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Take Me Out to the Ballgame – The Prequel


With the 2010 MLS season just around the corner, here’s a look back at recent MLS attendance before we move forward.

The final regular season numbers for 2009 look like this…

5 year comparison
Full Season Averages
  Avg +/- GP
 2005  15,108   192 
 2006  15,504  2.62%  192 
 2007  16,770  8.17%  195 
 2008  16,460  -1.85%  210 
 2009  16,037  -2.57%  225 
YTD – Games
 2005   15,108    12,619   27.08%  17.71% 
 2006   15,504    14,175   18.75%  18.75% 
 2007   16,770    15,353   8.21%  29.74% 
 2008   16,460    15,188   10.95%  24.76% 
 2009   16,037    14,686   14.67%  20.44% 

Here are the attendance comparisons to 2008’s full season of home games(210 v 225 games):

MLS Attendance – Equal # of Home Games
 AttCap %AttAtt +/-GPCap %Cap
 Seattle 0  0.00%  30,897  NA 15  95.36%  32,400 
 LA Galaxy 26,009  96.33%  20,416  -21.50%  15  75.61%  27,000 
 Toronto 20,110  91.50%  20,344  1.17%  15  92.57%  21,978 
 Houston 16,939  75.28%  17,047  0.64%  15  75.77%  22,500 
 Real Salt Lake 16,179  80.03%  16,375  1.21%  15  77.79%  19,340 
 D.C. United 19,835  88.16%  16,088  -18.89%  15  71.50%  22,500 
 ChivasUSA 15,114  55.98%  15,092  -0.15%  15  55.90%  27,000 
 Chicago 17,034  85.17%  14,689  -13.77%  15  73.44%  20,000 
 Columbus Crew 14,622  73.11%  14,447  -1.20%  15  72.23%  20,000 
 San Jose 13,713  89.93%  14,114  2.93%  15  79.64%  10,300 
 NE Revolution 17,580  78.14%  13,732  -21.89%  15  61.03%  22,500 
 N.Y./N.J. Red Bulls 15,928  63.24%  12,491  -21.58%  15  49.59%  25,189 
 FC Dallas 13,024  61.45%  12,441  -4.48%  15  53.67%  21,193 
 Colorado Rapids 13,659  75.52%  12,331  -9.72%  15  68.18%  18,086 
 KC Wizards 10,686  102.90%  10,053  -5.92%  15  96.81%  10,385 

My disclaimer about the capacity calculations – Additional disclaimer note: I factored in the Dallas game at the Cotton Bowl as 100% capacity of 51,012.

So How Did They Finish?

Points after 225 Games
 Columbus 49  30  1.63  10 
 Los Angeles 48  30  1.60  5 
 Houston 48  30  1.60  10 
 Seattle 47  30  1.57  9 
 Chicago 45  30  1.50  5 
 Chivas USA 45  30  1.50  3 
 New England 42  30  1.40  -4 
 Real Salt Lake 40  30  1.33  8 
 Colorado 40  30  1.33  4 
 DC United 40  30  1.33  -1 
 Dallas 39  30  1.30  3 
 Toronto FC 39  30  1.30  -9 
 Kansas City 33  30  1.10  -9 
 San Jose 30  30  1.00  -14 
 NY Red Bull 21  30  0.70  -20 
LA Wins West
Head to Head Tiebreaker over Houston


The combination of David Beckham’s arrival in 2007 and Seattle in 2009 has reversed the trend of more games with less than 10,000 in attendance vs more than 20,000.

MLS weathered the miserable 2009 economy fairly well. Average attendance was down only 2.56% compared to 2008. Below is a table comparing the average attendance figures of MLS to the ‘Big Four’.

