Archive for October, 2011
After a long hiatus (for a number of reasons), here are the final (in most cases) attendance figures for the primary men’s and women’s outdoor soccer leagues in North America for 2011. As always, corrections and additions are welcome. NOTE: I’ve just received more data and updated the USL Pro numbers. The PDL and W-League numbers I’ll update soon.
|THE MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER||G||Total||Avg.|
|Los Angeles Galaxy||17||396,693||23,335|
|New York Red Bulls||17||335,740||19,749|
|Sporting Kansas City||17||302,776||17,810|
|Real Salt Lake||17||299,047||17,591|
|New England Revolution||17||224,770||13,222|
|San Jose Earthquakes||17||201,587||11,858|
|NORTH AMERICAN SOCCER LEAGUE||G||Total||Avg.|
|Ft. Lauderdale Strikers||14||52,769||3,769|
|FC Tampa Bay||14||42,138||3,010|
|Puerto Rico Islanders||14||30,247||2,161|
|NSC Minnesota Stars||14||23,463||1,676|
|Harrisburg City Islanders||12||16,875||1,406|
|Antigua Barracuda FC||12||14,268||1,189|
|FC New York||12||9,824||819|
|Dayton Dutch Lions||12||7,929||661|
|Los Angeles Blues||12||5,283||440|
|River Plate Puerto Rico||3||570||190|
|Puerto Rico United||2||210||105|
|Sevilla FC Puerto Rico||1||101||101|
|USL PRO TOTALS||150||321,984||2,147|
|WOMEN’S PROFESSIONAL SOCCER||G||Total||Avg.|
|Western New York Flash||9||43,925||4,881|
|Sky Blue FC||9||19,239||2,138|
|Des Moines Menace||8||26,976||3,372|
|Portland Timbers U23||8||12,246||1,531|
|New Orleans Jesters||1||1,500||1,500|
|West Texas United Sockers||8||10,839||1,355|
|Ventura County Fusion||7||7,811||1,116|
|Chivas El Paso Patriots||8||8,537||1,067|
|FC Jax Destroyers||6||5,076||846|
|Forest City London||8||6,726||841|
|Western Mass Pioneers||8||6,370||796|
|Real Maryland Monarchs||1||721||721|
|Thunder Bay Chill||8||4,794||599|
|Ocean City Nor’easters||6||3,403||567|
|St. Louis Lions||8||4,504||563|
|RGV Grandes FC||5||2,650||530|
|Long Island Rough Riders||8||3,597||450|
|Virginia Beach Piranhas||8||3,590||449|
|Baton Rouge Capitals||1||446||446|
|Reading United AC||8||2,697||337|
|River City Rovers||8||2,123||265|
|Kansas City Brass||4||1,055||264|
|Vancouver Whitecaps Residency||8||2,035||254|
|New Hampshire Phantoms||8||2,000||250|
|Northern Virginia Royals||6||1,397||233|
|MPS Portland Phoenix||8||1,783||223|
|Los Angeles Legends||8||1,575||197|
|West Virginia Chaos||8||1,574||197|
|Real Colorado Foxes||7||1,335||191|
|Akron Summit Assault||8||1,487||186|
|Central Florida Kraze||7||1,295||185|
|North Sound SeaWolves||8||1,457||182|
|IMG Bradenton Academics||8||1,395||174|
|Hamilton FC Rage||7||1,177||168|
|Southern California Seahorses||7||1,061||152|
|Orange County Blue Star||7||723||103|
|LA Blues 23||6||400||67|
|Central Jersey Spartans||8||525||66|
|Fort Lauderdale Schulz Academy||8||481||60|
|New Jersey Rangers||8||425||53|
|Vancouver Whitecaps FC||7||8,805||1,258|
|DC United Women||5||4,016||803|
|Charlotte Lady Eagles||5||2,718||544|
|Long Island Rough Riders||5||2,149||430|
|Virginia Beach Piranhas||5||2,065||413|
|Santa Clarita Blue Heat||7||2,883||412|
|Quebec City Amiral||6||2,209||368|
|Northern Virginia Majestics||5||1,732||346|
|Dayton Dutch Lions||3||761||254|
|North Jersey Valkyries||5||979||196|
|Hamilton FC Rage||6||1,018||170|
|New Jersey Wildcats||4||602||151|
|New York Magic||1||112||112|
|New Jersey Rangers||5||513||103|
|Toronto Lady Lynx||6||480||80|
