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Taking Attendance, 5/2/2011

Thanks to those of you who pointed out some typos and transpositions in last week’s tables. Here’s the latest offering, through games of yesterday:

THE MLS G Total Avg. Median High Low
Seattle 4 145,147 36,287 36,255 36,433 36,204
Los Angeles 3 75,717 25,239 24,998 27,000 23,719
DC United 3 62,806 20,935 18,132 26,622 18,052
Vancouver 5 104,315 20,863 20,809 22,592 19,396
Toronto 5 97,965 19,593 20,086 22,453 16,313
Portland 3 55,881 18,627 18,627 18,627 18,627
Salt Lake 2 36,020 18,010 18,010 20,507 15,513
Philadelphia 4 71,046 17,762 18,435 19,027 15,149
New York 4 69,590 17,398 17,472 20,982 13,664
Houston 4 67,185 16,796 17,281 20,577 12,047
Dallas 4 65,295 16,324 16,203 21,867 11,022
Chivas USA 4 58,592 14,648 13,722 18,122 13,027
Chicago 3 42,833 14,278 12,473 18,203 12,157
Colorado 4 52,970 13,243 12,987 17,139 9,857
Columbus 4 43,848 10,962 10,802 14,549 7,695
San Jose 4 40,254 10,064 10,401 10,525 8,928
New England 4 39,412 9,853 9,692 12,914 7,114
Kansas City 0 0 0 0 0 0
MLS TOTAL 64 1,128,876 17,639 18,127 36,433 7,114
NASL G Total Avg. Median High Low
Montreal 1 12,060 12,060 12,060 12,060 12,060
Ft. Lauderdale 2 10,844 5,422 5,422 6,402 4,442
Tampa Bay 3 10,095 3,365 3,021 4,161 2,913
Atlanta 3 9,931 3,310 3,227 3,543 3,161
Puerto Rico 2 5,374 2,687 2,687 2,692 2,682
Edmonton 1 2,631 2,631 2,631 2,631 2,631
Carolina 3 4,416 1,472 1,219 2,016 1,181
Minnesota 1 1,431 1,431 1,431 1,431 1,431
NASL TOTAL 16 56,782 3,549 2,967 12,060 1,181
USL-Pro G Total Avg. Median High Low
Orlando 2 15,212 7,606 7,606 7,933 7,279
Antigua *1 6,000 6,000 6,000 6,000 6,000
Charleston 2 8,162 4,081 4,081 4,083 4,079
Wilmington 2 4,908 2,454 2,454 2,984 1,924
New York 1 2,011 2,011 2,011 2,011 2,011
Richmond 4 6,917 1,729 1,742 2,049 1,385
Pittsburgh 1 1,004 1,004 1,004 1,004 1,004
Charlotte 3 2,868 956 938 1,076 854
Dayton 3 2,269 756 625 1,044 600
Los Angeles 1 696 696 696 696 696
River Plate PR 3 570 190 128 315 127
Puerto Rico Utd *2 210 105 105 105 105
Sevilla FC PR #0 0 0 0 0 0
Harrisburg 0 0 0 0 0 0
Rochester 0 0 0 0 0 0
USL PRO TOTALS 25 50,827 2,033 1,076 7,933 105
*Missing two games
#Missing one game
WPS G Total Avg. Median High Low
Atlanta 3 10,457 3,486 3,380 4,002 3,075
Boston 2 6,947 3,474 3,474 4,158 2,789
Sky Blue FC 1 2,910 2,910 2,910 2,910 2,910
Western NY 1 2,164 2,164 2,164 2,164 2,164
magicJack 2 2,232 1,116 1,116 1,224 1,008
Philadelphia 0 0 0 0 0 0
WPS TOTAL 9 24,710 2,746 2,910 4,158 1,008


