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Soccer, mostly, but some other stuff, too

Football X Factor? Laughable


Most of the alternative football leagues you can probably think of are gone, but not forgotten.

The FXFL is forgotten, but not gone.

Not yet, anyway.

The Fall Experimental Football League, the latest debacle in a series of leagues that have attempted either to compete with or complement the National Football league, kicked off its 2015 season Friday night in obscurity in Brooklyn. The hometown Bolts, described as “defending champions” by one ambitious but misguided blog, were blown out 29-6 by a group of people1 using the moniker “Florida Blacktips” in front of a supposed 950 or so people, an ESPN3 audience, and the weather gods. (Who were not happy, not one bit.)

Former Tampa Bay Buccaneer quarterback Josh Freeman, (the league’s glamour signing of the moment, since Tajh Boyd is now in Canada, more or less) had a disastrous night, completing just 9 of 16 passes for 32 yards with an interception and five fumbles (though he did throw a touchdown pass).

Whatever synonyms you want to attach to Freeman’s performance could apply equally to the FXFL itself, which launched last fall with high hopes but is on its way to becoming the latest alternative football league to join the scrap heap. To wit:

  • The league was originally supposed to have six teams, including one in Austin, Texas owned by two former NFL players. It never materialized, and the 2014 campaign featured four teams. (Really three and a half teams, as the erstwhile Florida Blacktips bailed on playing at Florida International University and became a traveling band of misfits.)
  • On Monday of the week of its second season, the league shuttered its nascent Mahoning Valley (Ohio) franchise, the Brawlers, leaving it with just three teams (or two and a half, depending on how you view the Blacktips) and a new schedule calling for just six games. Three of those six will see Brooklyn play the other team, the Hudson Valley Fort, on consecutive weeks.
  • That’s an even smaller schedule than in 2014, when only eight FXFL games were played (in front of, basically, no one). The final regular-season game was cancelled and a hoped-for championship game was never executed. That didn’t stop Commissioner Brian Woods from claiming his league had “a great first season,” which points out one of their major problems: The FXFL lies. A lot.
  • Woods was fond of saying last year that 90 to 95 percent of players in his fall developmental league would come directly from that summer’s NFL training camps, but, as chronicled here a year ago this week, fewer than half actually were. (The slipshod record keeping of the FXFL and malleable rosters make a final accounting problematic.)
  • Even this year, Woods was saying that 98 percent of FXFL players had NFL experience. Which, even if you count brief looks in training camp, isn’t even remotely true.
  • Woods also claimed former NFL running back Maurice Jones-Drew called him about playing in the FXFL in late September 2014. The fact that Jones-Drew was, at that moment, playing under a three-year, $7.5 million contract with the Oakland Raiders was, apparently, not seen as an impediment. (Jones-Drew never suited up for the FXFL2, as you might have guessed, and retired earlier this year.)
  • The league likes to trumpet the supposed fact that 25 percent of its players from the 2014 season received “call backs”3 from NFL teams. In fact, you can see the list if you go to the bottom right hand corner of this page where there’s text that says “See the entire list HERE.” Go ahead and click on it. Oh, wait, you can’t. It’s not a link. It’s just text made up to look like a link. It goes nowhere. There is no list.

Between not paying players, abruptly cancelling tryouts and dissolving franchises, the FXFL is surely going about its stated purpose – giving guys a chance to play pro football – in a very strange way.

And, yet, oddly enough, they’re the best of the current lot of alternative football leagues. After the jump, a look at the statuses of the others.

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Taking Attendance 10/4/2015: USL First Division III League To Draw A Million

The United Soccer League‘s 2015 postseason is building to a crescendo after its regular season hit a high note for American third division soccer. The USL became the first Division III league to draw a million fans over the course of a season, topping by about 50 percent the previous high, set last year.

Yes, the USL had 24 teams this year, more than a DIII league has had since 1999 and 10 more clubs than they had in 2014, so, in large part, it’s a matter of math. But inside that rather obvious conclusion are a lot of other positives requiring some context.

