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First MLS Attendance Report Of 2010 And The Myth Of The World Cup Bounce

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Now that Toronto has become the last MLS team to have its home opener, here’s a look at where each team stands, attendance-wise, in the early going:

Team G Total Average Median High Low
Seattle Sounders FC 2 72,307 36,154 36,154 36,241 36,066
Philadelphia Union 1 34,870 34,870 34,870 34,870 34,870
New York Red Bulls 1 24,572 24,572 24,572 24,572 24,572
Toronto FC 1 21,978 21,978 21,978 21,978 21,978
DC United 1 20,664 20,664 20,664 20,664 20,664
Los Angeles Galaxy 2 41,181 20,591 20,591 21,376 19,805
Chicago Fire 1 20,276 20,276 20,276 20,276 20,276
Real Salt Lake 1 19,770 19,770 19,770 19,770 19,770
Houston Dynamo 2 34,656 17,328 17,328 18,197 16,459
Chivas USA 2 31,250 15,625 15,625 18,653 12,597
Columbus Crew 1 13,536 13,536 13,536 13,536 13,536
New England Revolution 1 12,798 12,798 12,798 12,798 12,798
Colorado Rapids 1 11,641 11,641 11,641 11,641 11,641
San Jose Earthquakes 1 10,589 10,589 10,589 10,589 10,589
Kansas City Wizards 2 20,613 10,307 10,307 10,385 10,228
FC Dallas 2 18,572 9,286 9,286 10,556 8,016
MLS TOTAL 22 409,273 18,603 18,425 36,241 8,016

Last year through 22 games, the average was 14,696. Home openers averaged 15,334 last year and 18,973 this year (thanks to Philadelphia’s inaugural home game, Toronto’s record crowd and Red Bull Arena opening).

Another note on MLS attendance, because you’re going to see the phrase “World Cup Bump” bandied around a bit when people talk about the league’s crowd figures: there’s no real evidence that one exists. Here are the figures from each of the last three World Cups (the only ones that have been played since MLS began play in 1996) (EDIT FOR ANYONE COMING IN FROM THIS REALLY GOOD STORY FROM GRANTLAND, I’VE NOW INCLUDED THE 2010 NUMBERS. TIME WARP.)

1998 World Cup G Total Average Median
Pre 82 1,221,296 14,894 11,967
During 27 421,034 15,594 12,372
Post 83 1,105,567 13,320 11,319
2002 World Cup G Total Average Median
Pre 45 741,743 16,483 14,065
During 25 325,276 13,011 12,721
Post 70 1,147,859 16,398 14,581
2006 World Cup G Total Average Median
Pre 60 963,446 16,057 14,916
During 40 527,908 13,198 11,925
Post 92 1,485,069 16,142 14,602
2010 World Cup G Total Average Median
Pre 93 1,531,922 16,472 14,287
During 24 413,479 17,228 16,228
Post 123 2,056,652 16,721 16,128

While it is true that in 2006 and 2002, MLS average attendance did increase after the World Cup (when compared to attendance during the World Cup), the fact that it returned (almost exactly) to pre-World Cup levels tells me that it’s an artificial effect. What you’re actually seeing is people appearing to be less likely to attend MLS games during the World Cup than before or after it (see below). It doesn’t appear as if the interest in soccer that spikes (understandably) during FIFA’s quadrennial celebration makes people particularly more likely to attend MLS matches in the months that follow. (2012 EDIT: The 2010 numbers show MLS games – in a much smaller sample as the league took the group stage off – to be well-attended during the World Cup, and to have a very slight bump post-World Cup, but still on par with the pre-South Africa numbers.)

And if you’ve followed MLS attendance over the years (as I have), you’ve seen that the mid-summer is when things tend to bottom out anyway. In the general period where the World Cup normally tends to be played, MLS average and median attendance is normally at its lowest, so the effect is not abnormal in any respect. In fact, if you take out the games of July 4 each year (which – at least in the days of really huge stadiums – tended to skew July’s numbers quite a bit), you get perfectly concave graphs for both average and median:

MLS is taking the group stage of this year’s World Cup off (Perhaps teams will play US Open Cup matches – I don’t know, they haven’t announced the format for this year’s tournament yet), so we’ll see what happens to the numbers.

Written by admin

April 16th, 2010 at 1:10 pm