Archive for the ‘soccer’ Category

Taking Attendance 7/22/2014: (Mostly) Final PDL Numbers

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

The USL Premier Development League regular season is in the books, and here (with some missing data) are the final attendance numbers for the top summer amateur league in the US and Canada. The Des Moines Menace led the league for the fifth time in the last six years, with an average announced attendance of 3,340 for their seven home games this season.

Team G Total Avg. Med. High Low
Des Moines Menace 7 23,377 3,340 3,333 3,711 2,871
Portland Timbers U-23s 7 16,291 2,327 756 8,207 130
Fresno Fuego #6 13,742 2,290 1,874 3,627 1,693
BYU Cougars 7 13,215 1,888 1,609 3,075 885
Carolina Dynamo 7 13,060 1,866 1,975 2,348 1,311
Austin Aztex 7 12,795 1,828 1,823 2,380 1,404
FC Tucson 7 9,717 1,388 1,098 2,983 1,012
Ventura County Fusion 7 9,256 1,322 1,121 2,100 900
Victoria Highlanders FC 7 9,201 1,314 1,378 1,461 1,057
Midland/Odessa Sockers FC 7 7,838 1,120 884 1,969 587
Albuquerque Sol F.C. 7 6,554 936 936 1,520 400
Western Mass Pioneers 7 6,367 910 1,048 1,456 317
Forest City London 7 5,436 777 650 1,307 369
Long Island Rough Riders 7 4,624 661 647 985 276
Thunder Bay Chill #6 3,691 615 615 690 557
Laredo Heat 7 4,273 610 609 746 549
Mississippi Brilla 7 4,182 597 604 890 402
Michigan Bucks 7 4,160 594 402 1,238 252
Kitsap Pumas 7 3,242 463 460 562 370
Lane United FC 7 3,192 456 400 800 300
Sounders FC U23 7 2,895 414 308 1,012 234
Chicago Inferno #2 749 375 375 403 346
Las Vegas Mobsters @3 1,125 375 350 450 325
Ocala Stampede 7 2,600 371 214 1,075 106
SW Florida Adrenaline @3 1,104 368 380 403 321
Ocean City Nor’easters @3 1,097 366 424 521 152
Reading United AC 7 2,546 364 316 609 209
GPS Portland Phoenix 2 650 325 325 400 250
K-W United FC $4 1,225 306 283 437 222
Vermont Voltage 7 2,106 301 300 450 156
Panama City Beach Pirates 7 2,043 292 265 450 215
San Jose Earthquakes @3 871 290 286 400 185
CFC Azul 7 1,950 279 250 450 250
St. Louis Lions 7 1,884 269 280 396 160
Cincinnati Dutch Lions 7 1,754 251 235 352 151
Toronto Lynx #6 1,350 225 175 600 100
Baltimore Bohemians 7 1,523 218 207 393 103
Northern Virginia Royals **5 1,018 204 189 323 126
SoCal Seahorses 7 1,385 198 240 270 105
Real Colorado Foxes #6 1,145 191 175 400 20
WSA Winnipeg 7 1,255 179 200 275 70
SWVa King’s Warriors 7 1,203 172 188 204 125
Seacoast United Phantoms 7 1,200 171 100 350 100
F.A. Euro $4 665 166 170 300 25
LA Misioneros FC #6 980 163 100 400 80
River City Rovers !2 325 163 163 175 150
Real Boston Rams 7 1,114 159 150 224 75
Jersey Express 7 963 138 125 205 88
West Virginia Chaos 7 965 138 135 220 50
Puget Sound Gunners FC @3 400 133 60 300 40
Springfield Demize 6 729 122 132 172 58
Houston Dutch Lions 7 833 119 113 200 80
Washington Crossfire 7 788 113 100 265 70
Pittsburgh Riverhounds U23 #6 660 110 93 175 75
NJ LUSO Parma #6 650 108 100 150 50
IMG Academy Bradenton 7 740 106 100 150 90
Floridians F.C. @2 197 99 99 105 92
Vancouver Whitecaps U-23 7 667 95 77 177 77
Montreal Impact U23 #6 550 92 88 150 25
Westchester Flames 7 520 74 65 135 40
Chicago Fire U-23 **5 353 71 78 116 16
OC Pateadores Blues 7 325 46 50 50 30
Orlando City U23 &0 0 0 0 0 0
SC United Bantams &0 0 0 0 0 0
PDL TOTAL 375 221,315 590 278 8,207 16
# Missing 1 game            
** Missing 2 games            
$ Missing 3 games            
@ Missing 4 games            
! Missing 5 games            
& Missing 7 games            

NOTES:

  • Orlando City U23 and the SC United Bantams did not announce attendance figures for any of their games this season. I am missing 55 other data points for 2014, ranging from one to five missing games for various clubs. I don’t think the missing numbers reasonably impact the conclusions we can draw in most cases.
  • While 10 teams averaged 1,000 or more per game this season, more than half the league can’t get 300 a game on average.
  • If the World Cup raised interest in the sport throughout the country, it wasn’t expressed in PDL attendance. The league averaged 621 per game before the Cup, dropped to 556 during and then rebounded a bit to 585 afterwards.
  • FC Tucson has quietly built something over time. From an average of 681 in their first season (2012), they grew to an 800 average last year and ranked seventh in the PDL this season at 1,388. They’ll host the Western Conference semifinals and final this weekend.
  • Austin (with a game missing – anyone who can help a brother out, it would be appreciated) averaged 1,804 in its final season in the amateur ranks. The Aztex will move up to USL Pro next season, and hopefully it goes better than other PDL clubs that have tried their hand at turning pro.
  • As always, additions and corrections are welcome.

Highlights: Arizona United vs. Orange County

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Here are highlights of the most recent USL Pro webcast I did, last Saturday night’s win by Arizona United over the Orange County Blues.