First, the numbers:

Team G Total Average Median High Low
Sacramento Republic FC 14 158,516 11,323 11,442 11,442 10,906
Louisville City FC 14 94,707 6,765 7,011 8,414 4,772
Rochester Rhinos 14 77,976 5,570 5,383 6,922 4,251
Saint Louis FC 14 68,388 4,885 4,892 5,662 4,004
Tulsa Roughnecks FC 14 65,999 4,714 4,365 8,335 3,189
Real Monarchs SLC 14 65,770 4,698 3,161 13,979 1,001
OKC Energy FC 14 64,895 4,635 4,360 6,847 3,133
Charleston Battery 14 57,113 4,080 4,166 5,638 3,026
Richmond Kickers 14 52,452 3,747 3,472 5,957 1,632
Arizona United SC 14 46,254 3,304 3,184 6,108 1,884
Austin Aztex 14 45,171 3,227 2,958 5,146 1,439
Portland Timbers 2 14 43,702 3,122 2,821 5,892 1,734
Wilmington Hammerheads FC 14 41,433 2,960 2,883 4,265 1,789
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC 14 38,121 2,723 2,537 3,823 2,012
Pittsburgh Riverhounds 14 36,817 2,630 2,387 4,297 995
Harrisburg City Islanders *13 33,673 2,590 2,492 4,741 1,652
Seattle Sounders FC 2 14 31,100 2,221 2,187 2,951 1,789
Charlotte Independence 14 25,205 1,800 1,931 2,241 1,271
Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 14 23,545 1,682 1,431 3,208 1,106
Orange County Blues FC 14 19,573 1,398 963 3,000 674
LA Galaxy II *13 12,602 969 1,000 1,817 507
New York Red Bulls II 14 8,334 595 557 1,028 191
Toronto FC II *13 6,233 479 426 986 50
FC Montreal 14 4,383 313 256 1,301 112
USL TOTAL 333 1,121,962 3,369 2,880 13,979 50
*Missing one game

After the jump, some notes and the aforementioned other positives in context.

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APBA32: Man Of Steel

After getting sidetracked for many months with the switchover in hosting companies and my APBA time being taken up by league play, the story of my APBA mini-replay of the 1932 baseball season continues now.

Arky VaughanA total of 52 Hall of Fame players were active in 1932 and two made their debuts that season. The first was Pittsburgh shortstop Floyd Vaughan (the more familiar “Arky” – for his state of birth, Arkansas – wasn’t his on-field appellation just yet), who, at 20, was the youngest player in the NL that year.

With only one year of professional experience to his credit (he hit .338 with 21 home runs and 16 triples at Wichita of the Western League in 1931 as a 19-year-old), Vaughan made the Pirates’ opening day roster, but the Bucs’ incumbent shortstop was Tommy Thevenow. Thevenow broke a finger in late April, and Vaughan took over at short, from where he would not be dislodged until 1941.

In the replay, Thevenow didn’t get hurt and was hitting .286 through the first four games, but the Bucs were 0-4 to start the season. The impressive rookie got his shot, going 1-for-3 against the Cardinals in the first game of a doubleheader on April 23. (He also made an error that day, which is not surprising given his NL-high 46 boots in real life in 1932.) And after a 4-for-5 day in a 7-1 win over the Dodgers at Ebbets Field on June 15, he’s hitting .545, which would be a league-leading figure if he had just one more plate appearance to qualify for the chart.

NL Runs Created LeadersAlso worth noting in Vaughan’s start to the replay is that he’s created 11.69 runs1, fifth-best in the league. But he’s done that while only making 15 outs, giving him a Runs Created Per 27 Outs rate of 21.04, a full fifty percent better than Don Hurst’s production for the Phillies.2 And he’s hitting .800 (8-for 10) with four walks against left-handed pitching. Not bad for a lefty. (More on splits another day.)

Unfortunately for Vaughan, his Pirates (who finished a close second to the Cubs in real life in 1932) are off to a poor start at 5-8, five games out of first. (Though they have won five of their last eight after an 0-5 start.) Having scored 50 runs and allowed 51, they should be right around .500, but they’re 2-5 in games decided by one or two runs and they’ve lost a pair of 1-0 games, plus a 2-0 game. With this series against the lowly Dodgers to be followed by nine straight home contests, the Bucs have a chance to get healthy.

Vaughan played 10 years in Pittsburgh and four more in Brooklyn (interrupted by a three-year retirement from 1944-1946) and was just 40 years old when he died in a boating accident on August 30, 1952. His tragic death was front page news in Pittsburgh, and The Sporting News quoted NL president Warren Giles as calling Vaughan “a gentleman and a fine competitor.”

The rest of the results, numbers and more stuff are all after the jump.

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The Fishing Line: Can’t Land The Big One

Tampa TarponsAs the summer turned to fall, the Tampa Tarpons failed to make up ground in their pursuit of a postseason berth in their inaugural season. Missed opportunities and continued road struggles dropped the Gamefish to 52-68 on the season, five games out of the sixth and final playoff spot.

