25 Championships with the Biggest Prizes

25 Championships with the Biggest Prizes

There are many advantages to being a professional athlete, such as notoriety and the thrill of competing at the highest level. But for many, the best part is the money. Athletes in pro leagues around the world sign lucrative contracts that pay them tens of millions of dollars per year.

While these athletes certainly want to do well, their contracts guarantee their salaries no matter how poorly they play — or even if they miss games due to injury. But some other competitors have to rely on a single huge event for their payday — and in many cases they may go home empty-handed if they lose.

To determine the highest paying events in sports, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the payouts from events such as combat sports, eSports, team sports, and individual competitions. To do this we used media reports, official league collective bargaining agreements, and earnings databases like Esports Earnings. Some, but not all, of the winnings per player, are estimates of how much the players actually take home. The actual distribution of winnings among players can vary widely based on the league, and even from competition to competition.

While the athletes in these events certainly can make a lot of money, most of them are still nowhere near being the wealthiest. There are dozens of athletes who earn more than $30 million per year based on their contracts alone — which doesn’t include any endorsements or bonuses. There are the highest paid athletes in sports history.

Readers may be surprised to find out just how lucrative eSports have become in recent years. Though these competitions do not have decades of tradition like boxing, tennis, or the NFL, video game tournaments have attracted millions of viewers from around the world. As video games have become more and more popular, some have taken hold as the ultimate display of skill and strategy. These competitions now have multi-million dollar prize pools to entice the best gamers to come and play. These are the most popular video games of all time.

Source: Bruce Bennett / Getty Images

25. Stanley Cup Finals
> Sport/game: Hockey
> Total prize pool: $15,000,000
> Amount to winner: $3,750,000
> Est. winnings per player: $163,000

While it is very popular in Canada, NHL hockey ranks behind other major sports like basketball, baseball, and football in viewership popularity in the United States. Still, the $3.75 million payout for the Stanley Cup champions, part of the $15 million total prize pool, is considerable.

Source: artubr / Flickr

24. LoL 2019 World Championship
> Sport/game: League of Legends
> Total prize pool: $2,225,000
> Amount to winner: $834,375
> Est. winnings per player: $166,875

League of Legends is a fast-paced online game that incorporates elements of slower-paced RPG games in which two teams battle to move up in ranking. This year, 24 teams competed in a championship that was held in Berlin, Madrid, and Paris. The tournament winners took home over $834,000 of the total $2.2 million prize pool. Three of the winning team’s players were from China and two were from South Korea.

Source: Courtesy of Intel

23. Intel Grand Slam Season 2
> Sport/game: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
> Total prize pool: $1,000,000
> Amount to winner: $1,000,000
> Est. winnings per player: $200,000

People have been playing some version of the game Counter-Strike for roughly two decades. The original game, a modification of the popular late ’90s game Half-Life, quickly gained worldwide popularity. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, known popularly as CS:GO, has renewed the franchise’s success. The five-man team that won the second season of the Intel Grand Slam earned $200,000 each.

Source: Courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

22. WCS Global Finals (Starcraft 2)
> Sport/game: Starcraft 2
> Total prize pool: $700,000
> Amount to winner: $210,000
> Est. winnings per player: $210,000

Like Counter-Strike, the Starcraft franchise has spanned multiple versions and, as a whole, represents one of the most popular video game series in history, with widespread international adoption. In South Korea, Starcraft has been a nationally televised sport for years. In 2019, Korean player Dark won the $210,000 grand prize at the WCS Global Finals.

Source: Lachlan Cunningham / Getty Images

21. NBA Finals
> Sport/game: Basketball
> Total prize pool: $20,000,000
> Amount to winner: $2,600,000
> Est. winnings per player: $221,000

The prize awarded to the winner of the NBA Finals is more lucrative for individual players than the Stanley Cup, in part because there are fewer players to share the payout. The NBA roster is typically 15 players, compared with the 23-man roster for the NHL. Sports blogging network SB Nation estimates that each player on the winning NBA team gets a payout of about $221,000.

