Taking Attendance 9/30/2013: The Top Two
The only two leagues left playing in the US and Canada are (the) MLS and the NASL, and both seasons are nearing their conclusions. Here’s a look at the attendance figures for our Division I and II leagues through games of September 29:
|THE MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER||G||Total||Average||Median|
|Los Angeles Galaxy||14||313,982||22,427||21,141|
|Real Salt Lake||15||285,764||19,051||19,402|
|New York Red Bulls||15||280,394||18,693||18,029|
|New England Revolution||16||225,798||14,112||13,948|
|San Jose Earthquakes||15||195,959||13,064||10,525|
|New York Cosmos||5||36,978||7,396||6,518|
|San Antonio Scorpions||10||68,968||6,897||6,826|
|Minnesota United FC||10||49,448||4,945||5,230|
|Fort Lauderdale Strikers||10||43,533||4,353||4,185|
|Tampa Bay Rowdies||10||41,168||4,117||3,573|
- MLS total attendance projects (if everyone holds their averages the rest of the way, which isn’t possible because of San Jose splitting stadiums) to 5,945,940, about a 2% drop from last year’s record total (and average of 18,807). This is not particularly troubling, given the bulk of the league is healthy, the top of the league is doing extremely well, and the league had three straight years of audience growth (increasing average attendance in 2010, 2011 and 2012). It’s possible (going to be close) that six teams will finish averaging more than 20,000 a game (Vancouver is just shy, with Kansas City right behind), which would be stunning.
- Yes, Chivas USA has fallen off the table and Toronto’s fans have finally had enough after nearly seven years of ineptitude. Those are the trouble spots in terms of attendance, but they’re the only major ones. Other clubs that are on the low end are either terrible (DC United), getting ready to move into a new stadium (San Jose, though a little later than expected) or clueless (Chicago). There’s obviously work to be done, but there’s always going to be work to be done.
- The New York Cosmos continue to set the pace at the gate in the Division II North American Soccer League, but they’ve settled into the 5-6k range, a far cry from the nearly 12k they drew for their re-launch two months ago. They drew marginally more for their top-of-the-table clash with Tampa Bay Sunday (6,518) than for a match against Minnesota two weeks prior (6,081). To be fair, Sunday’s match was rescheduled six weeks prior and took place on an NFL Sunday. Also to be fair, though, the World’s Greatest Soccer BrandTM isn’t achieving the heights expected by some, despite a first-place team.
- The Cosmos have been able to pack them in on the road, with two of their sojourns drawing season-high crowds (in St. Petersburg and Ft. Lauderdale, two markets with previous experience with the original Cosmos). In Carolina and Edmonton (the former with no original NASL history, the latter with limited original NASL history), they didn’t bring out the nostalgiaphiles. The Cosmos go to Minnesota this week and play in San Antonio and Atlanta to finish their road schedule, so we’ll see what happens. (Incidentally, without the Cosmos’ road games, the NASL Fall Season average is nearly identical to the Spring Season average – 4,663 to 4,662.)
- The NASL’s Fall Season average (4,755) is only marginally ahead of the Spring Season average (4,662), despite the presence of the Cosmos. Four of the seven teams that competed in the spring have seen their average crowds decrease (some slightly, like Carolina, some more so, like Atlanta and Minnesota). Only Edmonton (which has added new seating to Clarke Field) is up significantly from spring to fall.
- Projecting out, it’s basically impossible for the NASL to break the all-time D2 record for average league attendance (5,164, set in 2008), but they will finish significantly up from the first two years of play. They should end up at around 4,700 as a league, right about where the USL First Division was in 2009 before all the nastiness happened.
- If you’ve been paying attention all these years, Gentle Readers, you know I have never included NPSL numbers in my charts (for logistical and philosophical reasons). Because of popular demand and because I believe in completeness, I’ve begun an attempt to compile NPSL numbers for the 2013 season. I have reached out to every NPSL club for whom I have contact information, and have been blessed by the quick response from some of them. There are those within the league who believe it can only help raise the level of professionalism for attendance and other stats to be compiled and readily available, and for that, I am thankful. Still, I only have attendance figures for about 10% of the games played in the league this year, and, after an initial flurry of responses, I am not optimistic about getting too many more. If you have any data points – any at all, even if you think I may already have them – leave them in the comments below or send them to me and let’s see how many figures we can come up with.