September was not without memorable moments – they were just too few. Opening the month at home against the Wizards, the Tarpons took the first two games easily, but dropped two of the last three, including a heartbreaking 11-inning loss in the series finale. Highlights of the set included complete games by Adam Wainwright, Jered Weaver and Danny Duffy, plus Kole Calhoun’s 8-for-16, three doubles performance.

Then it was off to Illinois, where a 4-2 win in the opener against the Polecats could have augured well for the start of the road trip. But the defending TSL champions took the final four games, with the Tarpons scoring just eight runs in the quartet.

Tampa finished up the road trip against the Whalers, and came back from five runs down to win game one. That would spur the team to wins in each of the next two games, before the Whalers came back to salvage the final two games. It marked only the fourth time all year Tampa had won a series on the road.

The Tarpons finished the month with a crucial series against the Slammers, who are also battling for a playoff spot. After taking 5-0 and 10-1 wins in the first two games, the Gamefish then dropped the final three games, the final two by a combined score of 21-7.

Calhoun (.290, 4 HR, 13 RBI), Wainwright (3-0, 3.09 ERA) and Weaver (3-1, 3.03 ERA, 30 Ks in 29.2 innings) were the stars of September, but others will have to step up if the final two months of the season are to be anything more than a showcase for young talent building for 2016.

One veteran who will be playing out the string is shortstop Derek Jeter, claimed on waivers for the final two months of the campaign. “Derek has a home here in Tampa, and wanted to finish his brilliant career closer to home,” the club said in announcing his signing. “We feel his leadership and presence can be valuable to our core group of young players, and this will give Derek a chance to get a proper send-off.”


Taking Attendance 9/7/2015: NWSL Up 23% From A Year Ago

The third National Women’s Soccer League regular season finished up this weekend, and the good news is the league’s final (unofficial1) attendance average – 5,053 – is the highest for a women’s pro league since the WUSA’s swan song in 2003. It surely was at least partially fueled by excitement over the US Women’s National Team’s World Cup triumph, but there is cause for real optimism above and beyond the inevitable quadrennial2 World Cup BumpTM. First, the numbers, unofficial as they are, but taken from the league’s own news stories:

Club G Total Average Median High Low 2014 Change
Portland Thorns FC 10 156,386 15,639 14,812 21,144 12,223 13,362 +17.0%
Houston Dash 10 64,126 6,413 6,114 13,025 3,499 4,539 +41.3%
Chicago Red Stars 10 42,102 4,210 2,753 16,017 1,402 2,949 +42.8%
Washington Spirit 10 40,838 4,084 4,119 5,708 1,267 3,335 +22.5%
Seattle Reign FC 10 40,595 4,060 3,908 6,303 2,225 3,632 +11.8%
FC Kansas City 10 30,911 3,091 2,479 8,489 1,592 2,018 +53.2%
Boston Breakers 10 28,628 2,863 2,597 4,325 1,861 2,437 +17.5%
Western New York Flash 10 28,522 2,852 2,747 4,147 1,802 3,177 -10.2%
Sky Blue FC 10 22,683 2,268 1,905 5,547 953 1,640 +38.3%
NWSL TOTAL 90 454,791 5,053 3,367 21,144 953 4,121 22.6%

Now, some notes:

  • The far right-hand column shows the percentage increase in average announced attendance over the 2014 numbers. Every club in the league save one increased their average from a year ago. (And before you say Western New York paid for the sin of trading Abby Wambach, it’s not like they were packing them in to see her most of the time as it was.) Kansas City made the biggest jump, largely because they moved to a larger venue. Chicago (thanks in part to a doubleheader with MLS’ Chicago Fire) was also a big gainer in average, as were Houston and Sky Blue FC (which was starting from a very low position and had some decent crowds late). The league’s average was up 22.6% over a year ago, marking the first time a women’s pro league has actually increased its average announced attendance from one year to the next3.
  • The NWSL saw crowds after the Women’s World Cup that were, on average, 29 percent higher than prior to or during the event. The pre/during average was 4,426 for 46 games, while the 44 post-WWC games averaged 5,709. The median for the pre/during games was 2,490, while afterwards it was 4,142. And it wasn’t just the games in Portland after the World Cup that generated the difference. The other eight teams saw a combined 47 percent jump after the WWC, from 3,024 to 4.436.
  • That said, nearly half (48.5%) of all the people counted as having attended NWSL matches this season did so in either Portland or Houston. The league averaged 3,730 outside of Portland and 3,347 in the other seven cities, but even those numbers are up from a year ago. (In 2014, the NWSL averaged 2,966 outside of Portland and 2,741 outside of Portland and Houston.)
  • So there is cause for optimism. If the NWSL actually kicks off next season (and there is no real reason to believe they won’t), they’ll be the first of the three women’s pro leagues this century to make it to Year Four. They’ve also not lost a team they started with (neither did WUSA, but WPS lost several) and the outlook leans more towards expansion than contraction. But there is work to do.
  • Renewal of the financial support from the US, Canadian and Mexican federations seems critical, given a big reason for the league’s stability seems to be someone else paying the salaries of the star players. With Canada’s premature exit from the tournament they hosted, and Mexico’s failure to get out of the group stage (again), it’s not outrageous to question whether our neighbors to the north and south will commit to another cycle of funding. (Mexico had no players play in the NWSL this year, so they weren’t paying anyone’s salaries, but league commissioner Jeff Plush was quoted in this story as saying Mexico was committed going forward. I have not seen a similar statement by Canada – who started the season with 13 “subsidized players” – but if one exists, leave it in the comments, please.)
  • Having (apparently) hit on a business plan that provides enough stability to get the league out of its crib4 and existing at a time when the game itself is enjoying unprecedented exposure and acceptance5, it’s not a stretch to say the NWSL is in pretty good shape for the time being. There are still some challenges, and some opportunities (proving people – and not just MLS people – are willing to pony up for expansion teams would be a good start), but at least it doesn’t appear fans of the women’s pro game will have to sweat out the offseason wondering if there will be a next season.


The Fishing Line: Time Running Out

APBA home run

The Tarpons swarm Kole Calhoun at home plate after his game-ending home run to beat the Park City Pickers on August 2.

August may be looked back on as the month the Tampa Tarpons dropped out of contention for a playoff spot in their maiden season in TSL. With personnel changes designed to help the club make a move, the Tarpons instead turned in their first losing month (8-10) since a disastrous April, and go into September at 43-57, clinging to life in the postseason race. While just three games out of the final playoff spot, Tampa has to make up ground against tough opposition in the remaining three months of the season.

Three deadline acquisitions – catcher Dioner Navarro, who came from the Pickers in a deal that sent popular outfielder Carlos Gomez to Park City, and waiver pickups thirdbaseman Pablo Sandoval and outfielder Justin Ruggiano – were expected to stabilize trouble spots and spur the Tarpons to success. Sandoval moved into the full-time position at the hot corner and hit .240 for the month, but with 8 extra base hits and a game-ending RBI single against the Superbas on August 19, served notice he will be a key fixture there. Navarro hit just .169 in 19 games, but his nine walks were second on the club for the month and he quickly settled in and helped the staff pitch to a 3.52 ERA for the month. Ruggiano provided versatility and offense off the bench, getting five hits in 15 at bats in spot duty.

The month began with the Pickers taking three of five games at Al Lopez Field in a series in which the Tarpons rued missed opportunities. After an 11-4 loss in the opener in which ace Adam Wainwright had the worst outing of his season, Tampa won game two, 4-2, on a two-run, ninth-inning home run by Kole Calhoun. The young outfielder led the team for the month in runs (8), RBI (12), home runs (4) and total bases (37) after moving back into a starting role. But the excitement was short-lived as the Gamefish wasted excellent pitching performances the next two nights by Tyson Ross (7 hits and 3 runs in 7+ innings in a 4-3 loss) and Danny Duffy (a complete game six-hitter with 9 strikeouts in a 1-0 loss). Jarred Cosart continued to astonish by winning his seventh consecutive decision to close out the series with a 2-1 win.

The doldrums continued on an eight-game road trip, as Tampa managed just 15 runs in the next ten games (8 losses) at the Superbas and at the Pickers. The 2.8 runs per game scored for the month were the worst since April, but hopes are it was a short-term slump, as the team rebounded to score 28 runs in a 4-1 series win over the Superbas (including a 16-6 rout in the final game) upon returning to Tampa.

“We’re not out of this yet!” is the rallying cry, but time grows short with just 58 games to play. The club’s near-.500 record (39-41) since April won’t be good enough in September, October and November.

The New NASL Is Far More American Than The Original

NOTE: I’ll have to tweak this to make it more accurate. While it IS true this NASL is far more American than the previous one, at least some of the players listed as being foreign nationals were either actually born here or grew up here. The lesson, as always, is to hell with Wikipedia.