Thus endeth my three-game mini-engagement with the local pro team. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to get back in the booth one last time and had fun.

Taking Attendance Bonus: The World Cup

Monday, July 14th, 2014

World Cup attendance
The 2014 FIFA World CupTM is now over, and here’s a look at the attendance figures for the event, broken out by venue:

Stadium City G Total Average Capacity Pct. Cap
Arena Amazonia Manaus 4 160,227 40,057 40,549 98.79%
Arena Corinthians Sao Paulo 6 375,593 62,599 62,601 100.00%
Arena da Baixada Curitiba 3 117,680 39,227 39,631 98.98%
Arena Fonte Nova Salvador 6 300,674 50,112 51,900 96.56%
Arena Pantanal Cuiaba 4 158,717 39,679 41,112 96.52%
Arena Pernambuco Recife 5 204,882 40,976 42,610 96.17%
Estadio Beira-Rio Porto Alegre 6 254,280 42,380 43,394 97.66%
Estadio Castelao Fortaleza 6 356,896 59,483 60,342 98.58%
Estadio das Dunas Natal 4 158,167 39,542 39,971 98.93%
Estadio do Maracana Rio de Janeiro 7 519,189 74,170 74,738 99.24%
Estadio Mineirao Belo Horizonte 6 345,350 57,558 58,170 98.95%
Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha Brasilia 7 478,218 68,317 69,349 98.51%
WORLD CUP TOTAL   64 3,429,873 53,592   98.40%


Above, you’ll see where this year’s event ranks among them all in terms of average attendance. Twenty years on, the tournament hosted by the United States is still the best attended.

Taking Attendance: Ranking ‘Em (Almost) All

Monday, July 7th, 2014

For this week’s Taking Attendance update, we’re going to look at all the teams in MLS, the NASL, USL Pro, the PDL, the NWSL, the W-League and even a handful of NPSL teams and see where they all rank in terms of average announced attendance.

Caveats: There are two teams (Orlando City U-23 and SC United Bantams, both from the PDL) for which I have no data points and I have almost no crowd figures for the NPSL. I have included the few NPSL teams for which I have data just because I’m making an effort to include them and this is another step in that process. Announced attendance does not always equate to actual butts in seats or tickets sold. And outside of MLS, the NASL and the NWSL, there are some clubs for whom I am missing a game or two (or three or four). Not everyone is as reliable about announcing attendance figures as I wish they were.

With that said, here’s the list, from 1-144:

Rk Team Lg G Total Avg.
1 Seattle Sounders MLS 8 320,728 40,091
2 Toronto FC MLS 7 158,137 22,591
3 Los Angeles Galaxy MLS 6 128,862 21,477
4 Vancouver Whitecaps MLS 8 169,500 21,188
5 Portland Timbers MLS 10 208,140 20,814
6 Real Salt Lake MLS 8 161,475 20,184
7 Sporting Kansas City MLS 9 178,574 19,842
8 Houston Dynamo MLS 9 177,810 19,757
9 Montreal Impact MLS 8 155,150 19,394
10 New York Red Bulls MLS 7 127,278 18,183
11 Philadelphia Union MLS 7 125,835 17,976
12 FC Dallas MLS 10 169,313 16,931
13 DC United MLS 10 168,388 16,839
14 Sacramento Republic FC USL PRO 6 94,107 15,685
15 New England Revolution MLS 7 107,483 15,355
16 Chicago Fire MLS 8 122,375 15,297
17 San Jose Earthquakes MLS 9 131,658 14,629
18 Colorado Rapids MLS 10 145,668 14,567
19 Columbus Crew MLS 8 104,611 13,076
20 Portland Thorns FC NWSL 8 100,054 12,507
21 Indy Eleven NASL 5 52,324 10,465
22 Chivas USA MLS 9 62,416 6,935
23 San Antonio Scorpions NASL 5 32,381 6,476
24 Minnesota United NASL 4 22,309 5,577
25 Rochester Rhinos USL PRO 7 38,189 5,456
26 Carolina Railhawks NASL 4 21,456 5,364
27 New York Cosmos NASL 5 25,203 5,041
28 Tampa Bay Rowdies NASL 5 24,991 4,998
29 Atlanta Silverbacks NASL 4 18,922 4,731
30 Orlando City SC USL PRO 9 42,215 4,691
31 Houston Dash NWSL 8 36,839 4,605
32 Chicago Red Stars NWSL 5 21,265 4,253
33 Charleston Battery USL PRO 6 23,250 3,875
34 OKC Energy FC USL PRO 7 26,841 3,834
35 Ft. Lauderdale Strikers NASL 4 15,301 3,825
36 FC Edmonton NASL 4 14,277 3,569
37 Tulsa Athletics NPSL 3 10,317 3,439
38 Seattle Reign FC NWSL 8 27,240 3,405
39 Washington Spirit NWSL 8 26,037 3,255
40 Des Moines Menace PDL 4 12,708 3,177
41 W.New York Flash NWSL 8 24,655 3,082
42 Detroit City FC NPSL 5 14,082 2,816
43 Pittsburgh Riverhounds USL PRO 7 19,265 2,752
44 Ottawa Fury NASL 5 13,418 2,684
45 Portland Timbers U-23s PDL 6 15,816 2,636
46 Richmond Kickers USL PRO 8 20,069 2,509
47 Fresno Fuego PDL 6 13,742 2,290
48 Wilmington Hammerheads FC USL PRO 8 18,169 2,271
49 Arizona United SC USL PRO 10 22,406 2,241
50 Chattanooga FC NPSL 3 6,467 2,156
51 Boston Breakers NWSL 9 18,297 2,033
52 FC Kansas City NWSL 9 18,122 2,014
53 Carolina Dynamo PDL 6 11,056 1,843
54 Harrisburg City Islanders USL PRO 8 14,112 1,764
55 Austin Aztex PDL 4 6,936 1,734
56 BYU Cougars PDL 6 10,140 1,690
57 Washington Spirit Reserves W-League 4 6,570 1,643
58 Sky Blue FC NWSL 9 13,143 1,460
59 Ventura County Fusion PDL 5 7,156 1,431
60 FC Tucson PDL 6 8,290 1,382
61 Victoria Highlanders FC PDL 7 9,201 1,314
62 Midland/Odessa Sockers FC PDL 7 7,838 1,120
63 Albuquerque Sol F.C. PDL 6 5,034 839
64 Charlotte Eagles USL PRO 8 6,348 794
65 W.Mass Pioneers PDL 5 3,863 773
66 Orange County Blues FC USL PRO 8 6,005 751
67 FC Buffalo NPSL 2 1,500 750
68 Forest City London PDL 6 4,129 688
69 LA Galaxy II USL PRO 10 6,866 687
70 Long Island Rough Riders PDL 6 4,077 680
71 Seattle Sounders Women W-League 6 3,955 659
72 Michigan Bucks PDL 4 2,538 635
73 Colorado Pride W-League 4 2,508 627
74 Laredo Heat PDL 5 3,115 623
75 Thunder Bay Chill PDL 6 3,691 615
76 Charlotte Lady Eagles W-League 3 1,846 615
77 Mississippi Brilla PDL 7 4,182 597
78 Santa Clarita Blue Heat W-League 6 3,461 577
79 Long Island Rough Riders W-League 5 2,668 534
80 Dayton Dutch Lions USL PRO 8 4,214 527
81 Sounders FC U23 PDL 5 2,353 471
82 Atlanta Silverbacks W-League 5 2,326 465
83 Kitsap Pumas PDL 7 3,242 463
84 Lane United FC PDL 5 2,317 463
85 Colorado Storm W-League 2 870 435
86 Ocala Stampede PDL 5 1,993 399
87 Chicago Inferno PDL 2 749 375
88 Las Vegas Mobsters PDL 3 1,125 375
89 SW Fla. Adrenaline PDL 2 724 362
90 FC Dallas Reserves USL PRO 2 716 358
91 Reading United AC PDL 6 1,937 323
92 Vermont Voltage PDL 4 1,200 300
93 San Jose Earthquakes PDL 3 871 290
94 Ocean City Nor’easters PDL 2 576 288
95 K-W United FC PDL 2 566 283
96 Colorado Rush W-League 3 820 273
97 Panama City Beach Pirates PDL 6 1,593 266
98 New Jersey Wildcats W-League 4 1,032 258
99 Cincinnati Dutch Lions PDL 7 1,754 251
100 CFC Azul PDL 4 1,000 250
101 GPS Portland Phoenix PDL 1 250 250
102 St. Louis Lions PDL 6 1,488 248
103 N.Virginia Royals PDL 3 736 245
104 So.California Seahorses PDL 5 1,155 231
105 Toronto Lynx PDL 5 1,150 230
106 Baltimore Bohemians PDL 7 1,523 218
107 LA Blues W-League 5 1,091 218
108 Real Colorado Foxes PDL 4 845 211
109 LA Misioneros FC PDL 4 800 200
110 Dayton Dutch Lions W-League 5 997 199
111 Ottawa Fury W-League 5 997 199
112 WSA Winnipeg PDL 6 1,185 198
113 Braddock Road Stars Elite W-League 4 786 197
114 F.A. Euro PDL 3 575 192
115 Real Boston Rams PDL 6 1,114 186
116 Sedona FC Strikers W-League 3 550 183
117 Laval Comets W-League 5 885 177
118 K-W United FC W-League 4 676 169
119 New York Magic W-League 6 1,008 168
120 SWVa King’s Warriors PDL 5 820 164
121 River City Rovers PDL 2 325 163
122 Carolina Elite Cobras W-League 4 636 159
123 Quebec Dynamo ARSQ W-League 5 776 155
124 Bay Area Breeze W-League 4 602 151
125 Jersey Express PDL 4 575 144
126 Seacoast United Phantoms PDL 6 850 142
127 West Virginia Chaos PDL 6 830 138
128 Puget Sound Gunners FC PDL 3 400 133
129 Houston Dutch Lions PDL 4 513 128
130 Toronto Lady Lynx W-League 6 750 125
131 North Jersey Valkyries W-League 5 608 122
132 Springfield Demize PDL 5 590 118
133 Gulf Coast Texans W-League 3 348 116
134 Montreal Impact U23 PDL 4 450 113
135 NJ LUSO Parma PDL 6 650 108
136 Pittsburgh Riverhounds U23 PDL 4 410 103
137 Floridians F.C. PDL 2 197 99
138 IMG Academy Bradenton PDL 5 490 98
139 Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23 PDL 7 667 95
140 Washington Crossfire PDL 5 420 84
141 Westchester Flames PDL 7 520 74
142 Chicago Fire U-23 PDL 5 353 71
143 OC Pateadores Blues PDL 7 325 46
144 London Gryphons W-League 4 183 46

A FEW NOTES:

