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MLS Average Attendance Off Slightly In 2007

For the first time since 2005, average attendance at Major League Soccer games dropped ever-so-slightly in 2008. The average of 16,459 was slightly off from last year’s 16,770. Below are the teams ranked by percentage increase in average attendance over 2007:

Team G Total Avg. ’07 Avg. Diff.
Los Angeles 15 390,132 26,009 24,252 +7.2%
Houston 15 254,083 16,939 15,883 +6.6%
Chivas USA 15 226,717 15,114 14,305 +5.7%
New England 15 263,706 17,580 16,787 +4.7%
Chicago 15 255,511 17,034 16,490 +3.3%
Salt Lake 15 242,690 16,179 15,960 +1.4%
Toronto 15 301,613 20,108 20,130 -0.1%
New York 15 238,925 15,928 16,530 -3.6%
Columbus 15 219,332 14,622 15,230 -4.0%
DC United 15 297,531 19,835 20,967 -5.4%
Colorado 15 204,884 13,659 14,749 -7.4%
Kansas City 15 160,286 10,686 11,586 -7.8%
Dallas 15 195,356 13,024 15,145 -14.0%
San Jose 15 205,695 13,713
MLS TOTAL 210 3,456,461 16,459 16,770 -1.9%

(San Jose, obviously, didn’t have a 2007 – but their 2008 figure, split between Santa Clara and Oakland, was almost identical to their last season in the league, in 2005 in Spartan Stadium.)

Some notes:

  • Total attendance was a record (which makes sense – with a record number of teams) – almost 3.5 million.
  • LA had the biggest increase, which on one hand is odd because they were horrid, but on the other hand makes sense because you had a full season of Whatsisname.
  • There were modest gains and losses in almost every market but Dallas, where the 14% drop was the biggest in the league (not the first time Dallas’ average has dropped quite a bit, but they had fewer excuses this time and the one they used – most games being on TV – is ludicrous).
  • Kansas City’s average was off slightly, but they moved to a much smaller temporary yard and filled it consistently. Supposedly they’re doing pretty well in keeing the integrity of their ticket pricing (something that was not the case years ago) and, obviously, atmosphere is much improved over Arrowhead.
  • I’m concerned about Colorado.
  • Next year is obviously very important for Salt Lake, though, financially and aesthetically, they should be in much better shape. Their second-game-new-stadium attendance is a bit troubling, and their first playoff game is at 4pm on a Saturday, so we won’t have a real accurate picture of what RSL can do for a while yet.
  • Did I mention I’m concerned about Colorado? Great stadium. Good location. I like the market. I just don’t know what they’re doing there.
  • Galaxy road games (which averaged 28k) stoked the leaguewide average by about 6%. But only nine of the top 25 crowds in 2008 were LA visiting (13 were Galaxy home games, though, meaning 22 of the 25 top crowds in the league this year featured LA). Galaxy road games ranged from 46,754 in New York to 18,713 in Colorado. Becks missed only two road games (at Toronto because of an England call-up and at Houston because of yellow card accumulation) and three home games (all because of national team duty).
  • I would expect Seattle to do well in 2009. I don’t know if it’ll be 20k or 25k (I’m sure it’ll be very big early), but it should be a positive. Salt Lake will have a full year in their yard (but they’ll have to work at it). Colorado needs to stop the bleeding. New York may not get into their new yard until late 2009, and a lame duck year probably won’t be good for them. All in all, I’d just make a guess that 2009’s average will be slightly over 2008’s. Not leaps and bounds, but an increase, which would be great, all things considered.

4 Responses to MLS Average Attendance Off Slightly In 2007

  1. Good stuff Kenn — I think the teams in new stadiums are especially interesting. I too wonder about Dallas and Colorado. Obviously, neither was so hot before they moved into new digs, and they seem to be settling back after the initial uptick from the new stadiums. If you believe the Forbes numbers Dallas is profitable, while Colorado’s loss was attributed to local TV broadcast losses, but they don’t appear to have much margin for error because neither is drawing very well. And even these numbers seem a bit puffy when you look at the crowds sitting in the stadium — Colorado’s RSL crowd to get to the playoffs one case in point.

    The flip-side might be Chicago, which had a slow start in Toyota Park but seems to be finding its legs. They seem stable and are putting on a good, marketable show in their new home IMO.

  2. One more pointed, I noted on the message board that shall not be named that if you pull the double header out of FC Dallas’ number, only three teams road attendance beat the league average: LA, Chicago and Chivas USA. Each drew a higher average on the road than at home.

    It shows, for anyone who had any doubt, that there are three draws that get fans to come out in MLS cities: Becks, Blanco and the Chivas brand name.

    Last year’s MLS Cup participants were 11th and 12th.

  3. Whereas the 2% decline in overall attendance is a surprise to those of us who believe soccer is in a period of steady asencion, the league’s numbers are but one of many statistical indicators (and 2% is a pretty minor decline in its own right, considering the heated election year dramas that directly competed throughout the season).

    Other important data points – in my way of thinking – would inlcude NCAA Top 25 attendance home game attendance, NCAA college cup TV viewership, and the rise of the PDL. In my minor market of Ventura, Cal, our Fusion is regularly drawing between 500 and 1000 paying fans per game.

    Thanks for the report. We stat-dweebs are appreciative.

  4. College Cup TV viewership? Holy cow.


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