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MLS attendance report: May 31, 2009


This week’s nine matches averaged just over 16,000. After 84 matches, the league is drawing 1,278 fewer per game than the first 84 games last year, a 7.9% decrease.

The weekly average was down from last year but can be understood as last years numbers included a special soccer doubleheader with FCD at the Revs and the national teams of Brazil and Venezuela; the doubleheader drew 54,045 to Gillette Stadium. Compared to a ‘normal’ crowd of 15,000, this year’s weekly average would be up by 1,000.

Unfortunately rainy weather kept the crowd in Columbus down to under 9,000, which wiped out the 14%+ increase the Crew were experiencing coming into this week’s play. The matchup of league leaders Chivas USA and Chicago drew a nice crowd of over 20,000 for the ESPN nationally televised game. Last year’s visit by Blanco was also played on a Thursday and drew over 24,000. New England, Los Angeles and Houston drew decent crowds, while San Jose and Seattle were both near capacity. The week closed out with a disappointing crowd for the Fire/Dallas match despite the terrific weather and no competing NBA or NHL playoff games. Chicago’s YTD dropoff is till over 30%.

After week 11 the numbers look like this…

5 year comparison
 2005 12,352 6 14,270 14,642 71
 2006 12,645 2.37% 7 14,967 4.88% 15,383 5.06% 67
 2007 17,753 40.40% 7 15,020 0.36% 15,491 0.71% 72
 2008 20,594 16.01% 7 16,159 7.59% 16,226 4.74% 77
 2009 16,066 -21.99% 9 14,882 -7.91% 14,882 -8.28% 84

Here are the attendance comparisons to 2008’s equal number of home games(84):

MLS Attendance Averages – Equal # of Home Games
AttCapAttAtt +/-GP% of CapCap
 Seattle 0 0.00% 29,468 NA 6 92.09% 32,000
 Toronto 20,091 91.42% 20,198 0.53% 7 91.90% 21,978
 LA Galaxy 24,834 91.98% 19,228 -22.57%  6 71.21% 27,000
 Houston 16,704 74.24% 15,641 -6.36%  6 69.51% 22,500
 ChivasUSA 14,090 52.19% 15,625 10.89% 7 57.87% 27,000
 D.C. United 18,772 83.43% 14,816 -21.07%  6 65.85% 22,500
 Real Salt Lake 17,437 77.48% 14,629 -16.10%  5 73.12% 20,008
 Colorado Rapids 14,540 80.40% 12,410 -14.65%  4 68.61% 18,086
 Columbus Crew 12,383 54.90% 12,369 -0.12%  5 54.84% 22,555
 NE Revolution 10,822 48.10% 11,594 7.13% 4 51.53% 22,500
 Chicago 16,673 83.36% 11,422 -31.49%  5 57.11% 20,000
 N.Y./N.J. Red Bulls 13,525 53.69% 10,966 -18.92%  7 43.54% 25,189
 San Jose 16,483 72.70% 10,882 -33.98%  6 88.23% 10,300
 KC Wizards 9,445 90.95% 9,431 -0.15%  5 90.81% 10,385
 FC Dallas 14,170 69.12% 9,417 -33.54%  5 45.94% 20,500
YTD – 84 Games
 2008   16,159  14,837 13.10% 26.19%
 2009   14,882  14,248 16.67% 16.67%

My disclaimer about the capacity calculations.

For my calculations, I’ve taken the 4 teams playing in football stadiums, DCU in RFK, Houston in Robertson, New England in Foxboro, and RBNY in the Meadowlands and assigned maximum capacities as follows, DCU-22,500, Houston-22,500, New England-22,500 and RBNY-25189(the posted capacity of Red Bull Arena). I took the 22,500 from an approximate average of the soccer specific stadiums in use. Capacities have also been adjusted for the few games that were moved to larger venues, such as San Jose playing twice in Oakland Alameda Colliseum for 2 of it’s 5 matches in ’08.
I’m now using 32,000 for Seattle’s capacity. Thier previous announced cap was 27,000. Since they haven’t drawn less than 28,000, I’ve recalculated all of the Sounders’ games to the new number.

