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Taking Attendance 9/13/2013: Final USL Pro Numbers

Thanks to the assistance of front office folks in several cities and other intrepid attendance wonks, I can present to you the final(ish) attendance numbers for USL Pro teams for 2013. Standard caveats apply, but I will list them again: These are announced numbers, I don’t know how much of a relationship they bear to reality but they’re probably no worse than any of the numbers from years past in most cases, I’m not going to do stadium capacity percentages because the true capacities are neither consistently available nor agreed upon (and some teams use more than one stadium), I don’t have NPSL numbers because they’re rarely reported and I do not keep NCAA attendance numbers because these are not lists of college teams’ attendance figures (except for BYU in the PDL, which doesn’t play in the traditional NCAA soccer season anyway).

With all that in mind, please to enjoy:

Team G Total Avg. Median High Low
Orlando 14 112,784 8,056 7,930 10,697 5,985
Rochester 14 82,576 5,898 5,919 7,334 4,361
Charleston 14 49,760 3,554 3,393 5,111 2,057
Pittsburgh 14 45,816 3,273 3,328 4,000 1,664
Wilmington 14 44,269 3,162 3,056 5,017 1,769
Richmond 14 35,381 2,527 2,203 4,921 1,694
Phoenix 14 21,454 1,532 1,440 4,198 327
Harrisburg 14 20,386 1,456 1,521 2,170 730
Charlotte 14 11,297 807 718 1,336 332
Dayton 14 10,540 753 690 1,621 250
Los Angeles 14 10,049 718 542 3,000 176
Tampa Bay 14 5,295 378 295 1,032 139
MLS Reserves 10 15,116 1,512 613 8,263 100
USL PRO TOTAL 178 464,723 2,611 1,898 10,697 100


  • So now the only games I am missing are a few hosted by MLS Reserve Teams in the first year of the partnership. Without the MLS teams’ home games, USL Pro averaged 2,676 per game, right around what last year’s average was (2,658). Pittsburgh (up 233% thanks to Highmark Stadium) and Orlando (up 22%) were gainers, while Wilmington (down 26%), Charleston (down 10%) and Rochester (down 6%) didn’t reach last year’s averages. The rest of the teams had modest gains.
  • The expansion teams (Phoenix and Tampa Bay) didn’t help things, averaging 1,532 and 378, respectively. Phoenix fell off the face of the Earth faster than I’ve ever seen a club that got off to a good start. From selling out its opener to playing at a youth field with no actual seating to having its former president pushed out and sue the other owners, all in about 150 days, well, you don’t see that every year.
  • If you’re curious, without Orlando (which it appears USL Pro may be by 2015), the league averaged 2,187 a game. Which is still miles ahead of where D3 used to be.
  • Orlando’s 20,886 crowd for the final was (obviously) the biggest crowd in D3 history, but the regular season record of 11,255 for a Milwaukee-Minnesota match in 1995 still stands.

7 Responses to Taking Attendance 9/13/2013: Final USL Pro Numbers

  1. Kenn, what do you think will happen with PhoenixFC? I have to admit in the beginning of the season I thought I would be eating crow about how small time “owners” and “pro-teams” have come and gone in this market but they continue to prove everyone right. Nobody has the money, vision and drive to make it work here. They pulled pretty good numbers during the “lite” heat of early summer. Truly might be the most dissapointing entry into this market.

    And to read that they had development academy approval and scrapped that. This area desperately needs a true big dog to step up in the youth soccer community and to organize the madness of parents, clubs and fly by night coaches.

    Truly disheartening.

  2. I don’t know what’s going to happen. From what I understand, they are planning for 2014 and might play in Maryvale, which, fine, whatever.

    It’s about money, and they didn’t appear to have enough of it. If they’re truly – as reported – looking to do things even more cheaply than they did in 2013, I can’t see that succeeding, either. At some point, you’re a U20 team with parents carpooling and stuff, except you’re playing Charleston and Sacramento instead of Inferno FC.

  3. “Phoenix FC also went from playing its home matches on grass in the 3,600-seat Sun Devil Soccer Stadium at Arizona State to a synthetic field surrounded with cement steps and no actual seats.”

    That doesn’t help. Still, their numbers are a lot better than Tampa or LA. (Isn’t it time to move/fold these teams? Detroit, for example, is doing pretty well in the NPSL; why not put a team there?)

