- Posted by Geoff Reid
- On March 15, 2011
- 8 Comments
- 2011 MLS Season, 2011 MLS Season Preview, Geoff Reid
By Geoff Ried
As we get set for first kick 2011 and the 16th season of Major League Soccer, many of us are doing previews and predictions on what will take place, and in all honesty, MLS is one of the harder leagues to predict because of the parity that exists, and that’s a good thing. As our league grows, it reaches certain milestones, and it’s quite amazing that just six years ago in 2005, there was only two soccer specific stadiums and one more opening for the 12 teams at that time. Fast forward to now, it’s astonishing how we’ve come along with 18 clubs and 14 of those clubs will be playing in stadiums built for the beautiful game, with two more clubs having their own plans coming along nicely into fruition for their specific homes. Only two clubs now haven’t got that far yet regarding their own stadiums. The days of teams playing in big, cavernous stadiums are almost behind us with only two original clubs in that situation. This then got me thinking about upcoming attendances for games this season, and the fact of the matter is there should be no more excuses for every club to have a poor average attendance anymore, and it should now be inexcusable.
We all know that each market is different, and what would be classed as a good number regarding attendance in one particular market, the same number would be classed as a failure in other markets. But the excuses of poor attendances in the obvious places are now over. Specifically for the Colorado Rapids, and FC Dallas in-particular who over the last few seasons, and playing in their own specifically built stadiums, have had two of the poorest average attendance in all the MLS. Both competed in the MLS Cup back in November, both will be competing in the next CONCACAF Champions League, and have good teams. FC Dallas in-particular play a very attractive brand of football, have a brilliant manager in Schellas Hyndman, and last season’s MVP David Ferriera. That’s enough to get me interested if I’m living in the local area. With the Colorado Rapids being defending champions, that right there is a selling point, as well as a team that doesn’t have any real superstars or designated players, winning the title by being a team would be my way of advertising. I don’t expect either club to draw over 36,000 on average like in Seattle because that is unrealistic and not an option with the maximum capacity of their stadiums, but an average number by season’s end of over 17,000 should be expected now.
With the San Jose Earthquakes, it’s important to build on their great run at the end of last season. Obviously Buck Shaw Stadium only holds a little over 10,000 in capacity, but there were games last season when I noticed empty seats. At the very least, the Earthquakes should sell out every home game at their temporary, intimate home. Down in southern California with Chivas USA, it’s always been difficult for them playing in the same stadium as the Galaxy, and not being around as long as their neighbors to develop a culture. The team name and whether it was a mistake or not is another debate for a different day, but with the new coaching staff in place, and a rebuilding phase taking place, it looks like the dawn of a new era for the goats. To be fair, they’ve done pretty well since 2005 in selling themselves under the circumstances, so let’s hope that they can continue to do that this season.
Over in the Eastern Conference, the rebranded Sporting Kansas City looks to be taking good shape with the new stadium and name for it being very bold and creative. Beating Manchester United 2-1 last summer in the friendly at Arrowhead Stadium did wonders in increasing the fan base, and it was perfect timing with the new stadium being built, and let’s face it, not all of us like the new name for the club, but the truth is it’s far better than being called the Wizards. They should expect to have an average attendance of around 18,000 by season’s end.
With the Columbus Crew and Chicago Fire both in different rebuilding stages, it’ll be interesting to see how many show up for the homes games at Crew Stadium and Toyota Park respectively. Both puzzle me because during some games, they seem to have their stadiums rocking, while during others there seems to be a lot of no shows, particularly at Crew Stadium during playoff games. Credit to the Fire faithful who always seem to show up when it matters most though.
One club who was always near the top in average attendance took a massive hit last season with their poor performances and that was DC United averaging only 14,512 compared to the previous season in 2009 with 16,088. But this is a new era for the league’s most successful side to date, and hopefully the arousing interest will translate to match day seats. While up the 95 corridor, long time United rival New York Red Bulls did increase their average attendance with the move from Giants Stadium to Red Bull Arena by a nice amount from 12,490 in 2009 to 18,441 in 2010. Of course having a good team helps, and with the obvious star power such as Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez, that’s what New York is all about. But with their brilliant new stadium in a much better location, they should be selling out every home match. If not, it should be considered a failure.
Then up in Massachusetts the New England Revolution are another puzzle as some games there seems to be a decent number of people in the stands, while others their simply is not. Location has proven key over the last few years for clubs that have built new stadiums, and that is something the Revs have not got on their side since Foxboro is a good 40 minute drive south of downtown Boston. While the stadium is very nice and modern, it is far too big. This is another example of a club going through a rebuilding phase, so it’ll be interesting to see how big the numbers will be on match days.
The rest of the clubs that have not been mentioned so far are going to get good average numbers in attendance, or at least they should be expected to: Seattle Sounders, Los Angeles Galaxy, Real Salt Lake, Houston Dynamo, Toronto FC, Philadelphia Union, as well as both newcomers Portland Timbers and the Vancouver Whitecaps.
So once again I reiterate, there are no excuses for poor attendance this season with all the clubs. I don’t want to hear about the bad weather, kick off the same time as a baseball game/high school football game or any other sad excuse that has come off because if there are any sections of empty seats at any games this season it is completely unacceptable.