  • Chivas USA continues to slide into oblivion, drawing 4,201 for its game Saturday against Montreal, just over a month after announcing 5,231 against Philadelphia and an MLS-record low 3,702 against Portland. They’re a pretty safe bet to break the MLS record for lowest average announced attendance, currently held by the 2000 Miami Fusion (7,460) and to be only the second MLS team to go sub-10,000 in the last seven years (the Earthquakes- in their temporary facility – did so in 2010).
  • Sacramento Republic FC has moved from the 20k+ capacity Hughes Stadium to its own yard (capacity 8,000), so their numbers will be down, but they’re doing great. They should break Orlando’s Division III record for average (8,056) pretty easily.
  • The NASL’s Fall Season gets going this weekend, and Ottawa is hoping for a crowd of 15,000 for its first game at TD Place on the 20th. We’ll see. Tampa Bay drew an announced 4,105 and 3,033 over the weekend for friendlies against Ft. Lauderdale and Orlando City, respectively. And Minnesota United drew 8,059 for a friendly against Mexico’s U-21 team (what, El Tri‘s senior team wasn’t available?). And San Antonio drew 6,397 for a friendly against Monterrey on Sunday evening.
  • Fresno hosted a friendly between Mexican clubs America and Morelia last week, with the Fuego playing Ventura County as part of the doubleheader. The Mexican League friendly drew 13,013, but I’m not including that in the Fuego’s totals (they didn’t announce a figure for the PDL match) because that would be ridiculous.
  • FC Tucson of the PDL drew a club-record 2,983 for their match against Albuquerque on Friday, pushing their average to 1,382 for the season. At the other end of the PDL spectrum, FA Euro announced a crowd of 25 for its match Sunday against Long Island, while Vancouver’s U23 team is just trolling. They’ve announced a crowd of 77 for each of their last five home matches, after announcing 177 the match before that (and 105 for their opener). I’m missing 50 PDL games, but the league is right around its historical average (582 at the moment).
  • The National Women’s Soccer League projects out, if every team holds its average the rest of the way, to finish with a 4,068 average, just below last year’s 4,270. But considering WUSA’s attendance dropped 14% from year one to year two (2001-2002) and WPS’ dropped 23% from 2009-2010, that’s a sign of progress.

What Are The Highest Scoring Soccer Leagues In North America?

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

The ongoing FIFA World CupTM has a very good chance to be the highest-scoring tournament since France 1998 (we only need nine goals in the final eight games of the competition to surpass Japan/Korea 2002), with an average so far of 2.7 goals per game.

Number of goals scored per game at the World Cup

How does that compare to the various pro and amateur leagues here in the US, Canada and Mexico? Here’s a chart of the latest information I have about goal-scoring in several North American Leagues (in each case, it’s either their current season or the most recent completed one):

League G Goals Avg.
NPSL 383 1,469 3.84
W-League 109 354 3.25
PDL 318 974 3.06
NASL 45 133 2.96
NWSL 68 196 2.88
MLS 149 416 2.79
USL Pro 116 316 2.72
Liga Ascenso 105 272 2.59
Liga MX 153 391 2.56
TOTAL 1,446 4,521 3.13

NOTES:

  • Now before you go thinking “Boy, NPSL games must be really exciting!” you should know that their gaudy goal-scoring average is boosted by several blowouts. There have been 28 games (7 percent of the total) decided by 6 or more goals in the NPSL this season, including the expansion BCS Clash getting hammered 13-0 (twice), 12-0, 11-0, 11-1, 10-1, 9-1 and 11-2.
  • In fact, amateur leagues hold the top three spots, which makes sense, as defending – and competitive balance – in amateur leagues is notoriously slipshod. The second-division NASL is the highest-scoring pro league at 2.96 goals per game, with the women’s NWSL just a shade behind at 2.88.
  • Major League Soccer’s current goals per game of 2.79 is higher than any of Europe’s top leagues except for Germany’s Bundesliga (which featured 3.16 goals per game last season) and comparable to England’s EPL (2.77), Spain’s La Liga (2.75) and Italy’s Serie A (2.72). France’s Ligue 1 would be at the bottom of the table in this quick study (merci!) as only 2.45 goals per game were scored in their matches last season.
  • Obviously, goal-scoring isn’t everything (if it were, indoor soccer would be huge), but I just thought it would be interesting to compare the various leagues.

Taking Attendance 6/30/2014: This One’s For The Girls

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Time to take a look at the attendance figures for the two most visible women’s soccer leagues, the NWSL and the W-League. The NWSL, a USSF-backed pro circuit, is the third (and possibly final) attempt to establish a fully-professional women’s league on these shores. The W-League has been under the United Soccer Leagues’ umbrella since its establishment in 1995. Here are the latest figures for both leagues through Sunday’s games. (As always, additions or corrections are more than welcome.)

NWSL G Total Avg. Med. High Low
Portland Thorns 7 86,970 12,424 13,427 14,128 10,056
Houston Dash 7 33,146 4,735 4,050 8,097 3,505
Chicago Red Stars 5 21,265 4,253 1,450 15,743 1,039
Seattle Reign 7 23,535 3,362 2,875 5,770 1,754
Washington Spirit 7 23,364 3,338 2,865 4,667 2,306
WNY Flash 7 20,866 2,981 3,107 3,674 1,786
Boston Breakers 9 18,297 2,033 2,018 2,876 1,263
FC Kansas City 9 18,122 2,014 1,797 3,107 1,457
Sky Blue FC 8 11,794 1,474 1,253 2,983 582
NWSL TOTAL 66 257,359 3,899 2,694 15,743 582
 
W-League G Total Avg. Med. High Low
Washington Spirit Res. 4 6,570 1,643 749 4,598 474
Santa Clarita Blue Heat 5 3,281 656 733 991 199
Colorado Pride 4 2,508 627 577 1,029 325
Seattle Sounders 4 2,300 575 578 708 437
Charlotte Lady Eagles 2 1,146 573 573 738 408
LI Rough Riders 5 2,668 534 425 868 308
Atlanta Silverbacks 5 2,326 465 337 1,079 214
Colorado Storm 2 870 435 435 700 170
Colorado Rush 3 820 273 268 339 213
New Jersey Wildcats 4 1,032 258 268 358 138
LA Blues 4 871 218 145 486 95
Ottawa Fury 3 636 212 233 253 150
Dayton Dutch Lions 4 819 205 196 275 152
Braddock RS Elite 3 609 203 191 252 166
Sedona FC Strikers 3 550 183 200 250 100
New York Magic 5 911 182 126 316 110
North Jersey Valkyries 3 512 171 115 297 100
Carolina Elite Cobras 4 636 159 155 251 76
Laval Comets 4 635 159 143 300 50
Quebec Dynamo ARSQ 5 776 155 135 277 83
Bay Area Breeze 4 602 151 160 183 100
K-W United FC 2 283 142 142 156 127
Toronto Lady Lynx 5 700 140 100 300 50
Gulf Coast Texans 3 348 116 117 121 110
London Gryphons 4 183 46 49 51 35
W-LEAGUE TOTAL 94 32,592 347 213 4,598 35