    • “Detroit, for example, is doing pretty well in the NPSL; why not put a team there?”

      Because, as a general rule, leagues don’t put teams in cities without owners. They consider applications for franchises from interested owners. They don’t say, “Okay, we’re going to have a team in City A. Now, which of you blokes is going to own it?”

      Leagues also don’t usually move/fold teams that don’t draw well. If every league listened to every internet person, half the coaches would be fired every week, we’d have 100 guys capped for the Nats, and every team that drew a bad crowd would be moved or folded.

      Los Angeles has a wealthy owner. We’ll see if his loss tolerance has been reached yet. VSI Tampa Bay appears to have ulterior motives, so we’ll see if that overrides things or not.

      As for Phoenix, no one has ever said there wasn’t a market for soccer in Arizona. Most places of a reasonable size with a reasonable corporate base have “a market for soccer.” But it’s not as simple as, “Okay, the USL Pro team was a disaster (as were the former NPSL and PASL teams), so let’s do this: let’s get a bunch of guys together and spend even more money and THAT will be the solution!”

      There’s no reasonable place to play here. (Well, Sun Devil Soccer Stadium was completely reasonable as a D3 venue when it was at full buildout, but the economics apparently didn’t work.) U of Phoenix Stadium is far too big for even an MLS team. Chase Field is also too big and is a baseball stadium. Sun Devil (football) Stadium is far, far, far too big (though it does have a nice pitch and is accessible via public transit). The various spring training baseball facilities are baseball facilities. There are junior college and high school facilities that are…junior college and high school facilities.

      Unless someone was going to build a soccer-specific stadium (with a retractable roof, or a heat solution of some sort – Qatar, hello), there’s no way to “do it the right way this time.” Because even then you have the problem of soccer fans sometimes turning out for things here and sometimes not. Big things? USA/Mexico? Yes, absolutely. Real Madrid/Galaxy? Yes. El Tri? Usually. Mexican club teams? Not always. US Women? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. MLS preseason? Ehhhhh, not really. A club team? Jury still out.

      There does not appear to be an overabundance of people sitting here “at Phoenix” saying to themselves, “I’m justthisclose to putting an NASL team here, it’s sure to be a hit!” There was another group, years ago, that was going to have a spring training festival as a prelude to a pro team. Didn’t happen. The Monsoon? Disaster, no money behind it. The indoor teams? Jokes. Phoenix FC? Not enough money and zero experience.

      I am not 100% sure it can be done here, with all the obstacles standing in the way. If someone just wanted to spend silly money, sure, I guess. But silly money is…silly.

      And I will never, ever understand why some people get worked up about markets in which they don’t live getting teams or not getting teams, or why potential teams that do not currently exist are hotter topics of conversation than teams that actually currently exist.

  4. I wish somebody at Phoenix would start a rival team in NASL and do it the right way this time. I canot imagine there’s no market for soccer in Arizona…

  5. Well, I was using Detroit as an example (one I’d like to see happen, being a Michigander and an old Express fan). But obviously without deep pockets, it can’t happen.

    The NPSL team in Detroit seems to be drawing about 2,000 (much to my surprise), which would be a decent number in the USL. But there’s no guarantee a pro team would draw that well with a schedule twice as long, or that they would actually make any money after, you know, paying the players. There are the usual rumblings about building a SSS, perhaps downtown (riverfront? Tiger Stadium site?) or elsewhere (Silverdome?), but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

    Phoenix would probably work as a MLS city IF they got big money and a decent stadium behind it. (So would a lot of other cities, Detroit included.) But minor-league soccer? Probably not.

  6. Detroit’s 1,895 crowd for their 6/23 game against Buffalo was described as a “record,” (though they exceeded it for the playoffs), so I don’t think they are averaging 2,000. Details are sketchy, though.

    Considering the bright boy who writes the recaps for their website includes all sorts of information, yet rarely includes the crowd, it’s hard to tell. (They did get 1k for a midseason friendly, though).

    As for whether MLS would “work” here, well it seems to “work” most places but there are not a ton of places where there are already teams in all four of the other major sports (plus spring training and a D1 university). If you put an MLS team here, we would be the second-smallest market that had teams in all five major leagues (Denver is currently the smallest). That’s a lot to ask, especially now that the “fourth” team in the market is here to stay for at least a while and will be ramping up its efforts to be relevant and attract discretionary income and sponsorship dollars.


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