Inspired by something a friend mentioned over the weekend about his perceived paucity of American players in the current iteration of the North American Soccer League, I thought I would check to see just how American our second division league really is.

I had previously looked at the American quotient in the original league (which played from 1967-1984 and had varying quotas for North Americans in an effort to build up domestic players) and found that about 20% of the players in three “snapshot” seasons were US-born, and that about 14 percent of the minutes played in 1982 went to Americans.

Using the list of players at (which lists games, starts, minutes played and a few other stats, but may not have been updated through this weekend’s games) and team rosters, I studied how many Americans1 were on each of the league’s 11 teams, and how much they played.

Going strictly by the league-provided list, about 42% of players in the NASL2 have US citizenship (or “soccer citizenship”3, and about 47% of the players on the nine US-based teams are American. (I don’t really expect the two Canadian teams, Edmonton and Ottawa, to have a lot of Yanks on their rosters.) But 31 of the 115 players in question have played fewer than 90 minutes (basically, less than a game) and 14 haven’t played at all. (Some are on loan to other clubs, both in USL and MLS.) A total of 29 US players have been on the field for at least 1000 minutes this season (about 11 games’ worth, basically).

The breakdown is after the jump.

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Taking Attendance 8/3/2015: It’s Pro Time

Average league soccer attendance since 1996

Average announced attendance per game of the three professional levels in the US and Canada since 1996 shows a decided upward trajectory since 2003.

This week, we take a look at all 55 men’s professional clubs (in MLS, the NASL and the USL) to see where they all rank in terms of average attendance. While in the past there have been instances where lower-division clubs have drawn higher average announced attendances than an MLS club or two, the top twenty on this list are all in the top flight. The top lower-level club is not from the second-division NASL, but from the USL, where Sacramento Republic FC draws about a thousand more a night (in a slightly larger stadium) than the NASL’s Indy Eleven. In large part, though, this falls in line pretty well by division (and therefore, budget and capitalization and stadium size), with 19 of the bottom 20 coming from USL (and eight of those are MLS developmental squads, which have other priorities).