NOTES:

  • Let’s get this out of the way up front, okay? The NWSL isn’t working. It’s not going to work. In Portland it works fine. In Houston it seems to work pretty well. Everywhere else? No, it’s not working. Forty seven percent of all the people who have gone to NWSL games this year have done so in those two cities. Now, two anchor tenants is at least one more than most women’s soccer leagues have been able to hang their hats on, historically, but the other clubs don’t show many signs of actually mattering to their communities. The first year was a write-off, because the league came together so quickly. But here we are now in Year Two, and there hasn’t been much progress. We will have a Women’s World Cup next year, which will spur interest in the US Women’s National Team, and there may be some spillover into the NWSL post-July 5, 2015. But then what? Mexico and Canada are contributing to funding the salaries of their national team players in this league (as is USSF, obviously), but after the tournament in Canada next year, it’s four long years until the next one. Will they have the stomach to do it again?
  • Except for Chicago (up 176% because its home opener was a doubleheader with the Fire) and Seattle (up 79% from last year’s pretty bad numbers), every second-year team in the league is showing a year-over-year decrease in average attendance. Yes, even Portland, though it’s only three percent and nothing to worry about. Washington (-11%), Sky Blue FC (-13%), Boston (-15%) and Western New York (-21%) are all causes for concern, but Kansas City’s drop (they’re off 56%) is largely because they moved into a much smaller (though more appropriate from a soccer standpoint) venue this year. The league as a whole is off 10% from its 66-game total a year ago. And without Portland, the league average is currently 2,888 and projects out to 3,024 (it was 2,977 without the Thorns in 2013). With Portland included, the league projects (if everyone holds their current averages) to 4,068, a slight drop from last year’s 4,270.
  • Eighteen of the top twenty crowds in the NWSL’s short history have been in Portland (no surprise). The largest non-Portland crowd was the 15,743 for Chicago’s (doubleheader) home opener and the only other crowd to break 9k was the 9,129 who turned up in Rochester for last year’s championship match.
  • Conversely, the four lowest crowds in league history have all happened this season, all at Sky Blue FC and all on Wednesdays. The 582 announced for the April 30 match between Seattle and Sky Blue is the NWSL’s nadir to this point.
  • Things are down in the amateur W-League as well, with a 347 average (with 13 data points missing) through last night’s games. Only Washington (with a doubleheader crowd of 4,598 for its home opener) is averaging over 1,000 a game. In fact, there have only been three four-digit crowds in the league this season (the others coming to see the Colorado Pride and Atlanta Silverbacks). The W-League used to do much better than this, but it appears as though very few teams attempt to actually market themselves as viable soccer clubs anymore.

Taking Attendance 6/24/2014: Amateur Hour

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

While the world’s greatest players are on the big stage at the FIFA World CupTM, future stars are plying their trade in the Premier Development League. Here’s our first look at attendance numbers for this league, which operates under the United Soccer Leagues umbrella. (All numbers are through last night’s game. Additions and corrections are always welcome.)

Team G Total Avg.
Fresno Fuego 6 13,742 2,290
Carolina Dynamo 6 11,056 1,843
Austin Aztex 3 5,113 1,704
Ventura County Fusion 4 6,035 1,509
Portland Timbers U-23s 3 4,175 1,392
BYU Cougars 4 5,504 1,376
Victoria Highlanders FC 4 5,094 1,274
FC Tucson 5 5,307 1,061
Midland/Odessa Sockers FC 6 5,869 978
Albuquerque Sol F.C. 5 4,098 820
Western Mass Pioneers 4 2,772 693
Mississippi Brilla 4 2,732 683
Long Island Rough Riders 6 4,077 680
Michigan Bucks 4 2,538 635
Forest City London 5 3,116 623
Thunder Bay Chill 6 3,691 615
Laredo Heat 4 2,369 592
Ocala Stampede 3 1,579 526
Sounders FC U23 5 2,353 471
Lane United FC 5 2,317 463
Kitsap Pumas 6 2,756 459
Chicago Inferno 2 749 375
Las Vegas Mobsters 3 1,125 375
Reading United AC 4 1,440 360
SW Florida Adrenaline 1 321 321
Toronto Lynx 3 950 317
F.A. Euro 1 300 300
Vermont Voltage 3 900 300
San Jose Earthquakes 2 585 293
St. Louis Lions 4 1,082 271
Baltimore Bohemians 4 1,068 267
Panama City Beach Pirates 3 758 253
CFC Azul 4 1,000 250
GPS Portland Phoenix 1 250 250
Northern Virginia Royals 3 736 245
Cincinnati Dutch Lions 4 948 237
Real Boston Rams 4 904 226
LA Misioneros FC 3 600 200
Southern California Seahorses 2 400 200
Real Colorado Foxes 3 570 190
WSA Winnipeg 4 710 178
River City Rovers 1 175 175
Southern West Virginia King’s Warriors 3 490 163
Springfield Demize 3 464 155
Seacoast United Phantoms 5 750 150
Jersey Express 4 575 144
West Virginia Chaos 6 830 138
Houston Dutch Lions 3 400 133
Puget Sound Gunners FC 3 400 133
Montreal Impact U23 3 350 117
Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23 4 436 109
NJ LUSO Parma 5 500 100
Pittsburgh Riverhounds U23 3 300 100
Floridians F.C. 2 197 99
IMG Academy Bradenton 5 490 98
Washington Crossfire 4 320 80
Westchester Flames 5 400 80
Chicago Fire U-23 3 210 70
OC Pateadores Blues 5 245 49
Des Moines Menace 0 0 0
K-W United FC 0 0 0
Ocean City Nor’easters 0 0 0
Orlando City U23 0 0 0
SC United Bantams 0 0 0
PDL TOTAL 223 119,221 535

