Soccer used to be an incredibly niche sport in the United States. Support for European clubs was largely limited to pockets of expats and areas with large immigrant populations. And on the business side of things, the idea of an American owner for one of these clubs was almost unthinkable. But those days are long gone. In the 21st century, the sport – both the domestic and overseas variety – is one of most most popular in the country. And the list of American-owned soccer clubs has expanded dramatically.
From the small to the massive, American-backed clubs dot the continent and can be found in just about every major European competition. Neither intense pressure from local fans nor the threat of relegation has stymied the interest of American owners to get into Europe’s biggest sport.
So which teams have red, white, and blue dollars footing the bill? Here’s a list of some of the American-owned soccer clubs in Europe.
American-owned soccer clubs in Europe
In 2022, RedBird Capital Partners purchased control of the Italian giants for $1.3 billion. The firm also is involved with Fenway Sports Group (see Liverpool below), France’s Toulouse FC, and the XFL football league.
North London’s Gunners have been majority-owned by Stan Kroenke since 2011. Arsenal is just one jewel in the American billionaire’s huge sports portfolio. He’s also the owner of the Los Angeles Rams (NFL), Denver Nuggets (NBA), Colorado Avalanche (NHL), Colorado Rapids (MLS), Colorado Mammoth (NLL), and two esports teams.
Dan Friedkin, film director and heir to a massive Toyota car dealership network in the south-central USA, heads the group that owns Roma. They took control in 2020.
Wes Edens is co-owner of the holding company V Sports – which owns a controlling stake in Aston Villa. The Montana-born businessman is also co-owner of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, and V Sports is set to acquire a 46% stake in Portuguese club Vitória S.C. In addition, there have been talks swirling about a plan to establish an MLS team in Las Vegas.
Atalanta is controlled by Stephen Pagliuca. The investor is also a co-owner of the Boston Celtics.
Barnsley is owned by a consortium that includes Chinese-American entrepreneur Chien Lee and former baseball player (and current minority owner of the Oakland A’s and AZ Alkmaar) Billy Beane. Lee also has stakes in FC Thun, K.V. Oostende, Nancy, Esbjerg fB, FC Den Bosch, 1. FC Kaiserslautern, and GKS Tychy FC.
Birmingham joined the American-owned stable only recently. In July 2023, Tom Wagner’s Shelby Companies Ltd. purchased a controlling stake in the club. You may not have heard of Wagner, but you probably know of one of his minority partners in the project – Tom Brady. The legendary NFL quarterback is also chairman of the club’s advisory board.
The Cherries share ownership with the recently crowned NHL champions, the Vegas Golden Knights. Bill Foley is the head money man for both outfits and in January 2023 also acquired a sizable minority stake in Ligue 1 side FC Lorient.
Since 2020, Burnley has been owned by an arm of ALK Capital, which is headed by Alan Pace. In May 2023, retired NFL star J.J. Watt and his wife, former USWNT player Kealia Watt, became minority investors.
Ligue 2 side SM Caen was taken over by American firm Oaktree Capital Management in 2020, who now control 80% of the shares.
The Blues became American-owned in 2022. In one of the higher-profile changes of hand in recent memory, Roman Abramovich turned over control of the club, and it was eventually purchased by a group led by Todd Boehly. The consortium also has stakes in the LA Dodgers, LA Lakers, and LA Sparks (WNBA).
Wagmi United LLC is a group of cryptocurrency investors based in the US, who took over the League Two club in April 2022.
Palace has multiple Americans in the ownership group, including Josh Harris, David Blitzer, and John Textor. The latter’s 40% stake acquired in 2021 put the American-held percentage over the top in terms of majority control. In addition to CPFC, Textor is also the majority shareholder of Botafogo, Lyon, OL Reign (NWSL), and RWD Molenbeek.
While this move is pending as of press time, it seems clear that Everton will soon be held by American owners as well. 777 Capital, an investment company based in Miami, is set to acquire 94.1% of the club. They also own stakes in Genoa, Standard Liege, Red Star (Paris), Vasco de Gama, Melbourne Victory, and Hertha BSC.
Italian-American cable TV magnate Rocco Commisso purchased Fiorentina in June of 2019. Followers of the American lower divisions will surely recognize this name – he is also the owner of the (currently dormant) New York Cosmos. A former player himself, the soccer stadium at New York’s Columbia University is named for Commisso.
Pakistani-American businessman Shahid Kahn has owned Fulham since 2013. This was two years after he acquired the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars. This connection has led to the Jaguars playing “home” games each season in London. But since Fulham’s Craven Cottage is too small, games have been held at Wembley and, more recently, Tottenham’s new stadium.
