Taking Attendance: The Final Chapter

After a long hiatus (for a number of reasons), here are the final (in most cases) attendance figures for the primary men’s and women’s outdoor soccer leagues in North America for 2011. As always, corrections and additions are welcome. NOTE: I’ve just received more data and updated the USL Pro numbers. The PDL and W-League numbers I’ll update soon.

THE MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER G Total Avg.
Seattle Sounders 17 654,431 38,496
Los Angeles Galaxy 17 396,693 23,335
Vancouver Whitecaps 17 346,909 20,406
Toronto FC 17 344,535 20,267
New York Red Bulls 17 335,740 19,749
Portland Timbers 17 320,051 18,827
Philadelphia Union 17 310,401 18,259
Sporting Kansas City 17 302,776 17,810
Houston Dynamo 17 300,796 17,694
Real Salt Lake 17 299,047 17,591
DC United 17 258,332 15,196
Colorado Rapids 17 252,248 14,838
Chivas USA 17 252,102 14,830
Chicago Fire 17 242,648 14,273
New England Revolution 17 224,770 13,222
FC Dallas 17 218,636 12,861
Columbus Crew 17 207,147 12,185
San Jose Earthquakes 17 201,587 11,858
MLS TOTAL 306 5,468,849 17,872
 
NORTH AMERICAN SOCCER LEAGUE G Total Avg.
Montreal Impact 14 161,102 11,507
Ft. Lauderdale Strikers 14 52,769 3,769
Carolina RailHawks 14 46,942 3,353
FC Tampa Bay 14 42,138 3,010
Atlanta Silverbacks 14 40,117 2,866
Puerto Rico Islanders 14 30,247 2,161
FC Edmonton 14 25,434 1,817
NSC Minnesota Stars 14 23,463 1,676
NASL TOTAL 112 422,212 3,770
 
USL-PRO G Total Avg.
Orlando City 12 64,985 5,415
Rochester Rhinos 12 61,672 5,139
Wilmington Hammerheads 12 48,640 4,053
Charleston Battery 12 42,011 3,501
Richmond Kickers 12 23,827 1,986
Harrisburg City Islanders 12 16,875 1,406
Antigua Barracuda FC 12 14,268 1,189
Pittsburgh Riverhounds 12 13,521 1,127
Charlotte Eagles 12 12,268 1,022
FC New York 12 9,824 819
Dayton Dutch Lions 12 7,929 661
Los Angeles Blues 12 5,283 440
River Plate Puerto Rico 3 570 190
Puerto Rico United 2 210 105
Sevilla FC Puerto Rico 1 101 101
USL PRO TOTALS 150 321,984 2,147
 
WOMEN’S PROFESSIONAL SOCCER G Total Avg.
Western New York Flash 9 43,925 4,881
Atlanta Beat 9 43,559 4,840
Boston Breakers 9 39,992 4,444
Philadelphia Independence 9 24,970 2,774
Sky Blue FC 9 19,239 2,138
magicJack 9 18,299 2,033
WPS TOTAL 54 189,984 3,518
 
