D.C. United is mired in last place in the Eastern Conference, and its attendance is among the league’s lowest. Nevertheless, a sale of D.C. United would probably be the most expensive involving a professional soccer team. Including the new stadium and the team’s debt, the franchise’s enterprise value could approach $500 million.
D.C. United’s owners may also choose not to pursue a transaction, the people added.
M.L.S. has expected the price of teams to climb as the sport picks up popularity in the United States. Last year, the league’s deputy commissioner, Mark Abbott, told Bloomberg News that he expected expansion fees to roughly double, to $200 million.
Forbes estimated last fall that the average M.L.S. club was worth $185 million, up 18 percent from 2015. The most valuable team, according to the publication, was the Seattle Sounders at an estimated $285 million. D.C. United’s value then was estimated at $155 million.
D.C. United’s current majority owner is Erick Thohir, an Indonesia-born businessman with interests in media and sports businesses. His father was Teddy Thohir, an influential Indonesian business mogul.
Besides owning D.C. United, Erick Thohir is a part owner and president of Italy’s Inter Milan soccer club. He sold a majority stake in Inter Milan to Suning Holdings Group, a Chinese conglomerate, last year.
He previously owned a minority stake in the Philadelphia 76ers, after having been involved in the Indonesian basketball league, but he eventually sold his holdings about the time that he bought Inter Milan.
Mr. Thohir has also testified in an investigation into the planning of the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia, given his role as chairman of the organizing committee. He has not been accused of any wrongdoing, but he told the Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport, “If I’m wrong, I’m ready to go to prison.”
Mr. Thohir has retained the Raine Group, a boutique investment bank, after receiving interest from several Asian investors, the people said. Raine has begun distributing materials it prepared on the club’s financials for potential buyers.
Representatives of D.C. United, Mr. Snyder and Mr. Leonsis did not immediately respond to requests for comment.