MLS Attendance Steady…So Far

MLS Attendance Steady…So Far

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On April 10, 2012
  • 2012 MLS Season, Features, MLS Attendance

Some packed houses like this are starting to become the norm in MLS. (Photo via the Montreal Impact)

Yes, this is the obvious MLS attendance post. Thankfully this time around I am not going to be blasting any team for their lack of quality gate figures. Yeah, that’s right, this isn’t one of those posts that you see that comments on how poorly a team is doing at the gate.

For one reason, its too damn early to get into that mess. Maybe in August we’ll do one of those but for now, we’ll dive into some positives.

Five weeks into the MLS season and so far the numbers aren’t looking too shabby. Most clubs are steady but the unbalanced schedule will make it interesting for a few clubs that rely on big gate numbers for games against teams like LA or New York. Western Conference clubs like Dallas, Colorado and San Jose are at least lucky enough to get one LA game at home this year (though Colorado is lucky enough to get two home games with LA).

Houston is the only club so far to not have a home match but when their new stadium opens up in a few weeks they’ll likely be very strong in attendance for the rest of the year with a few sellouts on the books. More than likely they will be in the top seven in attendance this season.

Several clubs’ venues have different seating capacity for soccer. In some places this will help drive ticket demand for games.

Thankfully after a few games no club is averaging less than 10k, a big improvement of a few years ago for sure.  Only one club is inching close to that border however, as Chivas USA is only averaging slight above 11k at the Home Depot Center. The Goats did lower the capacity at the HDC for their games to 18k this season, down from the typical 27k configuration that the Galaxy use there. We’ve said it was a wise move considering that this could and should be one of their last seasons there.

In the bottom half of the league table, there are four soccer specific stadium found on the order (five if you include Chivas at the HDC). That is good and bad at the same time. For clubs like Dallas they had one sellout followed by two gate numbers in the 12k range. Pretty typical really for the club but things are getting better there from where I sit at the stadium on game days.

San Jose is just below Dallas in the list but I have a feeling once they finally leave Buck Shaw Stadium and into their own venue within the next year or two, things will go up for them.

Below is a screenshot from the MLS Attendance wiki page. As you see Montreal is the top team thanks to their season-opener at the Olympic Stadium but their numbers will balance out in the years to come as they move back into Saputo Stadium.

Good to see clubs like Salt Lake and Kansas City doing well at the gate these days too. Hard to believe that New York comes in at number 11 on the list and is averaging 17k so far. Boy, never thought that would be an issue.

I think the positive thing to take away from this is that MLS is getting there, slowly and steadily, it is getting there. What exactly is there? To me that is just a steady and consistent average across the board for all teams. Naturally we’ll have a few jump out and go way above the rest like Seattle but seeing most clubs average right around the same, give or take a few thousand, is really positive to see.


  • Apr 10 2012
A couple of notes related to change vs 2011 (though, as you said, it is early in the season yet): 1) total change in attendance (ignoring Houston and Montreal): +5832  that's nearly 350/team (across 17 teams) 2) if you sort by change in attendance, the big hitters are:  Chicago  +3801, Columbus +2672, and San Jose +2431; the big losers are: Chivas -2977 and New York -2471 I think it's more interesting to look at the year over year change than the raw numbers.  It does tell a similar, and positive story.  The declining attendance numbers make me wonder (even more) about MLS' wide-eyed pursuit of NY2 though.
Mark Fishkin
  • Apr 10 2012
You're looking Final 2011 numbers v Week 5 2012 numbers.  Apples & Oranges, when you consider the small sample sizes for this season to date.
    Drew Epperley
    • Apr 10 2012
    I'm sure my Red Bulls comment is what made you say that Mark. Really, its a good problem to have in my book to see them at No 11 with those figures. This was just an early look really, pointing out positives instead of the usual negatives too.
    • Apr 10 2012
    True enough. it would be more interesting (and more useful) to look at 2012 @ Week 5 vs 2011 @ Week 5.
  • Apr 17 2012
Montreal has a deal with Olympic Stadium for several years (4-5?). I don't think the Impact will ever play at Saputo Stadium in March or April. So expect similar season-opener at the Olympic Stadium if fans want to break crowd record again.