Source: Courtesy of Magic Pro League

20. Mythic Invitational 2019
> Sport/game: Magic: The Gathering Arena
> Total prize pool: $1,000,000
> Amount to winner: $250,000
> Est. winnings per player: $250,000

A number of trading card games have gained enough popularity to sustain competitive play, but few come close to the lasting success of the grandfather of them all, Magic: The Gathering. Originally released in 1993, the game now has over 30 million players in at least 70 countries. The 2019 Mythic Invitational, held in Boston, paid out a total prize pool of $1,000,000, including $250,000 to the winner, Italian Andrea Mengucci.

Source: Courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

19. Hearthstone World Championship 2019
> Sport/game: Hearthstone
> Total prize pool: $1,000,000
> Amount to winner: $250,000
> Est. winnings per player: $250,000

While it does not have the history of Magic: The Gathering, Hearthstone, a fully digital card game by the makers of Starcraft and World of Warcraft, has easily surpassed Magic in popularity, with over 100 million players worldwide as of the end of 2018. The Hearthstone World Championship pays out a prize pool of $1 million, including a top prize of $250,000.

Source: Matthias Hangst / Getty Images

18. FIFA World Cup
> Sport/game: Soccer
> Total prize pool: $400,000,000
> Amount to winner: $38,000,000
> Est. winnings per player: $330,000

FIFA offers lucrative prizes for the teams competing in the World Cup. The pool grew from $358 million in 2014 to $400 million in 2018. France’s national team took home $38 million for winning soccer’s ultimate prize. But it is up to each team’s national soccer organization to decide how much of the bonus should be paid to players and how much should go back into funding the team. In 2018, France gave its 23 players just under 25% of the winnings, which totaled roughly $330,000 per player.

Source: Michael Steele / Getty Images

17. Cricket World Cup
> Sport/game: Cricket
> Total prize pool: $10,000,000
> Amount to winner: $4,000,000
> Est. winnings per player: $363,636

While it remains a relatively minor sport in the United States, cricket is an extremely popular global sport, and is one of the most widely watched, if not the most watched, in a number of countries in Asia, Oceania, and Europe. England, the winners of the 2019 Cricket World Cup, took home a total of $4 million.

Source: Courtesy of Tencent Games

16. Honor of Kings World Champion Cup 2019
> Sport/game: Arena of Valor
> Total prize pool: $2,166,994
> Amount to winner: $1,904,053
> Est. winnings per player: $380,811

The Honor of Kings World Champion Cup is one of several eSports competitions to rank on this list. This year, a total of 60 players spread across 12 teams competed for a total prize pool of almost $2.2 million and a grand prize of $1.9 million. The championship was held in Shenzhen, China on Aug. 10.

Source: Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images

15. World Series
> Sport/game: Baseball
> Total prize pool: $80,861,145
> Amount to winner: $29,110,012
> Est. winnings per player: $382,358

Aside from the prestige that comes with winning the World Series, the players on the winning team earn a hefty bonus. Per the MLB collective bargaining agreement, the league collects money from ticket sales throughout the playoffs, placing it into a players’ pool. Playoff teams earn more and more of the money depending on how far they advance in the postseason, with the champions splitting 36% of the pool among themselves. For the 2019 World Series champions, the Washington Nationals, a share of that pool was worth $382,358.

Source: Courtesy of Drodo Studios

14. Auto Chess Invitational 2019
> Sport/game: Auto Chess
> Total prize pool: $1,000,000
> Amount to winner: $450,000
> Est. winnings per player: $450,000

Auto Chess started as a modification released in January 2019 for DOTA 2 (a highly popular game with a large competitive scene in its own right). Auto Chess quickly became one of the most popular games of 2019, spawning several imitators. The best news for players entering the genre is that Auto Chess isn’t a team-based game, meaning players competing in tournaments do not need to split the winnings among multiple teammates. Jinsoo, the South Korean champion of the 2019 Auto Chess Invitational in Shanghai, took home $450,000.

