What pro team has the highest value?

Everybody knows professional sports are big business. But how big?

More and more professional teams are worth in the billions, according to Forbes magazine, whose famous lists include the most valuable professional football, baseball and basketball teams.

What is the most valuable team in U.S. sports?

That would be the Dallas Cowboys – ranked No. 1 for the past eight years by Forbes – with a value this year of $3.4 billion, a 39% increase over the previous year. (Worldwide, only the Real Madrid soccer team is worth more at $3.5 billion, and the Barcelona soccer team is tied with the Cowboys at $3.4 billion.)

The average team value of NFL teams in the Forbes study was $1.43 billion, 23% higher than the year before. In line behind the Cowboys are the New England Patriots ($2.6 billion), the Washington Redskins ($2.4 billion) and the New York Giants ($2.1 billion).

In comparison, the average Major League Baseball team is valued at $811 million and the average NBA basketball team $634 million.

Forbes calculates the team values using multiples of revenues that include stadium, sponsorship and television revenues. Team values are enterprise values – equity plus net debt. Adjustments are made for teams building or making renovations to stadiums, but the market value of the real estate (for those teams that own the stadiums) is not included.

The NFL teams at the bottom of the list are the St. Louis Rams ($930 million), the Buffalo Bills ($935 million), the Detroit Lions ($960 million) and the Jacksonville Jaguars ($965 million).

While winning and losing obviously makes a difference in attendance, and therefore revenues and value, the Dallas Cowboys haven’t won a Super Bowl since the 1995 season and have made only three post-season appearances in the last 10 years.

But the Cowboys annual revenues last year were $560 million with operating income of $245 million. The Cowboys, like other highest valued teams, lead the rest in premium seating revenue and stadium sponsorship revenue, Forbes found, as well as in international marketing. For example, the Cowboys have new deals with a cruise line and a line of luxury watches.

The study found that the value gap is broadening in the NFL as large population cities – New York, Boston, Chicago – are able to attract more premium and corporate buyers who want to be able to attend their city’s premiere sports event.

Until this year, the New York Yankees baseball team was the second highest valued professional team in the United States, with a value of $2.5 billion, and is still third highest overall after the Cowboys and New England Patriots.

The Yankees, which saw a 9% increase in value from the previous year, are followed in value in Major League Baseball by the Los Angeles Dodgers ($2 billion with a 24% increase), the Boston Red Sox ($1.5 billion with a 20% increase) and the Chicago Cubs ($1.2 billion with a 20% increase).

The least valuable baseball teams are the Tampa Bay Rays ($485 million), the Kansas City Royals ($490 million), the Oakland Athletics ($495 million) and the Miami Marlins ($500 million).

In the NBA, the New York Knicks are the highest valued team at $1.4 billion, with $287 million in revenues and $96.3 million in operating income. The value jumped 27% last year.

Following the Knicks are the Los Angeles Lakers ($1.35 billion with a 35% increase), the Chicago Bulls ($1 billion with a 25% increase) and the Boston Celtics ($875 million with a 20% increase).

At the bottom of the NBA in terms of team value are the Milwaukee Bucs ($495 million), the Charlotte Bobcats ($410 million), the New Orleans Pelicans ($420 million) and the Atlanta Hawks ($425 million).