- MLS recorded its highest average attendance since the inaugural season of 1996 (17,872 to 17,406), up about 7% from 2010. Twelve of the 18 teams saw increases from last year (two – Vancouver and Portland, obviously couldn’t, they’re new), however slight in some cases. Kind of puts paid to all that kvetching about the schedule being late, doesn’t it? Anyway, Kansas City set a record by jumping 73% by moving into their new yard (but with only 5% of the league’s games, any one team can’t have a huge effect on the league number anymore). San Jose – thanks in part to a game at Stanford Stadium that drew 41,000+ – was up 23%, and were getting capacity (such as it is) crowds to Buck Shaw by year’s end. Still, they need a new yard. Dallas was up 19% and Colorado 11%, but Chicago (down 10%) and Columbus (down 17%) are concerns. Twelve of the league’s 18 teams (14 of 19 once Montreal officially starts and Houston moves into their new stadium in 2012) play in purpose-built stadiums and Seattle and Vancouver aren’t a concern for now. Portland will actually expand its capacity for next year. So San Jose, New England and DC United are the only real trouble spots as far as stadiums are concerned, and Gillette is only really a concern for Revs fans, not for Bob Kraft. Bottom line: anybody who tells you MLS has widespread attendance problems or that “nobody goes to MLS games” is full of it. The league isn’t going away.
- The NASL completed its season with no teams folding and no major drama (which is harder than you think in the second division). But its 3,770 average was the lowest for a second-division league since the 2003 A-League (which had 19 teams – 11 of whom are either dead or in MLS now). The relocation and re-branding of Miami FC into the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers resulted in a 200% increase in average attendance, but they are still only an average-drawing D2 team (hey, the folks in South Florida will take it…for now). Carolina – with the best team in the league and an experienced GM in Curt Johnson – was up 50%, but Montreal, with a terrible team in their D2 swan song, was off 7%. Minnesota – which won the playoffs – was up 22%, but they were starting from a very low level and still don’t have an owner. And Tampa Bay’s move across the Bay to St. Petersburg was a bad move when it was announced and a bad move when all was said and done (unless you like 22% attendance drops. Seriously, that would have to be some really big cost-savings to offset losing a quarter of your fans).
- USL Pro’s 2,147 average (even with the three Puerto Rico teams that had to be dropped a month into the season and who weren’t drawing at all) was the highest ever for a third-division league in the modern era (thank you, Orlando). But dropping a level may have been one cause for Rochester’s 20% decline in average announced attendance – the Rhinos went from 6,464 in the USSF D2 Pro League in 2010 to 5,139 in USL Pro in 2011. That doesn’t explain why Harrisburg (with a team that went to the final) dropped 16% (from 1,666 to 1,404), though the Islanders had horrific luck with weather early. Pittsburgh was up 20%, Charlotte up 12% and Orlando was up 45% over its numbers in Austin in 2010.
- WPS averaged 5,126 for 18 games post-Women’s World Cup. Which would be great if they could keep that up. It’s virtually impossible to think they will. Still, it was probably enough to convince a couple of investors to step up (supposedly there’s a Connecticut expansion team coming, but magicJack is out and Boston is looking for an owner) to fund a 2012 season. Atlanta was a bright spot (up 31% despite having the absolute worst team in the league and maybe ever), while the move from Washington to Boca Raton was disastrous on so many levels for the former Freedom (down 47%). But Dan Borislow ran his pro team like it was your daughter’s U14 travel team, only with your daughter trying to serve balls in to Abby Wambach. Sky Blue is a mystery (down 36%). Overall, the league was off about 2% from last year, thanks to the late surge. Still, it won’t matter unless there’s a serious change in how this league is perceived (or they stage a Women’s World Cup every year).