Average Attendances
 League20082009+/- %
 MLS 16,459  16,037  -2.56% 
 NBA 17,395  17,504  0.63% 
 NHL 17,308  17,476  0.97% 
 MLB 32,543  30,338  -6.77% 
 NFL 68,241  67,509  -1.07% 


  • FC Dallas did not lose at home in its last 8(7 wins).
  • RBNY finished winless on the road(27 total).
  • TFC did not lose at home in 7 straight.
  • TFC did not win on the road in 8 straight. The last loss cost them a playoff berth.
  • Colorado did not win on the road in 9 straight. Same deal as TFC.
  • RSL was unbeaten in their last 10 home games.

MLS Throw Ins

  • In 2009, no team won 50% of its games.
  • Not surprisingly, Seattle set an MLS single season attendance record. Expect them to repeat the feat as they’ve added around 3,000 seats for 2010.
  • In 15 more games, 22 fewer goals were scored than in 2008(2.53 per game vs 2.81).
  • Jeff Cunningham won his 2nd Golden Boot as the top regular season goal scorer.

    Moving forward, this season will see a balanced scheduled, i.e.; each team will play each other twice, home and away with the addition of the 16th club, the Philadelphia Union. With the extra club, there will be 240 matches this season.

    We should expect San Jose and Kansas City to bring up the rear in average attendance, given that each of their home fields seat less than 11,000. The question is whether FC Dallas, Colorado and New England improve their miserable 2009 gate numbers. And with RBNY moving into their new digs, it would be a major shock, and a big blow to Red Bull, if we didn’t see a major boost in their numbers.

    Wondering how the Union are throwing around allocation money? If the rules haven’t changed, expansion clubs get an extra $1,000,000 to use by May 15(see the 10th paragraph).

    Like it or not, it appears that there will be a 2010 version of the North American SuperLiga. A nice little money grab by Soccer United Marketing(SUM) and the FMF. And you know what, that’s fine with me. Any international exposure MLS clubs get is important, even if it’s Mexican ‘B’ teams in preseason. This year’s MLS clubs are Houston, Chicago(finalist last year), Chivas USA and New England(2008 winner).

    MLS In CONCACAF Champions League

    Another poor showing by MLS in the CCL. Houston was the biggest disappointment. Needing a victory in its final group play match, they travelled to Metapan(SLV), which had been winless with a -17 goal differential only to lose and be eliminated. DC United put up a good showing on the road at Toluca(MEX), earning a draw, albeit against a ‘B’ team, but were also eliminated. They just couldn’t recover from their poor start. Columbus barely got into the knockout phase as Saprissa(CRC) lost at home to Cruz Azul(MEX) while the Crew were tied by Puerto Rico who failed to win any of its 6 group play matches.

    Howard Hamilton of the HexagonalBlog has updated his CONCACAF coefficients which reflect Mexican club dominance in the region.

    The Crew’s quarterfinal home and home matches will be played on March 9 and 16, 2010.

    MLS clubs Real Salt Lake(MLS Cup winner), LA Galaxy(MLS Cup finalist), Seattle Sounders(Lamar Hunt US Open Cup winner) and Columbus Crew(Supporters’ Shield winner) will participate in the 2010-11 tourney

    World Cup Notes

    Any MLS players that make it onto Bob Bradley’s World Cup bound team will leave for pre tournament preparations around mid to late May and will not return before the last US group play match on June 23.

    US Soccer will earn a minimum of $9 million with $1 million paid up front to cover preparation expenses. Additionally, clubs will be compensated for the use of their players during the World Cup to the tune of $1,600 per player per day beginning 15 days before the start of the tourney until one day after the player’s participation ends. The overall prize money is 61% higher than for the 2006 World Cup.

    Speaking of the World Cup, MLS has not scheduled any matches during the group play phase of the tourney, June 11-25, which includes 2 weekends. None of the remaining matches kick off later than 2:30pm EDT. So with extra time and PK’s no match would end later than 5:30pm EDT(I’m being generous here). Amazingly, MLS earns brownie points with US soccer fans as only one league match begins before 5:30pm EDT during the knockout phase. And what match would that be? Seattle visiting Philadelphia for a 5pm EDT start in its inaugural of PPL Park! How’s this for an idea … teams that have jumbo screens open the gates early and show World Cup matches prior to the start of MLS matches. Whaddaya think?