NOTES:

  • Every team has played at least one home game, but a handful of clubs (including perennial attendance leader or contender Des Moines) have not released any attendance figures for their home games to this point. Some of the missing 39 data points (to date) will eventually turn up, but some never will. It’s the nature of the beast.
  • Fresno (whose tickets are all free to fans through a sponsorship buy) leads the usual suspects at the top of the charts, though they’re down about 500 a game from last year’s final average. Austin, which recently announced a move to USL Pro for 2015, is up slightly from their 2013 average. Victoria and Western Mass are well off last year’s numbers.
  • Eleven clubs averaged more than 1,000 fans per game in 2013, and eight are there right now (with Des Moines probable). But there is still a third or so of the league that can barely get to 200 a game.
  • The Chicago Fire U-23 actually announced an attendance of 16 – sixteen- for their June 16 match against Toronto. The season high to this point is the 3,627 Fresno pulled for a match against San Jose on May 23.
  • As for new clubs, Albuquerque (820 per game) and Lane United (463) lead a struggling lot. Expansion teams in Las Vegas (375) and Cincinnati (237) and developmental teams for San Jose (293), Montreal (117) and Pittsburgh (100) are having varying degrees of success.
  • The current league average (535, with some data points missing) is right in line with the historical average.

Happy Nye Lavalle Day!

Sunday, June 15th, 2014

Nye Lavalle

(Courtesy New York Times.)


With the 2014 FIFA World Cup underway and the United States team set to play Ghana in its opening match on Monday, let us take a moment to recognize a momentous anniversary.

Twenty years ago today – June 15, 1994, a story on the front page of the sports section of the Philadelphia Inquirer quoted sports marketing analyst Nye Lavalle, who was not exactly bullish on the long-term prospects of the new professional soccer league that was due to start up in the aftermath of the 1994 World Cup.

“There is no chance it will survive. Absolutely no chance whatsoever.”

Well, here we are, twenty years later. Major League Soccer now has 19 teams (a 20th, New York City FC and 21st, Orlando City SC, begin play in 2015) and is on its way to 24. Seventeen of the 21 either already play or will soon play in stadiums build primarily for soccer. It has a new television contract that pays it more than ever. Attendance now surpasses the six million mark annually and will continue to rise. Its stature and place in the world game is also rising.

How do you like that prediction now?

To be fair, the game’s prospects on these shores could not have been considered promising in 1994, given the death nine years prior of the last, best attempt at a national league, the US team’s long absence from the World Cup, the dearth of soccer on television and in the American sporting consciousness and skepticism over USA ’94. But to not just say “It’s unlikely to work, based on history, among other things” would have been one thing. To say that not only wouldn’t it survive, but that there was absolutely no chance whatsoever it would survive…well, that is the type of Shermanesque statement you get called on by people like me after the fact when it turns out you were as wrong as you were vehement.

Lavalle – whose other pronouncements and predictions included “(Baseball) has peaked and now it’s on a decline (1994),” “Baseball is not a TV sport and never will be (1994),” “The next few years are going to bring about the biggest falling out of the sports industry in history, something not unlike the deregulation of the airlines (1992),” and “There aren’t that many people interested in hockey (2004) – did foresee the mortgage crisis long before it nearly wrecked our economy. But his prediction about the future of Major League Soccer was completely and utterly wrong.

He wasn’t the only one making such predictions, just the most vehement and the one I’ve chosen as the poster boy for the skeptics. Here’s a sampling of the sentiments expressed by some media mavens in the run-up to MLS’ launch in 1996:

“No matter how many American soccer converts were made (by the 1994 World Cup), no matter how many kids were enticed to run off with the circus someday, no matter how much cash the World Cup pumped into the nine host cities, the idea of major-league soccer in this country simply won’t fly anytime soon.”
Steve Wilstein, Associated Press, July 18, 1994

“There’s a better chance of a national health plan being passed by Congress than of a major pro (soccer) league in America.”
Art Spander, San Francisco Examiner, June 5, 1994

“Our national team is spread out among 10 localities and charged with making us like the game. This would have been like taking the 1980 US Olympic hockey team and starting a whole new league by placing its members around the country. And the ice hockey team did, incidentally, win a gold medal, as well as whip the Red Army. Chances of that working would seem to be better than this.”
Bernie Linciome, Chicago Tribune, April 8, 1996

“The World Cup, should no one get killed, is a fabulous event. Enjoy it. And enjoy the next one. And if, in between, you patronize any and all pro soccer leagues that begin here, enjoy them too. They’ll be gone faster than the girl over there with the hula hoop.”
Phil Mushnick, New York Post, June 15, 1994

All wrong. (Spander gets bonus points because Congress actually did pass a national health plan.)

We’ve beaten the odds, boys and girls. The days where skeptics could say “It’s never going to work,” and, later, “It will surely fold soon” are over. Major League Soccer isn’t going away, and is only going to continue to grow and improve. The naysayers have less and less to naysay with each passing day.

Lavalle made his prediction about MLS prior to the actual start of the 1994 World Cup; a month later, he gave at least grudging kudos to the tournament itself, but still didn’t like MLS’ long-term prospects when quoted in the New York Times on July 19, 1994:

“For World Cup soccer worldwide, the World Cup gets a grade A; for staging of the World Cup in America, it gets a grade A. But for the future of soccer in America, the grade is incomplete. If you want a prediction, it seems like the term paper will be turned in and it will get a failing grade.”