Rk Club Lg G Total Average Median High Low
1 Seattle Sounders MLS 12 495,889 41,324 40,299 53,125 39,175
2 Orlando City SC MLS 12 400,150 33,346 30,990 62,510 23,372
3 New York City FC MLS 12 347,531 28,961 26,833 48,047 20,461
4 Toronto FC MLS 7 167,844 23,978 24,895 30,226 16,382
5 San Jose Earthquakes MLS 9 212,646 23,627 18,000 50,422 18,000
6 Los Angeles Galaxy MLS 12 262,668 21,889 20,713 27,000 13,391
7 Portland Timbers MLS 11 232,554 21,141 21,144 21,144 21,114
8 Houston Dynamo MLS 11 228,620 20,784 21,046 22,651 16,018
9 Vancouver Whitecaps MLS 10 207,064 20,706 21,000 22,500 18,083
10 Real Salt Lake MLS 12 241,461 20,122 20,228 20,956 18,895
11 Sporting Kansas City MLS 11 218,273 19,843 19,784 21,505 18,864
12 New York Red Bulls MLS 9 169,988 18,888 20,053 25,217 12,540
13 New England Revolution MLS 12 213,246 17,771 16,793 28,811 10,668
14 Philadelphia Union MLS 12 212,573 17,714 18,047 18,883 15,374
15 Columbus Crew MLS 12 191,158 15,930 15,604 21,324 11,435
16 Montreal Impact MLS 9 141,923 15,769 15,304 25,245 10,035
17 Colorado Rapids MLS 11 173,175 15,743 15,585 18,597 11,450
18 Chicago Fire MLS 12 185,706 15,476 14,733 20,124 11,833
19 FC Dallas MLS 11 169,676 15,425 15,236 19,140 12,640
20 DC United MLS 13 195,455 15,035 16,221 19,125 11,218
21 Sacramento Republic FC USL 10 112,748 11,275 11,342 11,442 10,906
22 Indy Eleven NASL 8 81,467 10,183 10,216 10,524 9,629
23 Minnesota United NASL 7 64,404 9,201 9,233 9,412 9,012
24 Jacksonville Armada NASL 7 63,798 9,114 8,167 16,164 6,847
25 San Antonio Scorpions NASL 8 52,020 6,503 6,716 7,636 4,912
26 Louisville City FC USL 10 63,905 6,391 6,368 8,254 4,772
27 New York Cosmos NASL 7 41,747 5,964 5,032 12,550 3,383
28 Rochester Rhinos USL 8 45,812 5,727 5,687 6,922 4,251
29 Tampa Bay Rowdies NASL 8 45,491 5,686 5,478 7,010 4,217
30 Ft. Lauderdale Strikers NASL 7 38,852 5,550 4,883 11,691 3,283
31 Atlanta Silverbacks NASL 6 28,516 4,753 4,727 5,511 3,841
32 Tulsa Roughnecks FC USL 11 52,028 4,730 4,210 8,335 3,189
33 Saint Louis FC USL 10 47,140 4,714 4,763 5,304 4,004
34 Carolina Railhawks NASL 9 42,302 4,700 4,489 7,217 3,055
35 Ottawa Fury NASL 9 41,042 4,560 5,064 6,150 3,023
36 OKC Energy FC USL 10 43,750 4,375 4,337 6,797 3,133
37 Charleston Battery USL 11 44,449 4,041 4,188 5,638 3,026
38 Real Monarchs SLC USL 9 35,639 3,960 3,012 11,003 1,001
39 Richmond Kickers USL 10 33,722 3,372 3,059 5,580 1,632
40 Arizona United SC USL 9 30,014 3,335 3,144 6,108 1,884
41 Austin Aztex USL 11 33,190 3,017 2,880 5,146 1,439
42 Portland Timbers 2 USL 9 26,616 2,957 2,728 4,944 1,734
43 Wilmington Hammerheads FC USL 9 26,003 2,889 2,781 4,265 1,789
44 Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC USL 10 26,665 2,667 2,519 3,726 2,012
45 FC Edmonton NASL 8 20,791 2,599 2,422 4,232 1,112
46 Pittsburgh Riverhounds USL 11 27,822 2,529 2,274 3,801 995
47 Harrisburg City Islanders USL 8 19,554 2,444 2,435 3,024 2,022
48 Seattle Sounders FC 2 USL 10 22,357 2,236 2,142 2,951 1,789
49 Charlotte Independence USL 10 17,728 1,773 1,768 2,241 1,271
50 Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 USL 11 19,307 1,755 1,453 3,208 1,106
51 Orange County Blues FC USL 10 11,567 1,157 907 3,000 674
52 LA Galaxy II USL 11 9,729 884 727 1,352 507
53 New York Red Bulls II USL 11 6,103 555 538 1,028 191
54 Toronto FC II USL 8 4,138 517 510 986 50
55 FC Montreal USL 10 3,565 357 262 1,301 112


  • The highest-scoring day in MLS history was also a good one at the turnstiles, as the eight games averaged 25,421 in attendance, led by Seattle’s 53,125. New York City (27,645), Orlando (26,586) and New England (21,362) all cracked 20k. Fully half the league (with Sporting KC and the New York Red Bulls right on the cusp) are averaging 20,000 per game in MLS’ 20th season.
  • The NASL’s five weekend matches averaged 5,760. Indianapolis’ crowd of 9,632 marked the second time in three home games they’ve failed to crack 10k, though they’re still leading the league by almost a thousand a game over Minnesota. Edmonton (which can’t be long for this world, or at least this division) played another game in the remote outpost of Fort McMurray, six hours north of Edmonton, and drew 1,626.1 The NASL is still on pace to draw over a million for its fifth season. Average league attendance in the second half2 of its split season is down just less than a thousand a game from the spring part.
  • For its 13 games from Friday to Sunday, the USL drew 54,838 fans, an average of 4,218. The third tier is also on pace to draw a million, which has never happened in the third division, either. Sacramento continues to lead the way, but first-year clubs in Louisville, Tulsa and Saint Louis have drawn well. Meanwhile, Charlotte’s USL team had a season-high (for their temporary venue, at least) crowd of 2,145 on Saturday night, a week after Chelsea and PSG drew 62k across town. I’m not sure – as at least one local exec seems to think – that MLS is “pretty realistic” for Charlotte (they’re behind a lot of other folks), but we’ll give them time to see how they continue to build their organization and fan base.
  • Combined, the three leagues have drawn just under six million people to this point, with MLS averaging 21,256, the NASL averaging 6,196 and the USL bringing in 3,222 per game.
  • EDIT to add the chart above. If anyone needs another indication of the rising popularity of outdoor club soccer in this country, show them this. The three professional levels have seen crowds rising dramatically since 2000 (when the combined average was just under 17k), and even more so in recent seasons. You can also see from this chart that the second division (which has gone by many names and masters over the years) still has a wide gap to close between itself and MLS. (In fact, the gap between the second and third divisions is far smaller. Pro/rel that.)
  • EDIT to add: The Portland Thorns of the NWSL would rank 21st on this list, if it included pro women’s teams. It does not. But a future list (like one I did last year, which is still the most-trafficked post on this site) will include everybody. Sit tight.
  • EDIT to add: Chattanooga FC of the NPSL broke the league’s attendance record with a playoff crowd of 9,236 over the weekend. While they are not a pro team and the NPSL’s attendance numbers are notoriously hard to come by, Chattanooga has done really well on and off the field and could be a candidate for a move to the pros. (Along with Detroit City FC, which averaged 3,527 at home this season.)

