC Barcelona ($3.2 billion), and Manchester United ($2.81 billion).

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

Soccer clubs dominate the top of the list, but football teams make up the bulk of the top 50 with 30 entries (only the Oakland Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars failed to make the cut). Leading the way is the Dallas Cowboys, who rank fifth overall worth $2.3 billion.

The Cowboys have been the NFL’s most valuable team since 2007 thanks to the league’s highest sponsorship and premium seating revenues—a combined $220 million. The ‘Boys revenue got a boost last summer when owner Jerry Jones inked a 25-year stadium naming rights deal with AT&T worth $500 million. The club has the top operating income in sports at $251 million for the 2012 season.

The other top NFL franchises in order: #8 New England Patriots, #9 Washington Redskins, #10 New York Giants, #12 Houston Texans, #14 New York Jets, and #17 Philadelphia Eagles. Which makes the NFC East easily the most valuable division in any sport.

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? Take a look at how the value of NFL teams has developed versus that of the global soccer giants since Forbes' valuation from 2012. Over the last two years, the value of the top five soccer franchises has increased by a staggering $4.7 billion, or +59%, while the value of the top five NFL franchises has increased by "just" $1.5 billion, or +20%, as the table below shows.

Top Five Global Soccer Teams Top Five NFL Teams
Team '12 Value
'14 Value
Change in % Team '12 Value
'14 Value
Change in %
Real Madrid 1.88
83% Cowboys 1.85 2.30
FC Barcelona 1.31 3.20 144% Patriots 1.4 1.80
Manchester United 2.23 2.81 26% Redskins 1.56 1.70
Bayern Munich 1.23
50% Giants 1.30 1.55
Arsenal 1.29
3% Jets 1.20 1.45
Total 7.94
59% Total 7.34 8.80

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.

This is one of the key reasons why the NFL now has three regular season games overseas and is thinking out loud about potentially locating an NFL team in London. It's also why the NFL is expanding its television footprint on Thursday nights, why there'll be 14 instead of 12 playoff teams in 2015, and why it's inevitable that the NFL will move to an 18-game schedule at some point. 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 increase its revenue base, and if they can't do it overseas, they'll have to do it domestically.

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