The papers are all turned in. The assignments are done. We’ve passed.

Happy Nye Lavalle Day, everybody.

Five Things To Know About The US Open Cup

Monday, June 9th, 2014

The nation’s longest-running soccer tournament, the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, is now down to its final 32 competitors and here’s where things really get interesting. The 16 US-based Major League Soccer teams join the fray in the fourth round, all competing against lower-division teams between June 11 and June 18. You’re going to read and hear a lot about “the magic of the Open Cup” and “plucky little lower-level clubs” between now and then, but here are a few things to keep in mind while pundits fill column inches and air minutes.

1. MLS Teams Do Lose Against Lower-Division Clubs, But Not That Often

In the last ten tournaments (2004-2013), MLS teams have played 133 Open Cup matches against lower-division teams. They’ve won 81 of those matches and tied 16 (a .669 W-L-T percentage) and have advanced in the tournament in 90 of those 133 instances (.677 percent).

vs. Division GP W L T Pct. Adv. Pct.
vs. 2nd Division 67 36 20 11 .619 43 .642
vs. 3rd Division 49 31 14 4 .673 33 .673
vs. Amateurs 17 14 2 1 .853 14 .824
TOTALS 133 81 36 16 .669 90 .677

At home, MLS teams are really successful against lower-division teams, going 56-10-5 and advancing 58 times in 71 matches (82 percent of the time). Given 14 of the 16 fourth-round matchups have the MLS team hosting (though Columbus is playing Indianapolis in Akron, two hours away from Crew Stadium), the draw favors the top flight in this round.

In 2013′s fourth round, MLS teams advanced past lower-division teams in 12 of the 16 matchups (going 11-4-1, officially, as DC United advanced on penalties). That was a bit higher than in years prior, but don’t be surprised if we see 11 or 12 of the 16 MLS teams advance this time around, just looking at history and home teams.

2. 28 Lower-Division Clubs Have Ousted MLS Clubs, But 20 Of Them Aren’t Here

In the Modern Era of the tournament (since 1996, when MLS began), a total of 28 teams in the lower divisions have knocked MLS teams out of the Open Cup. One of the co-leaders in upsets, the Charleston Battery, fell in the third round, so it’s left to Rochester to try to become the first lower-division team to knock out an MLS team 10 times (though six of Rochester’s nine happened before the turn of the century, when the Rhinos really were all the rage).

Of the 28 upsetters, 20 either no longer exist, aren’t participating this year or have already been ousted. Here’s the all time list:

Lower-Level Club #
Rochester Rhinos 9
Charleston Battery# 9
Seattle Sounders% 5
Harrisburg City Islanders 5
Minnesota Thunder* 4
Richmond Kickers 4
Carolina RailHawks 4
Mid Michigan Bucks# 2
San Francisco Bay Seals* 2
Wilmington Hammerheads# 2
Orlando City SC 2
Cal FC# 1
Charlotte Eagles# 1
Chicago Sockers* 1
Chicago Stingers* 1
Connecticut Wolves* 1
Crystal Palace Baltimore* 1
Dallas Roma FC# 1
Dayton Dutch Lions# 1
Long Island Rough Riders# 1
Milwaukee Rampage* 1
Minnesota Stars 1
Nashville Metros* 1
Pittsburgh Riverhounds 1
San Antonio Scorpions 1
Seattle Sounders Select# 1
Staten Island Vipers* 1
Tampa Bay Rowdies# 1
 
%Now in MLS
*No longer exist
#Not participating/knocked out

That’s just more interesting than actually indicative or predictive of anything. There’s no reason any of the eight clubs left in the tournament who aren’t on that list can’t pull an upset. But the ranks of the usual suspects have been diminished a bit.

3. MLS Will Likely Be There In The End

Since 1996, 92 percent of spots in the final, 83 percent of spots in the semifinals and 75 percent of spots in the quarterfinals have gone to MLS teams. It’s very, very difficult for a lower-division side to make it to the round of eight (though in the last nine years, MLS’ dominance of the quarters has slipped to 60 percent from about 77 percent the first nine years).

The only three lower-division teams to make a final are Rochester (twice) and Charleston. Rochester won it in 1999, the only lower-division side to do so. In the last five years, only two lower-division clubs have made the semifinals. So this fourth (and, this year, fifth) round is where the NASL and USL Pro teams get to have their moment in the sun before reality (usually) sets in.

4. These Games Are Not Particularly Well-Attended

In the last 10 years, third- and fourth-round games (the rounds in which most or all MLS teams usually enter the competition have drawn an average of 4,640 fans. (I have figures for 130 of the 143 games – it’s not always easy to track these things down.) Given the tournament’s rounds are usually pretty tightly-packed and games happen on short notice (giving sales staffs little time to actually sell), that’s not entirely surprising. But whatever the reason (format, unfamiliarity, lack of promotion), this isn’t a tournament fans flock to stadiums to take in live, as a rule. (For what it’s worth, the 2013 tournament – for which I have about 63% of the crowd figures – had the highest average attendance since 1996, but only 4,960 per game.)

This table shows the combined attendance figures for each of the 19 tournaments to this point (with 2014 only through three rounds, obviously). For each year, the first figure is the number of total games that were played, the second figure is the number of games for which I have an attendance number, and the average, highest crowd and lowest crowd are based on those figures.