EDIT TO ADD: There were 59 professional teams between the three levels in 2000. Here’s what a similar chart would have looked like then:

Rk Team League G Total Avg.
1 Los Angeles Galaxy MLS 16 326,392 20,400
2 DC United MLS 16 297,279 18,580
3 MetroStars MLS 16 281,938 17,621
4 New England Revolution MLS 16 247,409 15,463
5 Columbus Crew MLS 16 247,220 15,451
6 Chicago Fire MLS 16 214,189 13,387
7 Dallas Burn MLS 16 209,637 13,102
8 Colorado Rapids MLS 16 201,281 12,580
9 San Jose Earthquakes MLS 16 199,364 12,460
10 Rochester Raging Rhinos A-League 15 174,426 11,628
11 Tampa Bay Mutiny MLS 16 151,232 9,452
12 Kansas City Wizards MLS 16 145,793 9,112
13 Miami Fusion MLS 16 119,352 7,460
14 New Jersey Stallions D3 Pro 10 41,203 4,120
15 Vancouver 86ers A-League 15 59,378 3,959
16 Pittsburgh Riverhounds A-League 14 53,308 3,808
17 Milwaukee Rampage A-League 15 54,816 3,654
18 Minnesota Thunder A-League 15 53,813 3,588
19 Charleston Battery A-League 14 48,795 3,485
20 Atlanta Silverbacks A-League 12 39,925 3,327
21 El Paso Patriots A-League 15 49,230 3,282
22 Utah Blitzz D3 Pro 10 29,965 2,997
23 San Diego Flash A-League 15 41,802 2,787
24 Toronto Lynx A-League 14 36,681 2,620
25 Hampton Roads Mariners A-League 14 35,749 2,554
26 Montreal Impact A-League 15 35,069 2,338
27 Western Mass Pioneers D3 Pro 10 23,129 2,313
28 Hershey Wildcats A-League 15 33,211 2,214
29 Richmond Kickers A-League 15 32,874 2,192
30 Seattle Sounders A-League 14 29,997 2,143
31 Long Island Rough Riders A-League 13 25,648 1,973
32 New Hampshire Phantoms D3 Pro 10 18,450 1,845
33 Indiana Blast A-League 14 25,147 1,796
34 Chico Rooks D3 Pro 9 14,516 1,613
35 Wilmington Hammerheads D3 Pro 9 13,556 1,506
36 Connecticut Wolves A-League 14 18,555 1,325
37 South Jersey Barons D3 Pro 10 13,181 1,318
38 Charlotte Eagles D3 Pro 10 12,317 1,232
39 Houston Hurricanes D3 Pro 10 11,581 1,158
40 Orange County Waves A-League 13 13,777 1,060
41 Riverside County Elite D3 Pro 10 9,908 991
42 Bay Area Seals A-League 15 14,687 979
43 Arizona Sahuaros D3 Pro 10 8,679 868
44 Stanislaus United Cruisers D3 Pro 10 8,499 850
45 Raleigh Capital Express A-League 14 11,872 848
46 Carolina Dynamo D3 Pro 10 8,393 839
47 Tennessee Rhythm A-League 14 10,896 778
48 Reading Rage D3 Pro 10 7,514 751
49 Boston Bulldogs A-League 14 9,269 662
50 Rhode Island Stingrays D3 Pro 10 6,237 624
51 Tucson Fireballs D3 Pro 10 5,617 562
52 Cape Cod Crusaders D3 Pro 9 4,982 554
53 Cincinnati Riverhawks A-League 13 6,321 486
54 Austin Lone Stars D3 Pro 10 4,470 447
55 Northern Virginia Royals D3 Pro 7 2,973 425
56 Delaware Wizards D3 Pro 10 3,818 382
57 Roanoke Wrath D3 Pro 9 3,355 373
58 Texas Rattlers D3 Pro 8 2,525 316

