Sports championships where the losers make the most money

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October 21, 2019
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Sports championships where the losers make the most money

Most athletes don’t dream about finishing in second place or falling short of winning their respective races and tournaments. Luckily for the losers on this list, second place comes with a healthy cash award to help soften the blow.

Stacker curated a list of 15 different championships across several sports and organized them from lowest to the highest purse, according to the most recent data available. This is not a definitive ranking of the largest purses.

For darts runner-up Michael Smith, the money he earned for falling in the final made up a significant portion of his annual salary. Geraint Thomas exerted a lot more effort in finishing second in the Tour de France, earning around $105 per mile ridden. For others, the bonus money for finishing second pales in comparison to their annual salary. Consider that Tom Brady has earned over $600,000 for his nine Super Bowl appearances since 2001 while making a base salary of $23 million in 2019 alone.

Tennis legend Serena Williams holds the open-era record for the most Grand Slam singles titles with 23, but was a double loser in 2019, in both the Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals. While tennis awards the same amount of prize money to both men’s and women’s players, soccer’s gender pay gap for its premier event, the World Cup, is staggering, win or lose.

Controversy struck in horse racing as well, when the winner of the 2019 Kentucky Derby wasn’t declared until 20 minutes after the horses crossed the finish line. It marked the first time in the race’s history that the winner was disqualified and settled for runner-up cash.

Read on to discover the sports championships where the losers make the most money.

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Tour de France

- Runner-up: $219,410 (€200,000)
- Champion: $548,525 (€500,000)
- Purse year: 2019

Great Britain’s Geraint Thomas placed second at cycling’s premier event in 2019, a 2,091-mile ride from Brussels, Belgium, to Paris. Thomas, who won the 2018 edition of the Tour de France, rode across the finish line with Ineos teammate Egan Bernal, the youngest champion since 1909. Riders typically share their winnings among their team, including team staff, the riders’ union, and other teammates.

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PDC World Darts Championship

- Runner-up: $245,885 (£200,000)
- Champion: $614,713 (£500,000)
- Purse year: 2019

England’s Michael Smith took home nearly a quarter-million dollars for his loss to the Netherlands’ Michael van Gerwen on New Year’s Day. The £2.5 million total prize money for the event has increased by 40% since 2018 and by nearly $2 million since the championship moved to London’s Alexandra Palace in 2008. Notably absent from the 2019 tournament was 14-time champion Phil Taylor, who retired after taking home £170,000 for his runner-up showing in 2018.

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World Snooker Championship

- Runner-up: $245,885 (£200,000)
- Champion: $614,713 (£500,000)
- Purse year: 2019

Judd Trump dealt Scotland's John Higgins an 18-9 defeat at the 2019 World Snooker Championships. The victory was a measure of redemption for Trump, who lost to Higgins in the 2011 final. Prize money for the annual event has grown in recent years, up from £375,000 for first in 2017 and £425,000 in 2018.


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Kentucky Derby

- Runner-up: $600,000
- Champion: $1,860,000
- Purse year: 2019

The 2019 Kentucky Derby was marked by controversy, as wire-to-wire winner Maximum Security got stripped of the victory over an on-track objection 20 minutes after crossing the finish line. Country House, a 65-to-1 long shot, was awarded the win, while the disqualification bumped Code of Honor to the runner-up spot, earning an extra $300,000 for the one-spot jump. The total prize pool for the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby increased to $3 million after sitting at $2 million from 2005 to 18.

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Masters Tournament

- Runner-up: $858,667
- Champion: $2,070,000
- Purse year: 2019

Xander Schauffele, Brooks Koepka, and Dustin Johnson all finished one shot behind Tiger Woods, who captured his fifth green jacket at the 83rd edition of the Masters. While Woods became the event’s first $2 million winner, the trio of runners-up made nearly $600,000 more than Tom Kite made as the runner-up to Woods’ first title in 1997. Rickie Fowler brought home $1.18 million for finishing alone in second in 2018, as did Justin Rose in 2017.

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U.S. Open (Golf)

- Runner-up: $1,350,000
- Champion: $2,250,000
- Purse year: 2019

Defending champion Brooks Koepka fell three shots short of Gary Woodland at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, which became the most lucrative of golf’s four majors in 2019. His $1.35 million payday for second was as much as Graeme McDowell earned for capturing the event in 2010. Koepka’s long-time caddie, Ricky Elliott, took home roughly 10%.

