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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 8 157,448 19,681 20,058 25,217 15,844
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


NOTES:

  • 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.)

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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

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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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Taking Attendance 7/20/2015: One Giant Leap For Division III

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Forty-six years after Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, the United Soccer League is going where no Division III soccer league has gone before. The USL currently projects to draw over a million fans in total for the 2015 season, something that’s never happened at the DIII level.1

Through games of July 19, here’s a look at announced USL attendance numbers:

Team G Total Average Median High Low
Sacramento Republic FC 9 101,306 11,256 11,242 11,442 10,906
Louisville City FC 10 63,905 6,391 6,368 8,254 4,772
Rochester Rhinos *6 33,701 5,617 5,682 6,896 4,251
Tulsa Roughnecks FC 9 42,899 4,767 4,210 8,335 3,189
Saint Louis FC 9 41,836 4,648 4,742 5,280 4,004
OKC Energy FC 9 39,774 4,419 4,383 6,797 3,133
Charleston Battery 10 38,811 3,881 3,818 5,455 3,026
Real Monarchs SLC 8 29,848 3,731 2,814 11,003 1,001
Arizona United SC 8 26,697 3,337 3,116 6,108 1,884
Richmond Kickers 9 28,142 3,127 2,954 4,683 1,632
Portland Timbers 2 8 24,882 3,110 2,830 4,944 2,410
Wilmington Hammerheads FC 8 22,630 2,829 2,702 4,265 1,789
Austin Aztex 10 28,044 2,804 2,823 4,105 1,439
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC 9 23,975 2,664 2,348 3,726 2,012
Harrisburg City Islanders 7 17,532 2,505 2,589 3,024 2,177
Pittsburgh Riverhounds *9 21,214 2,357 2,244 3,638 995
Seattle Sounders FC 2 9 19,888 2,210 2,118 2,951 1,789
Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 10 18,201 1,820 1,478 3,208 1,128
Charlotte Independence 8 14,081 1,760 1,768 2,241 1,271
Orange County Blues FC 9 10,843 1,205 958 3,000 674
LA Galaxy II 11 9,729 884 727 1,352 507
Toronto FC II 5 3,020 604 565 986 50
New York Red Bulls II 9 5,274 586 538 1,028 355
FC Montreal 10 3,565 357 262 1,301 112
USL TOTAL 209 669,797 3,205 2,781 11,442 50
*Missing One Game


NOTES:

  • USL has already broken the total attendance record it set last year (623,019) and, if every team holds its current average, would draw a total of 1,076,162 for the season. (That could change a bit – two data points are missing and hopefully will show up soon.) The projected (and current) average of 3,205 would also be the highest in DIII history.
  • Sacramento is on pace to draw ever-so-slightly less this year than last, but they did not have the advantage of a few early games in a much larger stadium this year.
  • First-year clubs Louisville, Tulsa and Saint Louis are drawing very well, while fellow expansionist Real Monarchs recently 11.003 for a match against Austin. On the flip side, most of the MLS developmental squads whose main purpose is development are at the bottom of the attendance list. FC Montreal, New York Red Bulls II, Toronto FC II and LA Galaxy II are drawing <1,000 a game. Portland Timbers II are at 3,110. Overall, the MLS2 squads are averaging 1,634, while the "independent" teams are just under 4,000 a game (at 3,996). Toronto's announced crowd of 50 (five-oh) on June 27 is the smallest in the league this year.[note]In fact, it is the smallest announced DIII crowd I can find, going back to 2004.[/note]
  • Sacramento helps, obviously, but even without the Republic, USL is averaging 2,842 per game, which would still be the second-highest in DIII history.
  • USL announced a new club in Edinburg, Texas last week that will begin play next season, bringing the number of clubs in the league to 25. An existing club, Detroit City FC of the NPSL, also has designs on a potential move up for 2016. Just for comparisons, DCFC drew an average of 3,527 fans to its six home league matches this summer, which would have ranked them ninth in the table above. (Keep in mind, amateur teams that attempt that move have, historically, struggled with it.)

