Major League Soccer attendance is down to start the 2013 season

So today in the Sports Business Daily they did a look at MLS attendance numbers so far this season and compared them to last year, the overall trend is down 8%.  However a closer look at a couple of key things show you what could be the cause.  First, the Sounders which average is up 1.4% have played half as many home matches as they did at this point of last year.   Second, the Montreal Impact aren’t the new kid in town, and while they played most of their early matches last year at the Olympic Stadium (which has a larger capacity) so their drop of 25% is big (over 8K per match).  We also see a huge drop at Chivas USA of 37.5%, that is over 4,000 fans per match.

Now all of this is based on the numbers that the various MLS teams report for their attendance, and we know that like in other sports that often the numbers are inflated a bit to reflect tickets sold vs. actual attendance.  MLS also has been reducing the number of comp tickets over the last few years and while I doubt it could account for the whole gap, it probably has an impact of 3-4% over all.

Here are the numbers and comparisons:

MLS ATTENDANCE THROUGH MAY 9

TEAM

GMS

TOTAL

AVG.

PREV.

% +/-

GMS (’12)

SEA

3

117,471

39,157

38,626

1.4%

6

MON

4

100,512

25,128

33,752

-25.6%

3

LAG

5

105,156

21,031

23,197

-9.3%

6

POR

5

103,370

20,674

20,438

1.2%

5

VAN

4

77,657

19,414

18,615

4.3%

5

TFC

5

96,439

19,288

19,022

1.4%

5

SKC

6

115,064

19,177

19,017

0.8%

5

HOU

5

92,643

18,529

n/a

n/a

0

RSL

5

90,764

18,153

18,344

-1.0%

6

PHI

4

69,375

17,344

18,343

-5.4%

4

NYRB

5

80,105

16,021

16,204

-1.1%

5

FCD

6

89,795

14,966

13,168

13.6%

7

DCU

5

68,590

13,718

13,751

-0.2%

6

COL

5

66,843

13,369

14,505

-7.8%

4

Crew

4

52,931

13,233

13,043

1.5%

4

NER

4

48,922

12,231

9,821

24.5%

3

CHI

4

48,335

12,084

14,069

-14.1%

4

SJ

7

72,747

10,392

12,360

-15.9%

5

CUSA

5

40,227

8,045

12,868

-37.5%

5

TOTAL

91

1,536,946

16,890

18,396

-8.2%

88

For Real Salt Lake the numbers are interesting, we are down an average of 191 fans per match compared to last year.  A couple of factors could be at play, changes in ticket prices (things like the LA Galaxy premium pricing, change from KFC to Maverick for discount corner sponsor, and Pass of All Passes), there is also the fact that the weekend of the Galaxy match, RSL was going head to head with AMA Supercross (which for the first time in years saw the Salt Lake stop, matter in their championship), and of course the questionable weather that comes with spring time matches in Utah, and there is also the roster turnover that saw several fan favorites leaving the team this off-season.
I expect that the RSL numbers will jump back up as the summer goes along, the weather will get better, and with season ticket numbers about to hit the 10,000 the supply of available tickets will be harder to get.  We will also get a pop from the new players on the roster being so very good with the fans, both live and on social media, which is a huge factor in the team’s success in the smallest market in the league.

That’s How I See It

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