Source: Nate Herrera n8bit_ / Wikimedia Commons

13. PUBG Global Championship 2019
> Sport/game: PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds
> Total prize pool: $6,000,000
> Amount to winner: $2,284,577
> Est. winnings per player: $571,144

Before there was Fortnite, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds became a worldwide phenomenon in the battle royale genre. While Fortnite has now surpassed the game in popularity, PUBG remains extremely popular, and continues to support robust competitive play. The 2019 PUBG Global Championship paid out over $2 million to the winning team, over $500,000 per player.

Source: Gareth Copley / Getty Images

12. Betfred World Snooker Championship
> Sport/game: Snooker
> Total prize pool: $2,957,926
> Amount to winner: $657,000
> Est. winnings per player: $657,000

Snooker, a game similar to pool, is incredibly popular in the United Kingdom. Its most prestigious event, the Betfred World Snooker Championship, offers prize money of £500,000 to the winner, or about $657,000. In 2019, Judd Trump of England won his first championship to secure the top prize.

Source: Jordan Mansfield / Getty Images

11. PDC World Darts Championship
> Sport/game: Darts
> Total prize pool: $3,314,575
> Amount to winner: $657,000
> Est. winnings per player: $657,000

The winner of the PDC World Darts Championship won £500,000 — or about $657,000 — from a total prize pool of £2.5 million, a record high for the event. This year’s winner was Michael van Gerwen, who took the championship for the third time in six years.

Source: Sean Gardner / Getty Images

10. Daytona 500
> Sport/game: NASCAR
> Total prize pool: $19,800,000
> Amount to winner: $1,600,000
> Est. winnings per player: $1,600,000

Though NASCAR altered its payout system in 2016, we know that winning its biggest race, the Daytona 500, comes with a huge payout. While the NASCAR payment system is shrouded in secrecy, we know teams earn money based on races entered, performance over the last three seasons, points earned that season, and finishing position in a given race. Based on these parameters, and previous earnings data from NASCAR, European gambling site Top Bet calculated that the winner of the Daytona 500 earns just under $1.6 million. Money from the race doesn’t go right back into the driver’s pocket though. It goes into the team’s coffers to help fund the people, parts, and labor needed to get the car ready to run in the next race.

Source: Jamie Squire / Getty Images

9. Indianapolis 500
> Sport/game: IndyCar
> Total prize pool: $13,090,536
> Amount to winner: $2,669,529
> Est. winnings per player: $2,669,529

The Indianapolis 500 is the highest paying race in the United States and one of the highest paying events in sports. In the spring of 2019, Simon Pagenaud took home nearly $2.7 million of the IndyCar race’s total pot of over $13 million. While the payout was massive, it fell short of the largest purse in the Indy 500’s more-than-century-long history. The biggest winner in the Indy 500 was Helio Castroneves, who took home $3.6 million in 2009.

Source: Mike Stobe / Getty Images

8. Fortnite World Cup Finals 2019 – Solo
> Sport/game: Fortnite
> Total prize pool: $15,287,500
> Amount to winner: $3,000,000
> Est. winnings per player: $3,000,000

Fortnite is one of several video games to have an annual championship that pays millions to the winner. The Fortnite World Cup Finals 2019 had a total purse of almost $15.3 million, with $3 million going to the winner, $1.8 million going to the second place finisher, and $1.2 going to third place. This year, all three top spots went to Americans, although the 100 contestants were from countries across Asia, Europe, South America, and Australia.

Source: Jakob Wells / Wikimedia Commons

7. International 2019 Dota 2 Championship
> Sport/game: Dota 2
> Total prize pool: $34,330,069
> Amount to winner: $15,620,181
> Est. winnings per player: $3,124,036

The International 2019 Dota 2 Championship boasted the largest prize pool in eSports history: $34.3 million. The winning team of five took home a collective $15.6 million. Dota 2 is an online, multiplayer battle arena game that was originally released in 2013.

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6. U.S. Open – Men’s and Women’s Singles
> Sport/game: Tennis
> Total prize pool: $57,000,000
> Amount to winner: $3,850,000
> Est. winnings per player: $3,850,000

The purse for the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament in 2019 was the biggest of any Grand Slam in tennis history. The winners of the men’s — Rafael Nadal — and women’s — Bianca Andreescua — singles each took home $3.85 million and the runners-up each won half that amount.