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Taking Attendance 7/13/2015: Leading Ladies

Now that the US Women’s National Team has won its third World Cup, the big question is whether or not the euphoria over the USA’s first championship since 1999 will carry over and result in increased interest in the women’s club game on these shores. As you may recall, the Women’s United Soccer Association was born out of the glow from the 1999 Women’s World Cup here in the States, but the WUSA only lasted three years (folding on the eve of the hastily relocated 2003 Women’s World Cup). The second attempt at a pro league, Women’s Pro Soccer, saw a bump in interest and attendance in the aftermath of the USA’s runner-up finish in Germany in 2011, but it was too little, too late to save a league with a flawed business plan. The National Women’s Soccer League is the third (and maybe final) recent shot for women’s pro soccer here, and it has had a better plan (with the US, Canadian and Mexican federations kicking in for the salaries of their national team players, and the involvement of Major League Soccer clubs in Portland and Houston). Now the NWSL has the opportunity to capitalize on the interest, but only a short window to make the most of it, as their season will be over in a little more than two months.

So to check in on the domestic women’s club scene, after the jump are attendance figures for the professional NWSL and the USL’s amateur W-League (the longest-running women’s league we have, dating back 20 years), as of this weekend’s matches:
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The Fishing Line: Fortune .500

Tampa TarponsContinuing their steady, if not spectacular, play since the season’s first month, the Tampa Tarpons went 5-5 both at home and on the road in June to get to 25-35 just over a third of the way through their first season. The 10-10 month featured series wins at the Slammers and at home against the Whalers, and were it not for Al Alburquerque allowing a game-winning grand slam to Jose Bautista in the ninth of the first game, the Gamefish would have taken three of five from the defending league champion Polecats as well. Aside from that defeat, Alburquerque was lights out, saving six of the Tarpons’ ten victories, while waiver pickup Jarred Cosart proved to be a find by going 4-0 with a 2.42 ERA and, perhaps most surprisingly, only 6 walks in 26 innings. The staff pitched to an ERA of 3.69 for the month, lowering the overall ERA by nearly a run per game for the season.

DH/1B/3B Miguel Cabrera has rebounded from a sub-par April to pace the Tarpons’ offense since. The slugger had an outstanding June, earning co-TSL Player of the Month honors after hitting .343 (24-for-70) with 5 HR, 15 RBI and 14 walks. Cabrera now leads Tampa in hitting at .283 with 10 HR and 32 RBI. His eighth-inning two-run home run gave the Tarpons a dramatic 3-2 win over the Whalers on June 19 and was the big hit of the month. Tampa continues to struggle to generate offense from elsewhere in the lineup, however.

The Tarpons figure to be active in the July trading window, with the third base and catching positions still question marks and back-end bullpen help lacking. Some players currently at AAA Durham may get their first action of the season next month as Tampa continues to look for the winning formula that can keep them within striking distance of the postseason.

Taking Attendance 6/29/2015: Amateur Status

We now get our first look this season at the attendance numbers for the USL’s Premier Development League (PDL), which gives (mostly) college players the chance to hone their skills in a high-level summer league while retaining their NCAA eligibility.

A caveat: PDL numbers are always a bit of a challenge because of the varying levels of sophistication of amateur club front offices. Some clubs are making do with what they have and concentrate on providing an opportunity for (mostly) local players to develop, while others have the resources to have more robust staffs and make their attendance figures available regularly.1

You’ll see in the chart below many teams have symbols next to their number of home games, signifying how many of their attendance figures have not been reported. Many of them never will be, and that’s just the nature of the beast. Through yesterday’s games, I have about 74% of this season’s figures2

The glaring omission is Des Moines, where the Menace have been in the top two in average announced attendance every year since 1999. They have yet to announce a figure for any of their home games this season (at least that I can find).

So with those caveats, after the jump are what I believe are the most complete and accurate PDL attendance numbers you’ll find anywhere, through games of Sunday, June 28.

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A Choice To Make

You and I have a choice to make. You, me, all of us.

In the wake of yet another mass shooting, we must choose.

Either we decide now, today, that we are not going to stand for this anymore, that we are going to heal the wounds of hatred that beget violence, or we accept that innocent people are going to die senseless, violent deaths at random intervals in what professes to be the greatest nation on Earth.

If we choose to do something, it will take much more than posting memes on Facebook or retweeting people who already agree with your point of view. It’s going to take each of us deciding that hatred and violence have no place here. If you have been taught that people who have a different skin color than you or who worship a different God or in a different way than you, or who live in a different place, vote for different ideas, love differently or support different teams than you do or who hold jobs you feel aren’t worthy of being paid a living wage somehow don’t matter, you’ve been taught wrong. Each of us needs to say, “Enough.”

But if we choose the slaughter of innocents as nothing more than the cost of living in a free society, eventually someone you care about will become a victim, too.

