MLS Average Attendances for 2011

MLS Average Attendances for 2011

  • Posted by Geoff Reid
  • On March 15, 2011
  • 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.

  • Crafty Bernardo

    Geoff Reed seems a bit clueless….

    17,000 average in Dallas and Colorado???? Are you living in la-la land? Where did you pull that number from? MLS history is replete with examples of low attendance teams having success on the field and seeing slight to moderate (at best) attendance bumps… If Colorado averaged 15k and Dallas averaged 14k we should all be very happy. Those would be great numbers for those markets and probably would be sufficient for the teams to break-even economically. 17k should be expected???? Are you NUTS?

    Wizards “should” average 18k.. in a stadium with a capacity of 18.5k???? Doesn’t leave a lot of room for error, does it? If KC averages 18k, I’ll eat this computer I’m typing on. They’ll sell out a decent number of games, but there will also be a fair number in the 10-12k range, and when your capacity is 18.5, it only takes one or two of those to knock your season attendance down below 18k… There have been enough stadiums opening in the last 5 years for us to know for a fact that new stadiums for existing teams do help attendance, but by a much smaller amount than is always hoped… KC Wizards will be happy with an average of 14-15k… and that’s probably where they’ll end up.

    Red Bull should sell out every game???? You’re an idiot. The stadium opened and Thierry Henry and Rafa showed up right around the same time last season and the stadium didn’t sell out then with the media in full frenzy mode… it won’t miraculously start selling out now. They’ll average 18-20k and that will be a result they should be proud of, given the anemic attendance history of the Metrostars/Red Bulls prior to 2010.

    Dude, do just a little bit of research please… your predictions are laughable to the kind of attendance geeks that will search for and find an article like this.

  • Maza1987

    I stopped reading when he said SPORTING KC is a better name than Wizards.

  • Geoff Reid

    Maybe I went a bit overboard with expecting Dallas and Colorado to average around 17,000 per game, but in between 15,000 and 16,000 should be expected for both. I’m not at all saying both will pull in that many on average at the gate, but that’s what they should be shooting for. And I’m not saying the Red Bulls will sell out every home game by any means, but that should be the target considering the new stadium in the new and better location, plus they’ll probably add another DP in the summer to Henry and Marquez already there. Why shouldn’t they come close to selling out every game? I do agree that if any of these clubs have improved numbers by season’s end then it can be classed as a success. The ownership of SKC is counting on selling out most of the stadium during home matches so they can generate funds to help pay Livestrong in having the name and logo on it. The name “Wizards” is just as bad as the names “MetroStars” and Dallas “Burn” before those clubs were rebranded, so while the title “Sporting” may not be the best name for sure, it can’t get much worse then “Wizards.”

    • Crafty Bernardo

      I agree with you about Sporting KC.. much better than the Wizards. I don’t know why people have a problem with it. I think it’s pretty cool.

      Dallas has had epic problems with attendance and it has not had much to do with performance… they were blazing hot for the last four months of the season and were STILL only getting 10k at their home games at the end of the season… I know I said 14k earlier, but honestly, I’d be surprised to see 12,500 per. I dunno how in the world you think attendance is going to spike by 50%-60% based solely on a late playoff run last year when the fans there weren’t interested when said late playoff run was actually happening… I hope you’re right, but I just don’t see it… odds of them getting over 15,000 per is somewhere on the order of 100-1.

      Colorado is somewhat more possible to get over 15,000 per… maybe 5-1.

      New York isn’t going to land a bigger DP than Henry this year, and their exposure will just not get anywhere near where it was during the latter half of last year when they opened the stadium and debuted Henry and Marquez in like a two month period…. And they were getting about 18-20k during that time… There were more seats than demand back then, and there’s no reason to think the demand is going to go up now that the stadium/Henry/Rafa are not in the news every night…. It’s not a matter of “why shouldn’t they sell out every night”…. it’s just “they won’t sell out every night… or even most nights, for that matter”. Out of their 17 game schedule, they’ll probably sell out around 3 times give or take 2. And they’ll have a similar number of games with 14,000 as well.

      The ownership of SKC could count on unicorns landing on the roof of the new stadium to get Livestrong’s name in the media… but ownership counting on it aint gonna make it happen. And the odds of SKC getting 18,000 per is just about as likely.

      Again.. It would be wonderful if you turn out to be right, but neither history nor logic is on your side on this one….

      • Geoff Reid

        Definitely some good attendances this weekend, most teams should be pleased including the Red Bulls. I guess with years of mediocrity at best at Giants Stadium it will take time to build a bigger fan base. I think Erik Stover said they surpassed their target of 10k in season tickets before first kick which made me raise my eyebrows. The sad thing is it’s a major improvement from two years ago! I think one problem in the area might be that it’s full of Euro snobs. I could be wrong, but whenever the big boys come over for pre-season, everyone turns out.

        i’m just sick and tired of all these excuses of poor attendance. I know Rome wasn’t built in a day, and our league has come a long, long way since 1996 and we all can be proud of that, but some of the reasoning is all getting old. One step at a time I guess, and at the end of the day if these clubs do have a gain by seasons end in average attendance, that’ll be a good thing for sure!

        • Crafty Bernardo

          Slow and steady, mayne….. I’ve been geeking out on MLS attendance for probably 10 years now, and you just have to be happy with steady progress….

  • Dan

    While NYRB have a great new stadium and huge stars they still can’t get over the hump with attendance. Today’s home opener couldn’t have had more than 16,000 fans. I just don’t get this. What is wrong in NY/NJ?

  • Crafty Bernardo

    11,000 in Dallas’ home opener… ouch.