Most Americans, if asked, would tell you that either the New York Yankees or the Dallas Cowboys were the most profitable teams in professional sports.
Those guesses don't take into account the worldwide phenomenon that is global soccer.
Due to television contracts, the revenues of Europe's largest soccer teams have been growing exponentially. Since not all European leagues distribute television money equally, or even negotiate league-wide television deals, the disparity between clubs in the same league can vary even more widely than it does in Major League Baseball.
The two teams sitting atop the Football Money League, compiled annually by Deloitte, demonstrate just how much the top-perched clubs make in comparison to the rest of the league.
Real Madrid, the richest, highest grossing professional sports club in the world, generated 438 million euros (roughly $603 million at today's exchange rates) in 2009/10—about 40 million Euros more than second place FC Barcelona and a staggering 100 million Euros more than third place Manchester United.
Real Madrid has a relatively even split in revenue sourcing among the three main drivers: broadcast, commercial (sponsorship and merchandise) and game day.
Thanks to a contract it holds individually, since La Liga allows its clubs to negotiate individually rather than through a centralized league contract, Real Madrid received 158.7 million Euros in broadcast revenue. That contract gives Los Blancos more broadcast revenue than half of the Money League clubs combined.
Real Madrid also receives over 150 million euros in commercial revenue, one of only two Money League clubs to do so; and it has a 20 million euro contract with Bwin for jersey sponsorship that runs through 2012/13.
In contrast, the highest grossing MLB club, the New York Yankees, made $441 million in revenue last year, $319 million of which came from gate receipts. That is less than Manchester United, the third place club on the Money League list.
The value of broadcasting contracts is significantly higher in the NFL than in MLB. In fact, the total value of the NFL's various broadcast contracts was in excess of $3.4 billion in 2009, and it grows annually. The Dallas Cowboys, the NFL's most valuable franchise grossed $420 million in 2009, of which only $112 million came from gate receipts.
This might explain the recent interest of NFL owners in purchasing European soccer clubs.