You may think, “I don’t live in Charleston. That doesn’t impact me.”

But it does. It impacts all of us.

We all lost sisters and brothers this week. And not just in Charleston, but in Chicago and Los Angeles and Baltimore and lots of other places where you think it can’t happen. But it does. Every day.

Hatred and fear are keeping us from being the truly great nation we can and ought to be. And those whose livelihoods depend on you remaining hateful and afraid are fueling the divisions that result in tragedy.

It has to start with us. No legislative body, no president, no clergyman, no commentator, no law can make the hatred and fear go away. If we decide, each of us, that we are no longer going to hate, that we are no longer going to be ruled by fear, no special interest group, no check written to a campaign fund and no vitriolic television channel can keep us from healing as a people.

Chris Singleton, whose mother, 45-year old speech therapist and high school track and field coach Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, was one of the victims in Charleston, put it best:

“Love is always stronger than hate. If we just love the way my mom would, the hate won’t be anywhere close to what love is.”

What will you choose? And when?

Taking Attendance 6/15/2015: NASL On Pace To Draw A Million

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With its spring season now in the books, the North American Soccer League will take a short break before resuming play with its fall schedule over Independence Day weekend. Here’s a look at the attendance numbers for the 10-game spring season, won by the New York Cosmos (whose Saturday crowd of 7,353 vs. Jacksonville is pictured above, courtesy of David Kilpatrick).

Team G Total Average Median High Low
Indy Eleven 5 52,000 10,400 10,524 10,524 10,202
Jacksonville Armada 5 48,784 9,757 8,318 16,164 7,586
Minnesota United 5 45,962 9,192 9,233 9,342 9,012
New York Cosmos 5 33,597 6,719 5,279 12,550 3,383
San Antonio Scorpions 5 32,385 6,477 6,709 7,252 5,305
Ft. Lauderdale Strikers 5 31,753 6,351 5,083 11,691 4,801
Tampa Bay Rowdies 5 28,499 5,700 5,460 7,010 4,217
Carolina Railhawks 5 25,801 5,160 4,863 7,217 4,042
Atlanta Silverbacks 5 23,799 4,760 4,736 5,511 3,841
Ottawa Fury 5 21,886 4,377 5,064 5,245 3,023
FC Edmonton 5 13,821 2,764 2,492 3,756 2,236
NASL TOTAL 55 358,287 6,514 5,305 16,164 2,236

NOTES:

  • If every club in the league holds its current average1, the NASL would draw 1,074,861 fans for the 2015 campaign. No Division II league has ever drawn a million for a season2.
  • The 2014 spring season average was 5,346, and they saw a slight bump in the fall (to 5,608). With this spring running 22% above last year’s, there are plenty of reasons for optimism, despite the well-publicized issues regarding Traffic USA.
  • Most teams were up, average-wise, year-over-year versus last spring. Ft. Lauderdale (up 66%, thanks to a huge home opener), Minnesota (up 65%), Ottawa (up 63% largely because they played last spring in a smaller venue) and New York (up 33%) saw big gains, while and Tampa Bay (up 14%) was also up. Atlanta, Indy and San Antonio were virtually unchanged from last spring (Carolina was down just 4%) and Edmonton (down 23%) is the only real red flag.
  • Miami FC and Puerto Rico FC3 have already been announced as expansion clubs for next year4. Supposedly there will be more new clubs announced by season’s end, presumably for starts in 2017.

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Something To Play For

me_klinsi_smallerAs he is wont to do, US Men’s National Team Coach Jurgen Klinsmann has offered another “Here’s how Major League Soccer should run its business” take, this time telling German paper Rheinische Post that he intently followed the relegation battle of his hometown club, VfB Stuttgart and that there would be many benefits to American soccer if we’d only mimic that setup:

“I got up at half-past six in the morning to see their [final] match [of the season] in Paderborn. That clubs like Stuttgart were down there, shows how close the Bundesliga is, how much quality it has. This thrill of the relegation battle is nonexistent in the U.S. league. The risk for club investors to all of a sudden play in the second league would be too high. But the sporting side would benefit from it. Our players from Europe know that. That furthers our national team. Something is at stake week in, week out. Be it at the top or at the bottom, you always have to perform.”

I’m sure this is catnip to the prawns who latch onto any prominent soccer person’s statement of support for promotion and relegation and trumpet it to the heavens, but a few points should be noted on this:
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