Houston Texans running back Mark Ingram II is buying a minority stake in D.C. United in a deal that values the club at $710 million, among the highest totals ever for an MLS franchise, according to people familiar with the deal.
The former Heisman Trophy winner is one of a trio of investors taking equity in the team controlled by Jason Levien and Steve Kaplan, said the people, who were granted anonymity because the matter is private. The $710 million valuation is among the highest ever for an MLS franchise during a minority stake transaction. Last year a handful of LAFC owners bought out the stake of the team previously owned by Malaysian businessman Vincent Tan at a valuation that exceeded $700 million.
It’s the latest sign of escalating values of MLS teams. In the past month, the Houston Dynamo and NWSL’s Dash were bought by Ted Segal for around $400 million, and the Wilf family purchased Orlando City SC and its stadium for $400-450 million. By contrast, D.C. United was valued at roughly $60 million, a then-MLS record, when Levien invested back in 2012.
D.C. United and MLS declined to comment. Ingram’s agent, Paul Bobbitt, said he could neither confirm nor deny the running back’s involvement. The identities of the other two investors aren’t known.
Ingram won the Heisman Trophy in 2009, the same season Alabama won the national title. He was drafted by the New Orleans Saints in the first round and has been named to the Pro Bowl three times over his 10-year career.
He is just the latest professional athlete to invest in MLS. Brooklyn Nets star James Harden, for instance, is a stakeholder in the Houston club, while his teammate Kevin Durant owns a piece of the Philadelphia franchise. NFL quarterback Russell Wilson is a part owner of the Seattle Sounders, and LAFC’s ownership group includes Magic Johnson, soccer star Mia Hamm and her husband, former MLB shortstop Nomar Garciaparra.
D.C. United is one of MLS’s original teams, with league titles in 1996, 1997, 1999 and 2004. The team plays in a 20,000-seat, soccer-specific stadium that opened in 2018.
MLS is engaged in a rapid expansion push that has seen the price to join the league—and valuations overall—jump significantly. Toronto FC paid $10 million to become the league’s 13th team back in 2007, and those fees have jumped into the hundreds of millions, with MLS expecting to be at 30 teams within the next few years.