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    1. jleau

      February 12, 2010 at 11:14 am

      I realize that Seattle fans as a group seem a bit overbearing right now. Many of them seem to forget that this league didn’t just start last year. However, overall Seattle is really good for the league. Putting 30k butts in the stadium is no small feat, as this article points out. Plus there is an enthusiasm coming out of Seattle that I hope translates through the rest of the league. I have seen games in a few different MLS venues, and the amtosphere was not good.

      Toronto set the standard and Seattle upped the ante. My hope is that Philly, Vancouver, and even Portland blow Seattle away. The league needs as many Toronto’s and Seattle’s as they can get.

      Sitting in QWEST field I was surprised how many fans really followed the sport. I don’t think Charles represents the avg Sounder fan. Gotta take the bad with the good.

    2. jleau

      February 12, 2010 at 2:05 am

      Peter C – great article a ton of information well laid out.

      Lars – I don’t agree with Charles comments but why so much disdain for Sounders fans? I’m a Sounder fan and and also a fan of the World game, don’t mind ties, and was a fan of the MLS before Seattle got their team.

      Personally, I want the MLS to “Americanize” things a bit. Not change the rules on the field, but present it in an American way. I like the play-offs, I don’t think we need relegation, and I’m perfectly happy listening to American announers and pundits.

      I do wish the MLS would take the Champions League seriously and try to be competitive with the Mexican teams.

      • Lars

        February 12, 2010 at 9:38 am

        My concept of Americanizing the game revolves around the rules. I don’t care about the three final things, although I would like relegation (it isn’t feasible though). I like playoffs and I can’t stand the announcers, not because they lack the accent…usually they don’t know much about the game. The best pairing for MLS announcing in the entire league is CBC’s Jason de Vos (former Canuck international, player with Ipswich Town) and Nigel Reed (Brit), they are extremely knowledgeable and aren’t ridiculously over-the-top like most of the MLS announcers.

        But when I said americanize the game, it was solely with respect to the rules.

        The only other thing I wish the league would do is take Champions League seriously.

      • Lars

        February 12, 2010 at 9:40 am

        And sorry, if you’re a Sounders supporter, but the bulk of Sounders fans I’ve run into have been absolute trolls.

        I agree, what Seattle has is amazing and their money means that’s less that TFC has to pay into the equalization pot to bail out the worse off teams, but I don’t think it gives certain people the right to troll around the league insulting other teams, and traditions.

    3. dave2010

      February 12, 2010 at 1:02 am

      “3. Get rid of ties. ”

      This is a hanging offense, son. I’m not kidding. We fought this battle already, and the clueless early-MLS “Americanize the game so that the retards won’t have to think too hard about figuring out how tied game points work” crowd lost. That battle is over, and it will not be refought. We’re part of the World’s Game: get used to it.

    4. Jack in TX

      February 11, 2010 at 4:40 pm


      Great compilation. The only thing I felt you failed to mention was that recent attendance surged to all-time high level the year immediately following WC2006. Many of the passive public became aware of the names of some of the players on the USMNT as a result of following the WC when perhaps they don’t follow MLS as close (if at all). Over the years since then, some notable players from the ’06 selection went to European clubs.

      I will be interested to see if attendance surges again in 2011.

      • Peter C

        February 12, 2010 at 10:25 am

        Thanks Jack.

        In July I’ll be rooting through the data to compare the post 2006 and 2010 World Cup MLS attendances.

    5. Justin

      February 11, 2010 at 11:56 am

      First off Charles you are an idiot. Only some stupid new fan would sugest let’s change the rules that the whole world plays by so you can be more entertained. If you don’t like how the game is played go watch something else we won’t miss you.

      Second why would the FC Dallas attendence figures be at the cotton bowl? They have been playing at Pizza Hut Park since 2005.

      • Peter C

        February 11, 2010 at 12:49 pm


        It was for calculation purposes for the one game FCD played at the Cotton Bowl in ’09.

