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MLS Crowds Worrying

I am worried by the low numbers in some markets this season. Chivas USA for example is averaging 7,000 less fans per game than they did last season, and Red Bull New York, despite having an excellent team is averaging under 10,000 fans a match which is totally unacceptable in the nation’s largest sports and TV market. The more worrying issue is that traditionally MLS has used strong crowds between April and July to ride out the storm of declining crowds and media exposure once American Football season begins. This season it appears that the Beckham effect better be massive otherwise some markets like New York and New England are going to have their worst attendance since the league was formed.

It’s possible if the Beckham effect isn’t as large as currently assumed that some markets will have to be contracted as Tampa Bay and Miami were in 2001 and replaced by better soccer oriented markets like Portland, St Louis and a return to the SF Bay Area. Clubs like New England, Kansas City and Houston that have no future stadium plans in place are also hurting the league and overall attendance.

1- LA Galaxy 24,437
2- Toronto FC 19,771
3- DC United 16,511
4- Real Salt Lake 15,949
5- Houston 15,438
6- FC Dallas 14,584
7- New England 13,847
8- Colorado 13,593
9- Columbus 13,297
10- Chicago 13,078
11- Chivas USA 12,802
12- Red Bull NY 9,716
13- Kansas City 8,335

About Kartik Krishnaiyer

A lifelong lover of soccer, the beautiful game, he served from January 2010 until May 2013 as the Director of Communications and Public Relations for the North American Soccer League (NASL). Raised on the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the old NASL, Krishnaiyer previously hosted the American Soccer Show on the Champions Soccer Radio Network, the Major League Soccer Talk podcast and the EPL Talk Podcast. His soccer writing has been featured by several media outlets including The Guardian and The Telegraph. He is the author of the book Blue With Envy about Manchester City FC. View all posts by Kartik Krishnaiyer →
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15 Responses to MLS Crowds Worrying

  1. Sams Army says:

    It’s because of the Meadowlands. When RBNY moves to Red Bull park the crowds will double.

  2. football detective says:

    At the same time ESPN and other networks are showing more soccer games, highlights, and commentary, clearly fans are not buying tickets. MLS seems more focused on corporate sponsors (re: money) this season.

    That said, I’m not sure this is reflective of an overall trend. I think that fans new to the sport are confused that there is really no off-season. Just like players, fans need a break. Because it’s the year after the WC in the cycle, borderline fans are absent.

    Maybe MLS will get a bounce from Copa Oro and Copa America as fans get more tuned in as the season goes on (and Beckham arrives).

  3. RBNJ says:

    The problem with NY is that they don’t play in NY.

    They may get more fans when they move into their new park which is not in NY but the fans won’t be coming from NYC.

  4. USA2010 says:

    Actually the numbers don’t seem too bad to me (although I’m sure they are not reflective of tickets sold).

    MLS may have to be happy with 12K to 15K crowds.

    RBNY fans may be saving up for their future commute to the ‘burbs.

  5. USA2010 says:

    I’m pretty sure MLS’ return to the SF Bay Area won’t happen any time in the near future.

  6. Anonymous says:

    New York and Chicago both have pathetic crowds. Seriously how can Salt Lake City outdraw both?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Either you are going to support the league or not. Thgis sort of posting makes MLS look really bad. I don’t like this sort of attitude coming from someone who posts so extensively on the internet and clearly has a following with this new podcast launch and the like.

  8. Josiah of Footy Fame says:

    RBNY only had 10,000 tonight. Unreal. The Cosmos got 30,000 in their sleep 30 years ago, when soccer was a foreign game in this country!

  9. Sams Army says:

    Wait till the new stadium is complete before making a judgement about Red Bull.

  10. Anonymous says:

    This is actually a surprisingly poor though-out argument. First off, Kansas City, while no concrete stadium plans have been set, have a new dedicated ownership willing to stick it out in Kansas City and have started initial work on getting a stadium deal done.

    Red Bull’s attendance is pretty poor but considering the lack of marketing done by the team, it should come as no surprise that a fanbase consistently tortured with dismal results have backed away from the team. The success of this season and next year’s opening of Red Bull Park will do wonders for the team (Assuming the team amps up its marketing as it intends to once the stadium comes up).

    Complaining about the numbers right now is an easy but ultimately useless way to attract attention. MLS is turning the corner and the advent of new franchises (As we’re seeing with Toronto already) will only help the league in the long run.

  11. Josiah of Footy Fame says:

    The problem is never going to go away. I was hoping when the Hunts sold the Wiz that no local buyer would step up. KANSAS CITY WILL NEVER BE A SUCCESSFUL SOCCER MARKET. Secondly, I don’t want to hear excuses for Red Bull. New York getting outdrawn by Columbus and Salt Lake City every week? C’mon what other sport does that happen. Kartik didn’t mention it but I will- Chicago’s crowds considering the size of that metropolitan area and the new stadium may be the most worrying of all. Do the Fire do any marketing locally?

  12. football detective says:

    “..it should come as no surprise that a fanbase consistently tortured with dismal results have backed away from the team.”

    “Either you are going to support the league or not.”

    I guess everybody loves a winner. So which is it?

  13. Harvey says:

    How many more years of excuses can we make for the New York franchise? The crowds are so poor, the team gets little if any local media coverage and they have rebranded the team I don’t know how many times. Wouldn’t have been easier before Red Bull bought the team to close up the Metros and form a new team on Long Island?

  14. Soccer Guru says:

    Here in Denver we have had trouble breaking through in a cluttered sports market, but the new colors and stadium has helped. Hopefully the same will work for NY.

  15. Zizou06 says:

    Alright, I don’t care how good of a sponsor they might have snatched, but Kansas City needs to go.

    For years, the MLS has tried to ‘save’ the Wizards. But now it has gone too far.

    Other teams that have underperformed as far as attendence in the past (Tampa Bay and Miami) have been disolved. Hell, even Tampa Bay didn’t have that bad of an attendance record.

    St. Louis, which is a good soccer town, has been looking for a new team for years. I think Nashville and a North Carolina team would be good additions as well. As we have seen with hockey, these city have done a good job of supporting ‘non-traditional’ sports for their region.

    But the MLS needs to tell the Wizards to put up or ship out. Instead of spending all of their time and investment on keeping the Wizards, they should spend more money on teams that show potential, like my Real Salt Lake.

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