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MLS attendance report: April 7, 2009

Week 3 in the MLS was graced with good matches that were played in less than desirable conditions. High winds plagued several venues while cold and wet put the damper on others. If not for that I think attendance would have been better, but all in all attendance wasn’t that terrible.

This week’s eight matches averaged just a bit over 13,000, an increase of over 300 from last year’s week 3 matches.

The Chicago Fire post game report talked of keeper Jon Busch still shivering 20 minutes after the match. 11,633 braved the wind and cold as the Fire, down a man for most of the match held off the Red Bulls as Busch recorded a clean sheet. The Fire remains as my pick to top the east this season.

Perhaps the worst weather was in Kansas City, where the Wiz won their first match. 6,922 braved the wind and freezing rain.

The biggest disappointment was the crowd, or lack thereof, at the Chivas USA game. Preki, perhaps the best magician in the league, has the injury riddled team undefeated and sharing top of the west with Seattle. Yet an early evening start(5pm), early enough to get the kids to bed on a school night, and good SoCal weather only brought out 12,827 to the Home Depot Center. That attendance number certainly surprised me based on what I saw when the seats were in the camera’s view.

I’m not going to get into the discussion about the veracity or the makeup of MLS attendance numbers.
A 2006 article by Mark Ziegler of the Union-Tribune in San Diego offers a very good look at paid and unpaid ticketed attendance. A post later during the season will attempt to integrate this into the overall discussion of MLS attendance and the impact on club finances.

On a side note, This post claims that the MLS Competition Committee is looking at this past weekend’s weather as a strong argument against switching to an Aug-May schedule. Some interesting comments. I will be examining the matter of weekday game attendance since MLS claims it is one of the reasons it cannot schedule around FIFA dates.

So where does that leave us at this early date? Judge for yourself…

2005 – Week 1: 13,038 Week 2: 15,310 Week 3: 15,178
2006 – Week 1: 22,292 Week 2: 19,001 Week 3: 15,927
2007 – Week 1: 16,109 Week 2: 16,827 Week 3: 13,848
2008 – Week 1: 15,312 Week 2: 17,988 Week 3: 12,732
2009 – Week 1: 17,095 Week 2: 14,168 Week 3: 13,058

2005 Week 3 includes 1st ever RSL home match – 25,287
2006 Week 1 includes 1st ever Houston home match – 25,462
2006 Week 2 includes pre-game motocross and Shakira at halftime at Red Bulls – 35,793
2008 Week 3 includes 1st ever expansion San Jose home match – 20,038
2009 Weeks 1 and 2 – Seattle, need I say more

For another look at attendance in 2009, read Kartik’s post.

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  1. Tom

    April 10, 2009 at 1:02 am

    Also, the Blackhawks were not a founding member of the NHL. They were part of “The Original Six,” but that title is misleading because it technically refers to the extant NHL teams just prior to the ’67 expansion.

  2. Tom

    April 10, 2009 at 1:00 am

    MLS is going to have to find a way to make do without major network deals for the time being. It simply is not yet a big enough to draw for the broadcast rights to be worth anything.

  3. Lars

    April 9, 2009 at 10:05 pm

    And yes, it’s about the TV money. The NFL has the most balanced league in North America other than MLS because it shares TV Revenue. If MLS had a good TV Contract that had the revenue split equally between all the teams, it could do away with single entity. NHL survives on Versus’ cash. I personally believe MLS should be put on the Versus network because they are willing to pay more and they have experienced rapid growth compared to ABC/NBC/Fox/CBS.

    NHL ratings on Versus are higher than they ever were on any sports network or any major US network. Why? Because Versus offers much better coverage as the NHL is their flagship now. I assume they would put a strong effort into covering MLS with such rigour as well.

  4. Lars

    April 9, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    For the record, there’s only one Canadian hockey team that is the only game in town. That’s in Ottawa. All the other hockey markets have CFL teams which draw fairly large crowds. Ottawa used to have one, but was a poor CFL market that dragged average attendance way down.

  5. Peter C

    April 8, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    eplnfl: excellent comparison.

    2006 2007 2008
    MLS – 15,531 16,770 16,459
    NHL – 16,955 16,961 17,308

    Now if MLS could get on par with the television money.
    US rights on Versus yields the NHL $72M. Tack on local and Canadian rights and the number more than doubles.
    The US rights for MLS total around $21M.
    Folks rant all the time about raising the cap, it’s in the TV rights. But this is for another discussion. 🙂

  6. eplnfl

    April 8, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    The Chicago # was the tickets purchased. No way that # showed up and many like I did left early. Even moderate weather would of increased the crowd by a few thousand.

    One reference for everyone, the NHL Chicago Blackhawks are set to lead the league in attendance. They will show over a 22,000 average. That is a league that has been around for many a year. The Blackhawks being a founding member some 70 years ago. It includes Canadian teams in which hockey is the only game in town. So by comparison the MLS is a youngster and doing very well. Also many of the newer MLS venues like Toyota Park are soccer specific but built with limited seating capacity. Therefore the top attendance in many places even with sellouts will be an average of 18,000. Keep in mind some teams can draw very well on friendlies. The Fire will have a match next month v. Club America. Look for a large crowd for that one.

  7. Lars

    April 8, 2009 at 7:45 am

    After the great shootouts that were seen in Los Angelas and Salt Lake, I don’t see how the average American sports fan can say its boring. I think we will see much higher attendance at the next Salt Lake home game as well as higher Rapids attendance. The NCAA basketball tourney being over will help too.

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