  • Now every team in the NASL has had at least one home game. The real surprise is Ft. Lauderdale, where, if they can keep up the type of boost their rebranding has apparently played a part in, they might be the flagship franchise. The others are about what you’d expect. Montreal is going to lead the league. I don’t know why people are crowing about Atlanta drawing at least 3k to their first three games – that’s better than Atlanta got before their hiatus, but it’s still below the historical average for Division II (3,434 from 1994-2010). And the Silverbacks are being outdrawn by the WPS team that plays 27 miles away. Edmonton drew 2,631 to their home league opener at 3,500-seat Foote Field, but their 5-0 defeat won’t help them sell tickets going forward. And Tampa Bay’s average attendance is off 41 percent from a year ago when they were playing on the other side of the Bay. Which is odd, because I was assured they’d be huge in St. Petersburg and sell out every game.
  • Speaking of the NASL, now that every team has had a home game, we can look at something I’m trying out: projecting the league attendance based on the number of remaining home games for each club and their projected totals. Basically, it asks the question, “if every team in the league keeps its current average for the remainder of its home games, what would the league attendance be?” As different teams have different numbers of games left at any given point in the season, it’s a way to look at where we are and how outlier teams like Montreal can impact the sample. The NASL projects out to a total of 397,474, an average of 3,312. Which would be the lowest for a DII league since 2002. I’ll keep an eye on this as the season goes along and project for the other leagues once everybody has a home game.
  • Despite what you might have heard somewhere, D3 numbers aren’t particularly harder to come by this year than in previous years. The only missing games are from the Caribbean teams, which comes as no surprise to anyone who understands that, infrastructurally, those teams are going to be behind the times. Charleston continues to draw well (4,079 this weekend), showing there are places where the level of play is less important than just having an established team. FC New York, which many (including me) doubted would ever play a game, announced 2,011 (could have been a deliberately made-up number) for its home opener. Wilmington drew 2,984 for its second home game. And Los Angeles drew 696 for its home debut. Obviously, that’s a tough market.
  • WPS had a rough weekend, with the new Western New York Flash drawing just 2,164 for its home inaugural in Rochester. It’s time for us now to admit that Marta, as great as she is, does not resonate. She does not sell tickets. It’s not happening. And magicJack drew just 1,008 (The Sun-Sentinel’s Jeff Rusnak said the actual crowd was about half that, right after he was denied the opportunity to interview players and coaches). More on magicJack later, but that’s not a good sign. At all.
  • MLS passed the one million mark in attendance for the season as of the Columbus game Saturday (which drew just 11,298 to Crew Stadium – Massive Club, right?) and is averaging 17,639. Final numbers for April show an average of 16,858 – down quite a bit from March’s 19,225. Still, the league is going to draw over four million when all is said and done.
  • Dallas announced a season-high 21,867 for its rain-interrupted match against the Galaxy last night. It’s the Hoops’ second announced crowd over 20k for the season, and in neither case did they have anything like 20k in the building.
  • And here’s an interesting note from the PDL, which began its season with two games this past weekend (not enough to do a chart on): the Fresno Fuego, which has been near the top of the PDL attendance standings in recent years, will charge no admission price for its tickets this season. A sponsor is picking up the cost, meaning the club is getting something out of the deal. You used to see this done on an occasional basis throughout a minor-league baseball season, but I’ve never heard of a team doing it for an entire season (though it’s only eight games). The Fuego announced a crowd of 7,853 for a 0-0 draw against LA Blues 23. Overall, I’m not a fan of this strategy, because sponsors come and go. People who care about your team should care enough to pay to watch it play. I think they’re conditioning their market to pay nothing for their tickets. We’ll see how it plays out.

20 Responses to Taking Attendance, 5/2/2011

  1. The MLS?

  2. Kenn,

    Regarding the Rowdies, the people who assured you that they would sell out every game by playing in St. Pete instead of Tampa must have been only people who live in St. Pete. The same people saying that the Rays will be successful in the Trop and don’t need to move.

    I think the move across the bay is a good, short term solution until we build our own stadium in Tampa (downtown, hopefully). Costs are significantly lower, and the team actually gets a cut of the concessions and parking, as opposed to none of it when playing at GSF. This is basically at 2 year branding campaign in Pinellas county, where we take advantage of their crappy yet cheap infrastructure by reducing costs (and maybe even making a profit? lol) until we build our own home on the proper side of the Bay.

  3. (It was one person, actually. I just like tweaking them.)

    The thing about short-term solutions is…you have to actually make it to the long-term for the short-term to be just a speedbump.

    It would be fabulous if they built their own stadium. But stadiums do not – repeat, DO NOT – just go up easily or just through sheer force of will.

    I have no doubt the financial side of it works better – on paper – at Al Lang than at Steinbrenner, where you’re in bed with the Yankees (eek) and you have all the issues that go along with it. They’ve got better dates at Al Lang, for sure. Their costs are almost certainly lower. They almost certainly capture more of the revenue that passes through. But that’s on paper. People have to actually show up and spend money for that money to be captured.