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- Runner-up: $1,491,874
- Champion: $2,983,748
- Purse year: 2019

At 2019 Wimbledon, two tennis legends, Roger Federer and Serena Williams, lost in their respective finals to Novak Djokovic and Simona Halep at the All England Club. The annual tournament’s $49.4 million prize pool has more than doubled since 2012 and is nearly 12% higher than 2018. In 2007, Wimbledon became the last of tennis’ four majors to reward equal pay to both the men’s and women’s tournaments.

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U.S. Open (Tennis)

- Runner-up: $1,900,000
- Champion: $3,850,000
- Purse year: 2019

Two months after her runner-up finish at Wimbledon, Serena Williams finished second once again, this time falling to Bianca Andreescu in the final. Rafael Nadal needed five grueling sets on the men’s side to capture his 19th Grand Slam title, besting Daniil Medvedev, who was playing in his first final. The $1.9 million Williams and Medvedev brought home for their runner-up finishes was up from $1.85 million in 2018.

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Stanley Cup

- Runner-up: $2,250,000
- Champion: $3,750,000
- Purse year: 2013

The Chicago Blackhawks dealt the Boston Bruins a heartbreaking defeat in the waning moments of Game 6 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals, scoring two goals in 17 seconds to win the series 4-2. NHL players draw their playoff compensation from a playoff bonus pool, which is split evenly among the team’s players, meaning each Bruin earned $90,000.

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NBA Finals

- Runner-up: $2,346,947
- Champion: $3,541,896
- Purse year: 2019

Stephen Curry and his 14 Golden State Warriors teammates brought home roughly $150,000 each for losing in the 2019 NBA Finals to the Toronto Raptors. The $22 million total bonus pool was up $2 million from 2018, with each Raptor earning $240,000 in leading Toronto to its first Larry O’Brien Trophy. Of the four major U.S. sports, only baseball players earn a higher per-player bonus for winning a championship.

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Women's World Cup

- Runner-up: $2,600,000
- Champion: $4,000,000
- Purse year: 2019

The United States won its second straight Women’s World Cup title, dispatching the Netherlands 2-0 at Parc Olympique Lyonnais in France. The total prize money doubled from the $15 million awarded in 2015 amid gender pay gap concerns. The U.S. women’s team filed a lawsuit against U.S. Soccer in March 2019, citing gender discrimination, as the men’s team earns as much for a loss despite earning less revenue.

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Super Bowl

- Runner-up: $2,809,000
- Champion: $5,671,000
- Purse year: 2019

The Los Angeles Rams surrendered 10 points in the fourth quarter, falling to the New England Patriots, 13-3, at Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta. Each of the Rams’ 53 players took home roughly $59,000 in the loss, for a playoff total of $142,000, while each Patriot won $118,000 and $201,000, respectively. Those numbers have almost doubled since the Patriots defeated the Rams in the 2002 Super Bowl and earned $63,000 for the win.

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UEFA Champions League

- Runner-up: $18,442,500 (£15,000,000)
- Champion: $23,360,500 (£19,000,000)
- Purse year: 2019

Tottenham Hotspur, in their first UEFA Champions League final appearance, fell 2-0 to Liverpool. UEFA money is based on every victory or draw in the Champions League, as well as for each playoff-round win. Once all awards were tallied, Liverpool took home a total of £98.5 million for their 2019 season, while Spurs earned just $1 million less.

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World Series

- Runner-up: $20,300,000
- Champion: $30,400,000
- Purse year: 2018

The Los Angeles Dodgers finished as the runners-up for the second straight season in 2018, falling to the Boston Red Sox in five games. Dodgers players, who earned $20.3 million in 2017, voted to pay out 67 full shares for players and club personnel, totaling roughly $250,000 each. The Red Sox awarded 66 full shares at $416,837, while the total prize pool for the MLB playoffs rose by nearly $4 million from 2017.

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Men's World Cup

- Runner-up: $28,000,000
- Champion: $38,000,000
- Purse year: 2018

The Croatian national team received a $28 million consolation prize for falling to France in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final in Moscow. Player rewards vary since the money is given to a country’s soccer federation, which then decides each player’s prize. Corruption among FIFA and other soccer federations led three African nations to pose protests in 2014 for their paltry bonuses.

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