Major League Soccer starts its 17th season this weekend, tying it with the original North American Soccer League for longevity among top-flight soccer leagues on these shores in the modern area. So, just for fun, here’s a look at where each of the markets that had one or more NASL or MLS teams over the years rank in terms of average announced attendance. The “NASL Years” actually include 18 seasons, as I’ve included the totals from the precursor rival leagues of 1967, the USA and the NPSL, and those numbers go through 1984. The “MLS Years” would be from 1996-2011.
|New York||Generals, Skyliners, Cosmos, MetroStars/Red Bulls||33||465||9,064,288||19,493|
|Vancouver||Royal Canadians, Royals, Whitecaps||14||190||3,224,471||16,971|
|Salt Lake City||Real||7||109||1,833,671||16,823|
|Los Angeles||Toros, Wolves, Aztecs, Surf, Galaxy, Chivas USA||31||562||8,873,337||15,789|
|Washington, DC||Darts, Whips, Diplomats, Team America, DC United||29||417||5,885,098||14,113|
|Boston||Rovers, Beacons, Minutemen, Tea Men, Revolution||24||347||4,525,299||13,041|
|Denver||Dynamos, Caribous, Rapids||19||282||3,658,091||12,972|
|Houston||Stars, Hurricane, Dynamo||11||161||2,084,706||12,948|
|SF Bay Area||Gales, Clippers, Earthquakes, Stompers, Clash/Earthquakes||29||418||5,253,896||12,569|
|Chicago||Spurs, Mustangs, Sting, Fire||27||391||4,618,078||11,811|
|Toronto||City, Falcons, Metros, Metros-Croatia, Blizzard, FC||22||297||3,275,751||11,029|
|Kansas City||Spurs, Wiz/Wizards/Sporting||19||282||2,998,244||10,632|
|Philadelphia||Atoms, Fury, Union||10||137||1,340,620||9,786|
|Miami/Ft.L||Toros, Gatos, Strikers, Fusion||16||218||2,083,564||9,558|
|San Diego||Jaws, Sockers||9||132||1,099,816||8,332|
It’s interesting that Minneapolis takes the top spot, though it’s all NASL and only seven seasons of that. The accomplishments of the Cosmos at the gate are brought down a bit by their precursors, the Generals and Skyliners, and by the MetroStars/Red Bulls. Seattle gets a boost from the current-day Sounders, but the original Sounders averaged 18,322 in 10 NASL seasons, ranking them fourth in the original league’s standings behind Minneapolis, New York and Tampa (who gets hurt in the combined rankings by the Mutiny). MLS is in 16 of the top 20 markets on this list, missing only Minneapolis, Tampa, Tulsa and Calgary.
I wouldn’t read a lot into this because the two eras are so very different and the leagues went about things in very different manners (if you’re curious, the NASL averaged 10,749 over its lifetime, while MLS’ all-time average is 15,744, almost 50% higher). I just thought it was interesting.