- Fresno led the PDL with 4,511 a game (I’m missing one of their attendance figures), but didn’t sell a ticket. The Fuego’s tickets were free to fans this year thanks to a sponsorship deal. Good for the fans, but I’m skeptical about the move. Sponsors come and go. When they can’t find one and have to go back to charging, what happens? It’ll be curious to see. I’m missing several games in the PDL (about 12%), but I don’t think it matters much. 500-550 a game is where this league is and is likely to be.
- Vancouver led the W-League with 1,258 per game (the only team to break four figures), but they’ve said they’re not interested in moving up to WPS (smart move). DC United Women was a success, drawing 803 per game in their first season. Wonder if we’ll see more MLS/W-League cooperation going forward.
This will be the last I’ll have to say on this subject – or any other – for a while. See y’all in 2012.
Seattle Sounders fans who traveled to Sandy, Utah for the first leg of the MLS quarterfinal tie between the Sounders and Real Salt Lake are either showing their disdain for their opponents or signifying the number of goals their team has now scored in five all-time MLS Cup Playoff games since 2009.
The Sounders go back home down 0-3 on aggregate, the biggest hole dug by any of the eight remaining playoff teams. Kansas City leads Colorado 2-0 after a win tonight, Los Angeles is up 1-0 after a scuffle-marred win over New York and Houston leads Philadelphia 2-1 after winning this afternoon.
Meanwhile, the NSC Minnesota Stars – a team without an owner, which was .500 and in sixth place in the league standings and averaged 1,600 fans per game during the regular season – won the North American Soccer League title 3-1 on aggregate with a 0-0 draw against the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers in the second leg of the finals Saturday night. Of course, they would be promoted to MLS and the Vancouver Whitecaps should be demoted, if the proles had their way. Never mind the whole “no owner, can’t draw, didn’t pay $40 million” thing.
I’ve been reading about the United Football League considering moving from fall to spring as a way to save itself from its self-inflicted wounds. One guy in particular caught my attention when he wrote “Those of us that remember the original USFL know that spring football can work.” (I know, “the Examiner.” Hah.)
Only the USFL didn’t really “work.” It lost millions of dollars, moved, merged, swapped and folded franchises at a moment’s notice, had gradual and inexorable TV ratings erosion and reached a point where its $1.36 billion antitrust lawsuit against the NFL was literally its only lifeline. I remember the original USFL. It didn’t work. Nor has spring football worked, ever.
Look, I loved the USFL and lived and died with the Tampa Bay Bandits. They were fun, they were exciting, they were innovative and (perhaps most importantly) they were winners, right at a time when the NFL’s Buccaneers were entering their 12 straight years of double-digit loss seasons. But I was 18-20 years old when they existed. I long for a lot of things I had when I was 19 (chief among them, perhaps, a 30-inch waist).
We tend to romanticize the USFL the way we romanticize That Hot Chick We Dated That One Summer (she was batshit crazy) and That Great Bar We Used To Go To In College (it was a dive). That Football League That Played In The Spring was fun, different, quirky, and, for a lot of us, came at an impressionable time when we still believed that things challenging the status quo were not only possible, they were easy.
The USFL didn’t “work” in the spring. The UFL isn’t “working” at all, and won’t “work” no matter what time of year they play. Not with today’s sporting landscape, not with all the readily-available football that exists today, and certainly not with this bunch running the show.
This thorough article in the Omaha World-Herald does a great job of laying out the issues and showing you how delusional the league’s owners can be at times.
“Our goal is to retool our proposals and build to a minimum of six teams in cities like Omaha, Sacramento and Norfolk, Virginia, where people want you and like you and love football. With that package, you can get a good television contract.”