Then, the 30th-ranked pro team in terms of average attendance (Seattle, then in the A-League) averaged 2,143. The 30th-ranked club at the moment (Ft. Lauderdale) averages 5,550. The 50th-ranked in 2000 averaged 624. Today the 50th-ranked is at 1,755. Only one team (the Galaxy) averaged 20k in 2000. Today, ten clubs are at or above that figure. Back then, 15 of the top 55 were averaging under 1,000. Today, four clubs are.


The Fishing Line: Halfway And Hoping

Tampa TarponsA second straight .500 month has the Tampa Tarpons treading water in a powerful current that threatens their postseason chances. Another 10 games (and 3-7 record) against division foes Carolina made July a challenge, but a 4-1 series win at home and a 3-2 series victory on the road against The Superbas has Tampa optimistic about the second half of the season. Tampa enters August just three games out of the final playoff position in the league, but four other teams are within four games of that coveted spot.

The Tarpons will be thrilled to not have to see Speerits’ CF Mike Trout until November after he crushed them again with a .359 average (14-for-39) in 10 games, with 3 homers, 8 RBI and a .769 slugging percentage. On Independence Day at Al Lopez Field, Trout supplied the fireworks with a 3-for-4, 3 runs scored day in a 4-1 win that was part of a 4-1 series win for Carolina. The Speerits’ biggest fish then cranked out 7 hits in 19 at bats, with two more home runs, as Carolina took three out of five at home. With Trout hitting .350/.813/.416 with 9 home runs in 20 games this season against the Tarpons, it’s no wonder the Speerits have gone 15-5 versus Tampa. (The Tarpons, incidentally, are an even-steven 30-30 against the rest of the league.)

A trip to upstate New York saw the Gamefish take three of five from The Superbas, with an extra-innings win in the opener – thanks to a two-run Miguel Cabrera double in the 11th – setting the stage for a tight series. Tampa took three of the five games.

Pitching was key to the Tarpons taking four of five from The Superbas on their first visit to Tampa in late July. Starters Adam Wainwright (the subject of trade overtures throughout the month), Jered Weaver (a team-record 13 strikeouts on July 20) and Danny Duffy (a five-hit shutout on July 22) all won games. Al Alburquerque earned two of his seven July saves during the series and five of seven in the 10 games against The Superbas.

First-round draft pick Dee Gordon had a breakthrough month, hitting .338 (25-for-74) with 10 runs scored and 15 stolen bases in 20 games, giving him 30 steals in 31 attempts on the season. DH Adam Lind had another big month, hitting .346 in 14 games with 9 doubles, but will be lost to the team until October with a back injury that will require surgery. And recent waiver acquisition RHP Jarred Cosart continues to be a revelation, with a 2-0 mark and 1.69 ERA in four July starts, pushing his season record to 6-0 with a 2.05 ERA. (Not bad for a B2(W).)

A trade and the waiver wire brought three new players who will be counted on for big things the rest of the way: CF and fan favorite Carlos Gomez (.229/9 HR/26 RBI ) was dealt to Park City, with switch-hitting C Dioner Navarro coming to Tampa to address the catching situation. (Tarpons catchers have hit a combined .160, with Alex Avila’s 4-for-51 July an example of how badly Tampa receivers have struggled.) Waiver pickup 3B Pablo Sandoval should bring stability to the hot corner (where four players have seen time, with none distinguishing themselves), while OF Justin Ruggiano brings another righthanded bat, speed and guile to the bench.

At 35-45 with 78 games to play, the Tarpons have to make a move soon. With August games against the division rival Pickers and Superbas, the opportunity is there for the taking.

Seahawks Are Super…Again

NFL training camps are about to open, and I’ve done something I have not done in a couple of decades, maybe more: play the APBA Pro League Football Game. (I’ve been playing the company’s baseball game – again – for a while now, but its football offering was my gateway drug into this tabletop gaming thing back in 1980, and I’ve just recently purchased a new copy of the game.)

The game I bought comes with four teams: the Super Bowl combatants from the 2013 season (Seattle and Denver) and the BCS Championship Game opponents from that same year (Florida State and Auburn). I decided to make my first foray back into APBA Football a replay of Super Bowl XLVIII. The title of this post probably gave it away, but you can see what happened after the jump.

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