Source: Ethan Miller / Getty Images

5. World Series of Poker
> Sport/game: Poker
> Total prize pool: $80,548,600
> Amount to winner: $10,000,000
> Est. winnings per player: $10,000,000

After 10 days and 100 hands, Hossein Ensan beat out nearly 8,600 competitors in the 2019 World Series of Poker. The German player took home a purse of $10 million — making him the third player in tournament history to bring home eight figures. In 2005, Jamie Gold won $12 million and in 2014, Martin Jacobsen also won $10 million.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

4. Saudi Cup
> Sport/game: Horse racing
> Total prize pool: $20,000,000
> Amount to winner: $10,000,000
> Est. winnings per player: $10,000,000

The Kentucky Derby may be the most prestigious event in horse racing, but the Saudi Cup will be by far the richest. Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al Faisal announced the first Saudi Cup will take place in February 2020 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with a total purse of $20 million. The winner of the race will take home $10 million, dwarfing the next highest total of $7 million offered by the Pegasus World Cup.

Source: Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images

3. FedExCup
> Sport/game: Golf
> Total prize pool: $60,000,000
> Amount to winner: $15,000,000
> Est. winnings per player: $15,000,000

Though it is not one of the four Majors tournaments, the FedExCup is the highest paying tournament in golf. The FexExCup is a season-long competition determined by points and capped with a series of three playoffs — and the winner takes home $15 million. Ten runners-up win an additional $2 million each. Rory McIlroy took home the top prize in 2019.

Source: Harry How / Getty Images

2. Conor McGregor vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov
> Sport/game: UFC
> Total prize pool: N/A
> Amount to winner: $50,000,000
> Est. winnings per player: $50,000,000

Combat sports like boxing and UFC rely on fighters and their personalities to draw attention. So when a fighter like Conor McGregor becomes a household name, he can command a huge payday based on sales. McGregor was paid $3 million for his lightweight title fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov, who made $2 million for the bout. Yet because of a deal he negotiated for a share of the Pay Per View sales, among other bonuses, McGregor estimated his earnings from the fight were close to $50 million, a record for a UFC event — even though he ended up losing the fight to Nurmagomedov by submission in the fourth round.

Source: Christian Petersen / Getty Images

1. Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor
> Sport/game: Boxing
> Total prize pool: $550,000,000
> Amount to winner: $275,000,000
> Est. winnings per player: $275,000,000

Floyd Mayweather is nicknamed “Money” for a reason. His 2017 boxing match with UFC fighter-turned-boxer Conor McGregor was one of the most hyped sporting events of all time — and the Pay Per View numbers proved it. After tallying up the guaranteed fees, PPV buys, and ticket sales, Mayweather took home roughly $275 million after his 10th round TKO over the Irish fighter. Though Mayweather’s 2015 fight with Manny Pacquiao had higher total revenue, “Money” negotiated a higher share of the earnings, making his $275 million take-home a record haul for any single-night athletic event. Mayweather took his career to a flawless 50-0. But don’t feel too bad for McGregor; he reportedly earned around $85 million from the fight.

Detailed findings and methodology:

The events were ranked based on the maximum amount a person could take home for winning the event (or competing in it if their pay was not contingent on success).

In the case of team sports, this was done by dividing the advertised prize for the winning team divided by the number of team members. The money athletes get for competing in regular games as part of their contract was not considered. We only included one entry for each different type of sport.

Some of these winnings fluctuate from year to year. For instance, the winning pot in the World Series of Poker varies each year. Similarly, for some team tournaments like the FIFA World Cup, clubs can determine how any championship winnings should be divided among the players. For annual or regularly occurring events, we used the most recent available data on winners’ payouts. For non-annual events that only occur once, like a title fight, we used the payout for that specific event.

In combat sports events, athletes do not even have to win in order to make millions. Before the fight begins, boxers and UFC fighters agree upon how to split the money the fights bring in — from Pay Per View sales, tickets, and licensing fees. So there is not really a purse for the winner. We ranked these cases on the reported earnings from the fighter earning the most.

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