US Open Cup Attendance Since 1996
Year GP AF Total Avg. High Low
1996 15 10 50,497 5,050 12,428 783
1997 31 23 83,993 3,652 13,470 300
1998 31 25 77,466 3,099 18,615 121
1999 31 28 118,453 4,230 20,376 60
2000 35 32 111,891 3,497 19,146 272
2001 35 31 113,671 3,667 9,339 70
2002 31 22 84,606 3,846 8,485 200
2003 34 34 100,933 2,969 7,542 150
2004 40 33 91,518 2,773 10,622 27
2005 39 25 98,735 3,949 11,121 254
2006 40 24 106,598 4,442 10,428 524
2007 39 32 96,336 3,011 10,618 248
2008 39 27 85,586 3,170 8,212 483
2009 39 39 109,076 2,797 17,329 94
2010 39 23 89,831 3,906 31,311 500
2011 39 22 101,850 4,630 35,613 702
2012 63 45 196,881 4,375 18,873 150
2013 67 42 208,321 4,960 17,608 420
2014 46 15 28,869 1,925 9,181 80
TOTAL 733 532 1,955,111 3,675 35,613 27

5. None Of This Has Anything To Do With Promotion And Relegation Or A Competing League

You will see a lot of social media activity with every upset or near-upset by People Who Only Peripherally Follow Soccer claiming that this one-off result or that one-off result makes the case for promotion and relegation between MLS and lower divisions or that someone could easily start a Division I league to compete with MLS (or raise the NASL’s stature to that point).

As the English say, “Bollocks.”

What happens on Any Given Tuesday in a one-off knockout tournament that not all MLS teams take completely seriously has absolutely zero to do with the economic realities that preclude promotion and relegation from being implemented anytime soon (if at all) in this country. Most lower-level teams simply could not afford to play at a higher level, and the prospect of relegation would completely kibosh public-private stadium partnerships (to say nothing of the havoc they would wreak on rosters, sponsorships and media agreements, etc.).

And the NASL is about a decade and a half in time and several billion dollars of investment (in players, infrastructure and stadiums) behind MLS. It’s highly unlikely they could or would find enough people willing to invest that money in making a challenge to the status quo when they could take the demonstrably-easier route to joining MLS via expansion.

The Open Cup is fun. My man Josh Hakala loves it a little too much, but there are worse things to love too much. The pressure of a knockout tournament and the sort of parallel-universe aspect of it (where even a last-place team can win the Cup) make for an interesting competition. And with MLS teams taking a break for the beginning of the World Cup, some weekend dates have opened up for the first time in modern tournament history. One of them will see the New York Red Bulls and New York Cosmos play on Long Island in what will surely be the jewel game of the fourth round.

So enjoy. Just don’t get too carried away. This is still a tournament dominated by Major League Soccer.

Taking Attendance 6/9/2014: Springing Ahead

Sunday, June 8th, 2014

The North American Soccer League’s spring season is complete, and here are the attendance figures for the Division II league that is now in its fourth year (“Diff.” is the percentage increase or decrease in average over the same number of home games from a year ago. In the league’s case, the entire 2013 spring season average is used as the benchmark):

Team G Total Avg. Median High Low Diff.
Indy 5 52,324 10,465 10,285 11,048 10,285 N/A
San Antonio 5 32,381 6,476 6,484 7,381 5,595 -8.5%
Minnesota 4 22,309 5,577 5,306 6,784 4,913 +12.9%
Carolina 4 21,456 5,364 4,797 7,856 4,007 +9.5%
New York 5 25,203 5,041 4,130 7,906 3,091 -31.8%
Tampa Bay 5 24,991 4,998 4,670 7,003 4,132 +30.3%
Atlanta 4 18,922 4,731 5,000 5,000 3,922 -3.2%
Ft. Lauderdale 4 15,301 3,825 3,312 5,572 3,105 -15.6%
Edmonton 4 14,277 3,569 3,459 4,399 2,961 +114.4%
Ottawa 5 13,418 2,684 2,432 3,457 2,158 N/A
NASL TOTAL 45 240,582 5,346 4,913 11,048 2,158 +14.7%

NOTES:

  • Despite not winning a game in the first 1/3 of the season, the Indy Eleven led the way by selling out all five of their home games. If they’re able to maintain a 10k average in the fall season, they’ll be only the fourth second division club to ever crack five figures for a season average (Rochester, Montreal and Portland are the others).
  • A crowd of 6,495 in their spring finale (helped in part, perhaps, by the retirement of Giorgio Chinaglia’s number 9 shirt) helped the New York Cosmos leapfrog past Tampa Bay and into fifth – that’s right, fifth – in the attendance standings. The bloom appears to be off the rose on Long Island, and they can only go back to the 1970s nostalgia well so many times. (In case you’re wondering, New York averaged 4,723 on the road in the spring.)
  • Besides Edmonton (whose stellar increase year-over-year is nice, but largely because early in 2013 the capacity of Clarke Stadium had not been increased yet), Tampa Bay has made the biggest gains since 2013, with their average for their five spring games up 30 percent from a year ago. Minnesota (which played all but one spring 2013 game in the Metrodome) and Carolina were also up in this limited sample.
  • On the flip side, the Cosmos (down 31 percent from their first five fall games a year ago), Fort Lauderdale (down 16 percent despite a much improved team) and San Antonio (off just under 9 percent) showed decreases from 2013. Everyone will play home and away against everyone else (9 home games) in the fall season.
  • Overall, the league’s spring attendance in 2014 was about 15 percent higher, on average, than 2013. Without Indianapolis, though, the league averaged 4,706, just barely up from the 4,662 of last spring. And the NASL teams are playing to about 56 percent capacity.
  • If everyone held their averages from the spring for the fall campaign, the league would finish with a 5,297 average, which would be a Division II record (the current mark is 5,164 in the 2008 USL First Division). That seems like a decent bet, though we’ll see what effect Ottawa’s move to the newly-renovated Tim Hortons Field (which apparently won’t be 100% complete by their July 20 opener) TD Place (thanks to an alert reader who points out that Tim Hortons Field is in Hamilton and it’s TD Place in Ottawa) will have on their attendance, and what happens to clubs who fall out of playoff contention late in the year.