777 Partners acquired 99.99% of Genoa in September of 2021. At the time, this made them the sixth Serie A team to have American ownership.
Florida real estate tycoon Brad Galinson has been the controlling stakeholder of The Gills since late 2022.
In March 2023, Huddersfield was taken over by American investor Kevin M. Nagle. Nagle is the Chairman and CEO of the ownership of USL’s Sacramento Republic FC. He is also a minority owner of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings and was instrumental in preventing the team from relocating in the early 2010s.
Leeds became wholly owned by 49ers Enterprises in June of 2023. This entity is the business arm of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, which is headed by the York family.
Vincent Volpe has owned Ligue 2’s La Havre since July of 2015. One of his first moves was to hire former USMNT manager Bob Bradley, who coached the club from 2015-2016.
Liverpool first came under American control in 2007, when George Gillett and Tom Hicks purchased the club. In 2010, this transferred to Fenway Sports Group. FSG is headed by John W. Henry and also owns the Boston Red Sox, and Pittsburgh Penguins. Prior to FSG, Henry was the owner of the Florida Marlins.
John Textor is the main investor in OL, with 77.5% of the shares. The former Fubo executive chairman also has stakes in Crystal Palace, Botafogo, and RWD Molenbeek.
RCD Mallorca is owned by former tennis player Andy Kohlberg. Minority partners in the club include the former NBA players, now coaches, Steve Nash and Steve Kerr, as well as FOX Sports pundit Stu Holden.
Man United is perhaps the highest-profile case of American ownership of a European club. It’s also perhaps the poster child for local resistance to it (Google “FC United of Manchester” if you’ve never heard of them). In 2005, Malcolm Glazer purchased a controlling interest in the club. Though Glazer died in 2014, United, and the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, are still owned by the Glazer family. The club has been entertaining takeover bids in 2023, but for now, the Red Devils remain in American control.
Former LA Dodgers owner Frank McCourt has been the controlling owner of OM since 2016.
The South London side had been owned by John Berylson since 2007. The American businessman, founder of Chestnut Hill Ventures, tragically died in July 2023 in a car accident. His son James has taken his place as club chairman.
Chien Lee has owned AS Nancy Lorraine since late 2020. It is one of nine European clubs the Chinese-American entrepreneur has invested in.
Parma Calcio has changed hands a few times since being reborn in 2015. In 2020, the Krause Group acquired the club. The Krause Group is the parent company of the Iowa-based convenience store chain Kum & Go.
In August 2022, an American group purchased 20% of the club. Among the members of this group are NHL players Ondřej Palát and Victor Hedman, and Milwaukee Bucks general manager Jon Horst.
In 2017, The Tornante Company purchased the club from the Portsmouth Supporters Trust. This firm is headed by Michael Eisner, longtime former chairman CEO of the Walt Disney Company.
The historic Paris side – the fourth-oldest club in the country – was purchased by 777 Partners in May of 2022. The historically working-class and left-wing supporters of the club did not take kindly to the takeover by the American investment firm, with protests causing the postponement of a match shortly after the sale.
In 2021, Spezia changed hands with the family of Robert Platek, who is involved with the investment firm MSD Capital.
Strasbourg, as of June 2023, now shares ownership with American-owned Chelsea FC.
The Swans are controlled by Jason Levien, who is also co-owner of Major League Soccer’s D.C. United. The former sports agent is also a member of an ownership group that controls the Brisbane Bullets, an Australian pro basketball club. Steve Kaplan is also part of the group, and he also has shares in the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies.
RedBird Capital, also owners of AC Milan, acquired an 85% stake in Toulouse back in 2020.
Duncan L. Niederauer, former CEO of the New York Stock Exchange, became president and owner of Venezia in 2019. He took over from previous American owner Joe Tacopina.
In 2022, Drew Volpe and John Katz became the main investors at Woking. The former Minor League Baseball executives aim to guide the club to a similar rise seen by clubs like AFC Wimbledon.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock you know about these guys. In late 2020, Canadian Ryan Reynolds and American Rob McElhenney took over Wrexham from the Wrexham Supporters Trust. Under the two actors’ tenure, the club has become a sensation, starring in an acclaimed docu-series and winning promotion back to the Football League.
Late in the 2022-23 season, Rob Couhig / Feliciana EFL Ltd became 90% stakeholders in the club. Previously, Couhig had acquired 75% control in 2020. Couhig is a lawyer and former minor league baseball team owner.
Those are just some of the American-owned clubs in Europe. And this roster of $USD-backed teams is sure to grow in coming years. The overseas games continue to improve in popularity, and the sport in general is surely set to explode again as we ramp up to World Cup 2026.
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