    6. eplnfl

      February 10, 2010 at 10:19 pm

      Very good piece Peter. Looking forward to your work again this season. I can’t wait for the season to start and I have my Fire tickets ready to go.

      We have to expect this year to be another tough one at the gate given the continual economic down turn. Employment remains high and those working are still struggling with debt. Any gains at the gate this year are a bonus.

    7. Robert

      February 10, 2010 at 10:25 am


      You are an idiot. How can you even consider yourself a soccer fan? This just proves that Sounders fans are a bunch of posers. How can you even suggest tie-breaker situations?

      • Charles

        February 10, 2010 at 10:35 am

        It was easy actually. We had too many of them and I thought, “hmmm, how could we solve this ?”
        Are you in favor of them calling the WCup ’94 final a tie ?
        Did you like the penalty kicks ?

        I would have played it out until someone won. That is just me, some people like kissing their sister.

        • Lars

          February 10, 2010 at 7:16 pm

          I prefer ending things the way they’re supposed to be ended, not some bastardized american version of the game, designed to make it more exciting for people who don’t understand the game…like Sounders fans.

          The more you guys troll with your stupid ideas, insulting the traditions and teams in the league, the more you encourage hostile environments, both for the team and for any traveling fans.

        • dave2010

          February 12, 2010 at 1:07 am

          Shut up and kiss your sister, Charles.

          Also please learn some history of MLS, and of the World Cup – you might learn something. We’ve already had this discussion years ago, you are simply blundering into issues you haven’t taken the time to learn about and understand.

      • Charles

        February 10, 2010 at 10:38 am

        One more thing. They haven’t always had a consistant rules at FIFA regarding ties over history.

        Were the older fans idiots back then ?
        Were they not soccer fans ?

        I am old, maybe that is the problem.

        • Lars

          February 10, 2010 at 7:16 pm

          Age isn’t the problem, your brain is.

    8. Charles

      February 10, 2010 at 9:55 am

      Four things:
      1. Salt Lake won it all. They have a dumb name and I root for another team, but they won it all. Noone cares who was leading midway through the season and noone should care about an unbalanced schedule Supporters Shield title. It is a joke. For the WHOLE season, Salt Lake won the most games, had the most points and beat Columbus 3 out of 4 times. How is Columbus the best team ?
      (ps. I just saw that Chelsea has a winning record against ManU in the history of the EPL, ManU 11 titles…Chelsea 2 or 3 )

      2. MLS needs to be all in, or not in for CCL. Playing scrubs and facing Mexican teams is a recipe for disaster. Seattle is planning on playing their games at Starfire, capacity = a badly attendended High School gridiron game.

      3. Get rid of ties. Man, if there was one thing that MANY Seattle fans wanted it was that. At one point 40% of the MLS games were undecided. It lead to parity but that was it. Just play it out, if 2.5 goals are scored a game, you are inside of 30 minutes for a Golden Goal…and it is exciting.
      The epitome was the Sounders playing Houston in the US Open Cup. A very late goal led to a tie…but they couldn’t just stop playing like in the regular season. The goal in OT was beyond exciting.

      4. LA needs Landon playing here. Maybe they get $10 million in the short term, but long term they are struggling with getting/keeping fans.

      • Lars

        February 10, 2010 at 7:14 pm

        You’re an idiots Charles. Stop bastardizing the game, let Landon play where he’s best, and the Supporters’ Shield was made by the Supporters, for the Supporters. If you’re against the Supporters’ Shield, you against the people who care most about the game in North America.

        Learn some history, stop being a loser Seattle fan who thinks he knows everything about MLS when you know nothing, stop insulting the fine traditions set up in the league, stop insulting the other teams and quite frankly stop commenting until you stop being retarded.


        The minute the game is americanized, the minute I stop watching MLS entirely, and the same can be said for most fans.

    9. sal

      February 10, 2010 at 9:44 am

      That was an amazing amount of information. Keep up the good work.

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