PDL G Total Avg.
Fresno Fuego 8 36,091 4,511
Des Moines Menace 8 26,976 3,372
Carolina Dynamo 8 13,353 1,669
Portland Timbers U23 8 12,246 1,531
New Orleans Jesters 1 1,500 1,500
West Texas United Sockers 8 10,839 1,355
Ventura County Fusion 7 7,811 1,116
Chivas El Paso Patriots 8 8,537 1,067
Victoria Highlanders 8 7,933 992
Laredo Heat 8 7,433 929
FC Jax Destroyers 6 5,076 846
Forest City London 8 6,726 841
Western Mass Pioneers 8 6,370 796
Mississippi Brilla 8 5,858 732
Real Maryland Monarchs 1 721 721
BYU Cougars 7 4,632 662
Michigan Bucks 7 4,235 605
Thunder Bay Chill 8 4,794 599
Kitsap Pumas 8 4,546 568
Ocean City Nor’easters 6 3,403 567
St. Louis Lions 8 4,504 563
RGV Grandes FC 5 2,650 530
Jersey Express 8 3,970 496
Vermont Voltage 8 3,650 456
Long Island Rough Riders 8 3,597 450
Virginia Beach Piranhas 8 3,590 449
Baton Rouge Capitals 1 446 446
Nashville Metros 8 2,790 349
Reading United AC 8 2,697 337
Ogden Outlaws 8 2,229 279
Fredericksburg Hotspur 7 1,870 267
River City Rovers 8 2,123 265
Kansas City Brass 4 1,055 264
Vancouver Whitecaps Residency 8 2,035 254
WSA Winnipeg 8 2,020 253
Indiana Invaders 8 2,010 251
New Hampshire Phantoms 8 2,000 250
Northern Virginia Royals 6 1,397 233
MPS Portland Phoenix 8 1,783 223
Ottawa Fury 6 1,318 220
Los Angeles Legends 8 1,575 197
West Virginia Chaos 8 1,574 197
Cincinnati Kings 7 1,363 195
Toronto Lynx 7 1,360 194
Real Colorado Foxes 7 1,335 191
Akron Summit Assault 8 1,487 186
Central Florida Kraze 7 1,295 185
North Sound SeaWolves 8 1,457 182
IMG Bradenton Academics 8 1,395 174
Hamilton FC Rage 7 1,177 168
Southern California Seahorses 7 1,061 152
Tacoma Tide 8 1,005 126
Chicago Fire 6 721 120
Abbotsford Mariners 5 579 116
Springfield Demize 8 907 113
Orange County Blue Star 7 723 103
Bermuda Hogges 8 769 96
Westchester Flames 8 544 68
LA Blues 23 6 400 67
Central Jersey Spartans 8 525 66
Washington Crossfire 8 525 66
Fort Lauderdale Schulz Academy 8 481 60
New Jersey Rangers 8 425 53
Brooklyn Knights 4 160 40
PDL TOTAL 454 249,657 550
 
W-LEAGUE G Total Avg.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC 7 8,805 1,258
DC United Women 5 4,016 803
Charlotte Lady Eagles 5 2,718 544
Seattle Sounders 7 3,800 543
Long Island Rough Riders 5 2,149 430
Virginia Beach Piranhas 5 2,065 413
Santa Clarita Blue Heat 7 2,883 412
Atlanta Silverbacks 5 1,851 370
Quebec City Amiral 6 2,209 368
Northern Virginia Majestics 5 1,732 346
Fredericksburg Impact 5 1,656 331
Victoria Highlanders 7 1,867 267
Dayton Dutch Lions 3 761 254
Ottawa Fury 6 1,523 254
LA Strikers 5 1,236 247
Colorado Rush 7 1,681 240
Rochester Ravens 6 1,385 231
Colorado Force 7 1,537 220
Laval Comets 6 1,239 207
North Jersey Valkyries 5 979 196
Hamilton FC Rage 6 1,018 170
New Jersey Wildcats 4 602 151
Pali Blues 6 686 114
New York Magic 1 112 112
London Gryphons 6 650 108
New Jersey Rangers 5 513 103
Toronto Lady Lynx 6 480 80
W-LEAGUE TOTAL 148 50,153 339

NOTES:

