Wednesday, May 30, 2007

What do MLS attendance numbers tell us?

(edit - full season numbers here)

With just about every MLS side having at least four home games under their belts, I thought it would be a good time to look at league attendance numbers. Interestingly enough, the three best teams (by points) in the league (NY, NE, KC) are in the bottom five when it comes to average per home game, with two of the top three taking up the bottom two spots (NY, KC).

Okay, New York and Kansas City in the bottom spots is no surprise to anyone who knows their MLS history, but I was surprised to see the Eastern conference take up all of the last five places. Real Salt Lake’s strong numbers also pleasantly surprised me. At almost 16,000 fans per game, they take fifth place overall.

In the list below I included the best and worst attendance number so far as well as whom they played. I was a little taken aback to see New England's name come up three times in the worst column while a team like Columbus only came up once. This caused me to think that maybe there were teams that just didn't draw well on the road, which is why I did the second table.
TeamHGTotalAvgBest vsWorst vsHR
LA373,31124,43727,000 CV22,715 NE1-2-0
TFC479,45419,86420,183 DC19,123 HD2-2-0
DC467,61116,903 22,358 KC12,908 NE2-1-1
HD464,54716,13718,232 NE13,392 CF1-2-1
RSL463,79715,94918,678 FCD14,173 CR0-1-3
CV461,36015,34027,000 LA8,756 FCD3-0-1
FCD460,32815,082 20,500 CR9,165 NE2-2-0
CR687,40814,56818,458 LA10,719 HD2-1-3
NE340,84813,61618,184 TFC9,508 CF2-1-0
CF452,23013,05815,353 NE11,717 KC2-1-1
CC564,94412,98913,782 NY11,755 TFC1-0-4
NY548,8269,76512,481 HD7,802 CR4-1-0
KC325,0058,33510,141 FCD7,426 CC2-1-0
HG: Number of Home Games, HR: Home Record

In this table I looked at team's road numbers. Oddly enough, even with all there 'worst' numbers, New England actually has the fifth best attendance average on the road, while Toronto, who is near tops at home, sinks like a stone out on the road.
AG: Number of Away Games, AR: Away Record

So what did I learn from looking at all these numbers? The biggest thing was how much the LA-Chivas matches help those clubs. Without the 27,000 from their LA match, Chivas (CV) would have a home average of just 11,453 or third worst in MLS. On the 'road' LA gets a nice boost as well, but even without the 27k number, they would still sit in second place with a 17,431 average.

Another thing I noticed is how much New England depends on double headers to get their home numbers up. They have only played three home matches but two of them were part of a bigger event. The one match that did not include a second game resulted in just 9,500 people showing up. These numbers are alarming.

One last piece I noticed was the difference in teams playing in big NFL size stadiums vs. Soccer Specific Stadiums vs. College size stadiums. The SSS (CC, CV, FCD, CR, CF, TFC, LA) were all over the place, but made up most of the middle of the pack. The NFL stadiums (DC, KC, NY, NE) were almost all at the bottom, except for DC. The college size stadiums (HD, RSL) were both in the top five. What does this mean? I'm not sure, but I think it is obvious that huge stadiums suck without people their to fill them (real original thought).

A final item little notion that passed through my head while looking at all this is how bad these numbers are for the idea of an 'Atlantic coast league'. What I mean by that is one of the advantages the East Conference has over the West is the relatively small distance between the majority of the teams, thus making it easier for supporters to travel with their clubs. However, if you can't get people to go the 30-miles or so to a home match, what chance do you have of getting significant numbers to go a few hundred miles for a road trip? This game will really be something when teams can start counting on 1,000 or so of their own fans showing up for away games.

Anyone else see something of interest in these numbers?

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Blogger Fullback said...

Interesting analysis. I also noticed the top 3 being in the bottom 5 in attendance. KC & NY really don't deserve the quality that their sides are displaying, and the Chivas numbers without the "superclassico" are pretty pathetic for a team that by all rights has built in support via their parent club. So is the problem the stadium location, marketing, ticket pricing, or a combination of all three?

As for the difference in attendance between NFL and college stadiums, I think that reflects partially on the pro sports market. Those playing in NFL stadiums are competing against a glut of local pro sports, while those is college stadiums have less of a conflict.

RSL only has the Jazz to contend with while Houston has a relatively new American football franchise, though they are fully loaded in the other sports, somewhat disproving my rather tenuous point.

6:56 AM  
Blogger Mike H said...

I really was shocked to see how bad Chivas's numbers were without the classico. Could it be that even with all the built in support in the world, what matters is the results on the pitch?

It is interesting that all six of the top draws have either won a MLS Cup (LA,HD,DC) or are new to the league in the last three years (TFC,RSL,CV,HD).

Both KC and Chicago won the MLS Cup and sit near the bottom, but the Fire's win was in their first season. KC is the harder one to explain. Maybe it's because they have long periods of so-so or worse play followed by peaks.

3:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i live in new york amd can tell you first hand why attendance sucks in nyc. quite simply, giants stadium.

until the new stadium is built, don't expect numbers to much higher than 10,000 for ny. it's a shame because they look like they have a good team this year, but noone wants to go to that dump to watch them play.

it's criminal that ny fans have had to endure giants stadium for 10 long years, especially when you see what's going on in toronto and la (galaxy).

10:46 PM  
Blogger Mike H said...

So true about Giants Stadium. Unless there are about 30K there, it is going to sound pretty empty.

Hopefully a new home will make something happen.

11:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think it's realistic to take all 27,000 from Chivas at home vs. Galaxy. It's more realistic to say half the stadium (13,500) was there to see Chivas and the other half to see Galaxy, which means that the average for Chivas home games is really around 13,500. Still not great, but not as bad as you have it.

6:38 PM  
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