    As for profit, just be glad it’s not your money. The list of lower-level teams that have turned a profit over the years is a very, very small one. And if your attendance is down 41% year-to-year, that’s significant. Anyone who’s saying “Hey, 3,000 is great” is on something. It’s not great.

    It costs money to do this. It costs LOTS of money to do this. Minnesota has a $2M budget, they say, and that HAS to be austerity in action. You would think most NASL teams would spend more than $2M – and you’d think Tampa Bay would be spending more than some and less than others. And you’d have to SELL 11,900 tickets a game at $12 per to make the $142,857 you’d need to gross every game to cover a $2M budget (if tickets were your only revenue source).

    Now, we know tickets aren’t the only revenue source. But even if it’s only half, you’d still have to SELL almost 6,000 tickets a game at $12 (or 5,000 at $14) to break even. Anyone who says they don’t need to average more than 3K to break even has never done this before.

  4. Well what’s happening in Rochester 2,016 for a major league franchise?

    Well all I have to say about the Rowdies attendance was I took last year’s figures too seriously…my mistake. Home opener at GSF last year over 8k so ALF holds 7k that’s why I thought we would sell-out. Actually it just shows the state of affairs in sports, I had someone actually come up to me talking about the team they didn’t know the team played last year.

  5. Rochester’s women’s team doesn’t have anything to do with the NASL, which was supposed to be Division II better than it’s ever been done before. And WPS isn’t major league by a long shot.

    And it’s not just this year you were overly optimistic about. You said there were thousands upon thousands of fans just aching for the return of pro outdoor soccer since the Mutiny went away and they’d all flock to games.

  6. Sadly, the highlights of the Dallas game are from the post-downpour portion of the match when the attendance dropped to six dudes in ponchos.

    Div. II’s low attendance is as expected having lost three well-drawing teams in as many years. It will drop further when Montreal jumps ship. If Ft. Lauderdale does become the flagship NASL club, MLS will start lickin’ its chops again (though MLS certainly seems to be very skeptical of the Florida market due to past experience). I’m one who still sees Div. II (and III) soccer as the best way to take live, professional soccer to the most number of people. I haven’t given up hope in that, despite the rocky last few years (decades). It is just going to be very difficult to grow a Div. II in the current landscape.

  7. Live, professional soccer goes to more people in Seattle on a given Saturday than in all the D2 and D3 cities combined, so I’m not quite sure how more people are going to take in the game at the lower levels than the highest level.

    You could potentially have more TEAMS, but even that’s not happening. If you saw the chart of how many teams there have been at the lower levels over the years, it’s never been able to sustain the footprint it would need to if you want it to expose itself to more people than MLS does (especially if you add in TV).

    There are 23 DII and DIII teams right now, but four of those are in the Caribbean and two others are in Canada.

    And any speculation about Ft. Lauderdale is contingent on somebody, you know, writing a frigging check. All anybody ever talks about is how this market or that market would be a great market based on a string of a couple semi-decent crowds or drawing 11k for a USWNT game or 30k for some friendly.

    MLS is no longer a league that’s a beggar that can’t be a chooser. Unless Ft. Lauderdale (or Orlando, for that matter) is going to consistently draw paying customers AND have a stadium solution AND….and this might be the key part….ACTUALLY APPLY FOR A GODDAMN FRANCHISE AND PAY THE MILLIONS, it’s just masturbation.

  8. It’s hard to see WPS attendance going anywhere but down from an already low standard. Team budgets for advertising and sales staff aren’t likely to increase after this poor start. Clearly there isn’t going to be a word of mouth buzz. We’re just a few weeks away from full-scale “is WPS doomed?” discussion (not that anyone is going to notice them). If those who do care come to the conclusion that the league is doomed, many will probably be prone to abandon all hope and interest.

    WPS probably needs a miracle to play in 2012. Unless there is somehow going to be a MASSIVE Women’s World Cup bump (we know that the WC bump doesn’t exist for MLS, so this seems rather unlikely) I’d say that we all welcome the W-League and WPSL to the top of the table.

  9. Yes, markets, that is what I meant. I don’t live in Seattle and them drawing 100,000 doesn’t change things much for me. The hope I have is that with stability in Div. II (and I admit stability itself might be a bridge too far for Div. II) clubs can build a business, build a league, and grow. Stability is much more difficult when the best teams leave and there is the threat that any new, well-support team will leave, too.

