For all the bluster this year about Major League Soccer’s rebirth thanks to David Beckham, Cuauhtemoc Blanco, a new TV deal and Superliga we have recieved in the past several weeks probably the best news yet for the league in perhaps its twelve year history. Attendance this season has held steady even when American Football season began.
Historically Major League Soccer’s attendance tailed off substantially when the Calender turned to September and America’s real sporting pastimes: College Football and the NFL began play. (Baseball is considered America’s Pastime by the sporting media much of which is based in the Northeast, but in the majority of MLS markets such as Chicago, Los Angeles, Columbus, Salt Lake City, Dallas, Houston and Denver are much more profoundly affected by the beginning of NFL and NCAA Football season then by the presence of multiple baseball teams) MLS has typically used heavy attendance between May 1st thru July 4th to buffer its overall season average numbers against a huge drop off late in the season. It has been very telling that in the past, as the playoff races heated up in the league people have paid less and less attention and fewer and fewer people have attended matches in person.
That seems to have changed this season, even without David Beckham. MLS’ average attendance has actually slightly climbed since the beginning of American Football season, and it seems that MLS has won a core of fans in each market who will continue to attend matches regardless of what other sporting options are available in person or on TV. This is probably the best news yet for a league struggling to find its feet in America’s sporting landscape and on the international football scene.