New sponsorship and broadcast deals, especially in the United States, are expected to drive record revenues for English soccer champion Manchester United this season and help the storied club catch up with European rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona.
United, controlled by the Glazer family, which owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the National Football League, forecast on Wednesday that revenues would rise by up to 18.5 percent to $668 million to $684 million in the year to next June, compared with the previous 12 months.
That was based on the team under new manager David Moyes finishing at least third in the English Premier League and reaching the quarter-finals of Europe's Champions League and domestic cup competitions. United have made the top three every year since the Premier League was launched in 1992 and last season's title was its 20th English league championship. The club has also won the European Champions League three times.
United are already Britain's richest soccer club and will benefit from enhanced Premier League TV rights deals that began last month and new club sponsorship deals including a particularly lucrative one with General Motors. NBC is broadcasting Premier League matches live in the United States this season.
The club pointed to the enduring success of its commercial operation in helping to maintain the club as a force globally. It hopes further expansion in the United States will help it capitalize on soccer's growth there.
"Our commercial business continues to be a very powerful engine of growth enabling the team to continue to be successful," Ed Woodward, the executive vice chairman, said in a statement reporting the results of the club, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
Commercial income alone grew by 30 percent during the year to $244 million as 20 sponsorship deals were announced. United hopes to profit from the appeal of the Red Devils branding in the U.S. where Woodward claims the number of TV viewers watching the team is growing 30 to 35 percent each year.
Real Madrid is the only soccer club to have so far broken the 500 million euro ($668 million) revenue barrier but their Spanish rivals Barcelona expect to do so this season.
United's stock has risen from its flotation price of $14 and traded 1.7 percent higher at $17.4 in early business on Wednesday, valuing the club at around $2.8 billion.
In an official market filing, United gave itself the option of raising up to $400 million through fresh share sales and set tongues wagging by saying the Glazers could also seek to cash in part of their stake after buying the club in 2005.
However, the club played down talk of an imminent share sale to raise new money or cut the family holding. The Glazers retain an 89.8 percent stake in the club after the flotation, giving them 98.7 percent of voting power because of the two different classes of shares that exist.