    I’m not saying I blame those teams for leaving, or MLS for taking them. Soccer in this country is better off because of it. I am saying the system is stacked against Div. II (not that that is the only reason Div. II has struggled) making stability in the current system nearly impossible.

    Why does that matter? Even with a Sugar Daddy investor, you have to have a market that will buy the product. I think MLS is hitting its growth ceiling in terms of markets that are capable of putting more than 10k butts in seats. I could be wrong–SLC has done better than I would have bet. But MLS already has a number of sub-10k-butts markets and my guess is there are 50 Columbus’s for every SLC out there. And when all you have is butts-in-seats revenue because no one is watching on TV, that revenue matters.

    I use 10k arbitrarily, but there has to be a butts number that is too low for MLS to have interest but high enough to make money in a (fantasy) stable Div. II.

    So can and will those Columbus-esque markets support a lower level of soccer? Is Div. II doomed because of its past mismanagement, or is there simply no market for it? Will Americans support a division or two of teams that draw 5-10k? Can structural changes be made to help? Finally, can MLS find a way to profit off involvement in Div. II? To me, those are interesting questions and what I hope to see addressed in the next decade or two.

  10. I think once Montreal goes up, there are not a lot of current or future potential D2 markets that would be MLS candidates who haven’t been either tried or mentioned already.

    They keep talking about the Southeast, but, really, like I said above, please get a stadium solution and more money in the bank than the people who currently run D2 teams (which is basically Traffic and a handful of other people, not all of whom have proven they know how to sell tickets).

    Despite what the lunatics say, I don’t believe there’s any ACTUAL FIFA statute that caps top flights at 20 teams, but, as a matter of course, MLS isn’t going to go to 30. Its realistic, de facto cap is probably 24.

    What has really kept the lower divisions from stabilizing has been the seemingly endless succession of poor owners and a lack of infrastructure. D2 and D3 are going to have to realize what D1 realized a while back: playing in a football stadium in 1978 was one thing – it can’t be done in 2011 and beyond. Just can’t. And you can’t have used car salesmen owning teams and hope to keep those teams long-term. You just can’t.

    I hope USSF holds the NASL’s feet to the fire with their (admittedly draconian) standards and establishes (slightly less draconian) standards for D3 (though the latter’s not mission critical right now, despite what some of the zealots would have you believe). THEN we’ll see if standards and accountability have an impact on stability.

    As for whether or not the market is there for D2 and D3…I think surely there’s A market for D2 and D3. We do have a group of clubs that have been around for quite a while. Charleston is entrenched. Richmond is entrenched. Wilmington appears to be re-starting well. Some of the D3 teams could be D2 under the right circumstances, while some of the D2s are in bigger cities but the cities may be too big for a lower division.

  11. And I don’t “worry” about attendance, strawman reader who owns a blog. I present this as a service.


    Looks like you won’t have to add up the small numbers from Puerto Rico anymore.

  13. This is not a surprise. Don’t mess with tiny island nations/commonwealths/territories/whatevers.

  14. The International/Caribbean Division is a cute idea, but the clubs were no were near prepared for it. Like so much else in soccer, it was rushed through with “promised money” and a lack of foresight.

  15. “After much analysis of the current landscape we’ve chosen to combine our synergies into a single professional league that will operate within financial and competitive models that make sense,” USL CEO Alec Papadakis said

    I’m glad Tampa left USL for NASL.

  16. You should worry about your own house.

    I don’t know why you can’t get it through your head that….ah, screw it. You’re never ever going to stop.

  17. kenn-

    i know it is a lot of work, and believe it or not, i appreciate it.

    do you have access to NPSL numbers? Chattanooga FC always seems to sound like they are doing well. Is this an anomaly?

  18. I am often asked.

    I have no source for even remotely reliable NPSL numbers. Chattanooga’s folks sure sing their praises, though.

  19. Chattanooga is like Des Moines in that you see their numbers and think “wow, they draw that nothing more than a college summer league, they could totally support a pro franchise” until you realize they can put the resources into getting crowds like that because they don’t have to pay their players.

  20. Yeah, but LOTS of teams don’t have to pay their players and don’t get great numbers. There’s more to the equation than that, though people always seem to want to distill it down to one or two points.


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