Mid Week

The week started off with Columbus sending San Jose further into the depths. Unfortunately for Columbus, Brian Carroll left the game with what appeared to be a severe shoulder separation that will keep him on the sidelines for at least 2 weeks and possibly much longer.

Also on Wednesday, Houston acquired Dominic Oduro from the Red Bulls for a #1 in the 2010 draft and a #2 in the 2011 draft. Here is Ives take on the trade. Oduro was supposed to be part of a ‘speed kills’ offense along with Dane Richards and Khano Smith. Alas it hasn’t worked out that way for the Red Bulls. They are near the bottom in goals scored and currently sit last in the east, 7 points out of the last playoff position with every team ahead of them having games in hand.

The clash of the league frontrunners, Chivas USA and Chicago was a card littered affair with 12 cards shown. It looked like the league leading defense of Chivas would prevail as they gamely held onto a 2-1 league even after Jesse Marsch’s 2nd yellow reduced them to 10 men in the 63rd minute. But the substitution of Patrick Nyarko sparked a comeback by the league’s top goal scoring team and the Fire remained undefeated with a 3-2 win capped by Blanco’s 2nd PK goal in the 96th minute.

On Thursday, Chivas USA signed outside midfielder Cesar Zamora to a developmental contract. Zamora is the third full roster player to have come from Chivas USA’s youth system. joining Jorge Flores and Gerson Mayen on the senior club.

People in the soccersphere that bemoan the lack of a youth system similar to those in far more established leagues need to take a step back and see that it’s beginning to happen here. I’ll be interested to see if the youth systems are part of the CBA negotiations. When will the league remove the shackles and permit teams to sign as many of their own youth system players as they like?


New England came away with a much needed win against conference rivals DCU. After dominating the first half, United would suffer the consequences of scoring only once(2 balls hit the crossbar) and the game was won on a 90th minute PK when Brian Namoff was called for pulling down Taylor Twellman in the box. Four of the best of the recent draft were on display in this match: Wallace and Pontius for United; Alston and Barnes for the Revs.

Conor Casey scored a brace as the visiting Rapids defeated the Red Bulls. The 2008 MLS Cup runners up finished a 4 game home stand with 4 points from 12 and now go on the road for 7 of their next 9 matches. To make it more interesting, Boyens will miss the next 4 matches while Pacheco and Rojas will miss the next 2 due to international callups. The Rapids are looking strong, with 2 wins and 2 draws on the road and no losses at home. They are a solid 4th in the west with 2 games in hand over leaders Chivas USA. Houston appears to have emerged from their familiar early season slumber as they scored 3 goals in 4 minutes and cruised to a 3-0 win over TFC at Robertson stadium.

The Wiz and Gals draw in LA.
LA were reduced to 10 in the 58th minute. I didn’t see much of this game, but the few times I tuned in it appeared that KC were the more dangerous side even before LA went a man down. LA will have to do without red-carded central defender Berhalter next week. That comes on the heels of losing last year’s Rookie of the Year, defender Sean Franklin for the foreseeable future. Add to that they lose their main man on offense, as Donovan heads for national team duty. This could be the stretch where LA starts to lose touch with a position in the playoffs. Kansas City will have to be disappointed as Buddle’s goal in the 87th minute gave short handed LA a draw. The key man in KC’s goal was Roger Espinoza who will miss the matchup with the Crew next week as he will be with the Honduran national team.

San Jose finally got a win as RSL’s road woes continue. The ‘Sigi Bowl’ ended in a draw in Seattle. A good result for the Crew who started the game with Schelotto on the bench, Brian Carrol out with a shoulder injury and Frankie Hejduk out nursing a groin injury along with the continuing absence of keeper Will Hesmer and playing on 2 days rest. The Crew have played seven matches without a loss after a shaky start to the season.

End of Week Shocker

Maybe it was the 3 games in 8 days. Or maybe the Fire were missing Blanco, already with the Mexican national team. Maybe it was too much Giordano’s pizza. Whatever the case, the last MLS undefeated team lost to bottom of the table FC Dallas by a convincing score of 3-0 at Toyota Park. Chicago will be without Blanco(MEX), Segares(CRC) and Soumare(Mali) for their June 5 match with Houston.