No, Paul Pelosi, you can’t. You can’t get a “good” (read: “lucrative”) television contract with teams in cities like Omaha (where they’d be hard-pressed to play in the spring), Sacramento and Norfolk. It’s not happening. TV is about eyeballs and there aren’t going to be enough eyeballs watching Sacramento against Norfolk to bring in the money to close the budget gap for the UFL (which has reportedly lost $120 million in three years). And, no, Dennis Green, it’s no tragedy that there’s no place for guys who aren’t good enough to make the NFL to play professional football. Or to coach it, for that matter.
If there’s anything the NFL’s record-setting TV ratings, international initiatives and crowd figures have taught us, it’s that there’s always a market for more NFL football. And if there’s anything the alphabet soup of leagues that have come and gone over the years has proven, it’s that there’s no real market for after-market football.
The University of South Florida is actually in Central Florida. A Canadian team once won back-to-back American League championships. Duke basketball has played in the NCAA’s West Region five times and its Midwest Region four times. Neither the New York Giants nor New York Jets play in New York, and the Dallas Cowboys play in Arlington. The Winnipeg Jets are in the NHL’s Southeast Division. Yet no one seems to mind these things as much as they mind MLS’ “embarrassing” playoff format that now has a western-based team (Colorado) in its Eastern Conference playoff bracket and an eastern-based team (New York) in its Western Conference playoff bracket. Get over it.
There are eight teams left and they’re going to play for the next few weeks. I’d say “May the best team win,” but we all know the best team doesn’t always win. The St. Louis Cardinals, the fourth-best team in the National League and (tied for) the ninth-best team in the majors over the course of the season just gave you what some of you are calling the best baseball game you’ve ever seen, five years after they won the World Series with the 13th-best record in the game.
Playoffs aren’t perfect. Nothing is. Quit kvetching about every little semantic nuance.
Apparently on tonight’s Inside the NFL, Phil Simms made a point of saying Bronco quarterback Tim Tebow got “cut a lot of slack” for his 13 of 27, 161-yard, 2 touchdown game (the bulk of which came in the last five minutes) in – HELLO – an actual win by his team on Sunday.
“If Joe Flacco, Mark Sanchez, any of those guys played a game like that, how would it have been taken? You know, even in their rookie years, they would have been destroyed for it.”
Yes, Phil, indeed. Had Mark Sanchez, say, gone 7 for 15 for 104 yards and a touchdown in a narrow victory over a bad team, he’d have been laughed out of the league. Even as a rookie.
Well, what do you know? Turns out Sanchez didn’t just have a game sort of like that – he had that game. On December 3, 2009, the rookie Sanchez turned in those numbers in a 19-13 win over the 4-8 Buffalo Bills. Did he get destroyed? Don’t see it in this recap. How about this one? Nope. This one? Uh-uh. (Though coach Rex Ryan did call Sanchez a “knucklehead” for diving instead of sliding while trying to get a first down and hurting his knee. Is calling someone a “knucklehead” destroying them?)
Not seeing where Sanchez got destroyed for having pedestrian numbers in a game his team won.
How about Flacco? What if you had to go all the way back to….October 2nd of this year to find Flacco having a 10-for-31, 163 yard, 1 interception performance in a win? Man, I’ll bet his coach, John Harbaugh, really lit into him after that performance.
“I think we played against a really good defense, and you want to be smart about the kind of throws you make when you have the corners out there covering receivers real tight. Do you want to know what I remember? I remember the third down completion to LaQuan Williams, where we were running the ball about 14 times in a row, and then we got that third down conversion to get about three more minutes off the clock. So, to me that was a great throw and a great catch against really good corners. Credit our offense for finding a way to win a game.”
Well, yeah, you can choose to remember a third down completion to convert a third down and eat more time off the clock if you want. Just like you can remember two touchdown throws and a run for a two-point conversion, all in the last five minutes. In a game your team won. I guess you can do that. If you want. But, really, why not just make something up about how other quarterbacks who performed like that would get destroyed? It’s television, you have to say stupid stuff.