  • MLS recorded its highest average attendance since the inaugural season of 1996 (17,872 to 17,406), up about 7% from 2010. Twelve of the 18 teams saw increases from last year (two – Vancouver and Portland, obviously couldn’t, they’re new), however slight in some cases. Kind of puts paid to all that kvetching about the schedule being late, doesn’t it? Anyway, Kansas City set a record by jumping 73% by moving into their new yard (but with only 5% of the league’s games, any one team can’t have a huge effect on the league number anymore). San Jose – thanks in part to a game at Stanford Stadium that drew 41,000+ – was up 23%, and were getting capacity (such as it is) crowds to Buck Shaw by year’s end. Still, they need a new yard. Dallas was up 19% and Colorado 11%, but Chicago (down 10%) and Columbus (down 17%) are concerns. Twelve of the league’s 18 teams (14 of 19 once Montreal officially starts and Houston moves into their new stadium in 2012) play in purpose-built stadiums and Seattle and Vancouver aren’t a concern for now. Portland will actually expand its capacity for next year. So San Jose, New England and DC United are the only real trouble spots as far as stadiums are concerned, and Gillette is only really a concern for Revs fans, not for Bob Kraft. Bottom line: anybody who tells you MLS has widespread attendance problems or that “nobody goes to MLS games” is full of it. The league isn’t going away.
  • The NASL completed its season with no teams folding and no major drama (which is harder than you think in the second division). But its 3,770 average was the lowest for a second-division league since the 2003 A-League (which had 19 teams – 11 of whom are either dead or in MLS now). The relocation and re-branding of Miami FC into the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers resulted in a 200% increase in average attendance, but they are still only an average-drawing D2 team (hey, the folks in South Florida will take it…for now). Carolina – with the best team in the league and an experienced GM in Curt Johnson – was up 50%, but Montreal, with a terrible team in their D2 swan song, was off 7%. Minnesota – which won the playoffs – was up 22%, but they were starting from a very low level and still don’t have an owner. And Tampa Bay’s move across the Bay to St. Petersburg was a bad move when it was announced and a bad move when all was said and done (unless you like 22% attendance drops. Seriously, that would have to be some really big cost-savings to offset losing a quarter of your fans).
  • USL Pro’s 2,147 average (even with the three Puerto Rico teams that had to be dropped a month into the season and who weren’t drawing at all) was the highest ever for a third-division league in the modern era (thank you, Orlando). But dropping a level may have been one cause for Rochester’s 20% decline in average announced attendance – the Rhinos went from 6,464 in the USSF D2 Pro League in 2010 to 5,139 in USL Pro in 2011. That doesn’t explain why Harrisburg (with a team that went to the final) dropped 16% (from 1,666 to 1,404), though the Islanders had horrific luck with weather early. Pittsburgh was up 20%, Charlotte up 12% and Orlando was up 45% over its numbers in Austin in 2010.
  • WPS averaged 5,126 for 18 games post-Women’s World Cup. Which would be great if they could keep that up. It’s virtually impossible to think they will. Still, it was probably enough to convince a couple of investors to step up (supposedly there’s a Connecticut expansion team coming, but magicJack is out and Boston is looking for an owner) to fund a 2012 season. Atlanta was a bright spot (up 31% despite having the absolute worst team in the league and maybe ever), while the move from Washington to Boca Raton was disastrous on so many levels for the former Freedom (down 47%). But Dan Borislow ran his pro team like it was your daughter’s U14 travel team, only with your daughter trying to serve balls in to Abby Wambach. Sky Blue is a mystery (down 36%). Overall, the league was off about 2% from last year, thanks to the late surge. Still, it won’t matter unless there’s a serious change in how this league is perceived (or they stage a Women’s World Cup every year).
  • Fresno led the PDL with 4,511 a game (I’m missing one of their attendance figures), but didn’t sell a ticket. The Fuego’s tickets were free to fans this year thanks to a sponsorship deal. Good for the fans, but I’m skeptical about the move. Sponsors come and go. When they can’t find one and have to go back to charging, what happens? It’ll be curious to see. I’m missing several games in the PDL (about 12%), but I don’t think it matters much. 500-550 a game is where this league is and is likely to be.
  • Vancouver led the W-League with 1,258 per game (the only team to break four figures), but they’ve said they’re not interested in moving up to WPS (smart move). DC United Women was a success, drawing 803 per game in their first season. Wonder if we’ll see more MLS/W-League cooperation going forward.

This will be the last I’ll have to say on this subject – or any other – for a while. See y’all in 2012.

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