Cautious Optimism

A donor has been found to help RSL player Andy Williams’ wife. Marcia Williams is suffering from a rare form of leukemia.

US Open Cup Field Set

Seattle and Colorado met in the last MLS play-in match of the US Open Cup on Tuesday and Seattle came away with the berth in the tournament with a 1-0 victory. Check out the US Open website to see the first and second round pairings. The eight MLS teams begin play in the 3rd round on June 30.

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  1. Mexican football

    June 1, 2009 at 11:23 pm

    Hey, epl, have you had any conversations with Hispanic fans when you’re at Toyota Park? I’m wondering what their perceptions are of your league. If you can fill us in on what their thoughts and opinions are, that would be appreciated.

    The sports anchor on Ch.44 ranted on how the FIre is neglected by the Chicago media, despite their early season success. It was interesting to see him somewhat blow up like that, you don’t see anchors show personal emotion too often. I don’t know if he’s an actual fan or not, but it does affect his livelihood since his sportscast is very Fire-centric, plus he’s the Fire’s radio commentator on 1200 am.

    They actually had a piece on the FIre during Instant Replay on Ch. 9 Sunday night. It was almost surreal seeing locker room interviews of CJ Brown and Brian McBride, plus Dennis Hamlet speaking at a postgame press conference, like Ozzie, Lou or Lovie. I’ve never seen that before.

    As far as Sunday’s Toyota Park attendance goes, the White Sox were playing at the same time, they were sweeping the Royals. So maybe people’s attention were there. Also, maybe people began to pre-game party for the Pumas-Pachuca match that would begin at 7 that night. I do recall seeing a little girl at the Fire game wearing a Pumas jersey. So maybe those are the reasons.

    Or maybe people just don’t like the quality level of the league.

    p.s. It’s “Soldier Field”.

  2. eplnfl

    June 1, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    Troy: I have some of the same fears about the future. As a testament to Chicago’s management look around the league and see the former Fire players that are having great years or are major contributors to their teams. With all the players in and out the Fire are leading their conference. Proof that someone knows what they are doing.

    As to Bridgeview, for me and many others Soldier’s Field is just as difficult to get to and from. It is easier to get into and out of when it comes to parking and let me say it has some great food and easy access to your seats.

    The real down side of Toyota Park is the lack of direct public transportation from the City. Taking the “EL” is the best way to get to many Chicago sports venues.

    The additional factor is Blanco. He has provided a “bump” in attendance since he arrvied. The Mexican-American fan base may not show up at the park without a player to appeal to them. This problem the Fire may have to address very soon!

  3. Troy

    June 1, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    The place where attendance is probably the biggest issue, the biggest problem is in Chicago. San Jose’s support I wouldn’t worry about. Chicago on the other hand struggles for local media and any recognition in a baseball and football mad town. Playing in Bridgeview out in the boonies has made matters worse. Until Sunday they were winning or at least not losing and yet not drawing. I believe had they not won right off the bat in 1998 they would have struggled for crowds from the get go much like Miami did. The market in Chicago isn’t that different than Miami- ethnic kinda of soccer snobbish. The difference was the Fire won and Fusion did not. Now if the Fire ever start losing we will see if the team lasts. Honestly they’ve had great GMs and coaches to keep this thing going as long as they have but with AEG bailing out of the market I fear for the future of that team under an untested owner and managment.

  4. eplnfl

    May 31, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    I as a Fire fan am more upset at the size of the crowd at Toyota Park on Sunday then the Fire’s poor performance. The weather was perfect, the Fire had been playing well, and nothing of major importance was up against the game in Bridgeview on Sunday. Yes, economic conditions are tough but other teams have not had the drop off in attendance as the Fire have. The major negative factor possibly holding down the crowd was that Blanco was off for duty with the Mexican team. The game was also shown on free TV both in English and Spanish locally.

    I wish we can expect a big crowd on Friday night for Houston but it appears that the USA v. Honduras game at Soldier’s Field on Saturday will draw fans away from Chicago’s MLS team. I know from personal experience that the Fire management are trying to bring people out to the park. At this point nothing seems to working to get the placed filled up. Chicago is a bell weather market for any sports league in America. The league office may need to think long and hard about how to get Toyota Park filled and soon for the good of all of MLS.

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