[MLS] With two months left in the 2010 Major League Soccer season, average attendance is 16,350 fans a game, up 2 percent over last year's average -- and even higher in pure terms.
MLS is on course to finish with its fourth highest average attendance in the league's 15-year history.
Only in 1996 (its inaugural season) and 2007 and 2008 (David Beckham's first two seasons) did MLS average more fans than it averages this season.
Six teams have average increases of 2 percent to 40 percent; six teams have decreases of 2 percent to 32 percent; three have had no statistically significant changes.
The biggest contributors to MLS's attendance boost in 2010 are:
-- Opening of Red Bull Arena (New York is up 40% over its final, dismal year at Giants Stadium);
-- Seattle's growing success (expanded seating at Qwest Field has boosted the Sounders' attendance by 20 percent from their record average set in their first season);
-- Expansion into Philadelphia (Union's opening crowds at Lincoln Financial Field averaged almost 30,000).
In pure terms, average attendance is up more than 2 percent compared to 2009 when several crowds were for soccer doubleheaders at which other teams were the main attraction:
-- Barcelona-Club America at San Francisco's Candlestick Park (credited as a San Jose crowd of 61,572);
-- Mexico-Colombia at the Cotton Bowl (credited as an FC Dallas crowd of 51,102).
Without those inflated crowds, FC Dallas and San Jose are down an average of 32 percent apiece in 2010. D.C. United (with both the worst team and the worst facility in MLS) is down 17 percent, while New England (which hosted an MLS/Gold Cup tripleheader that drew 26,623 fans in 2009) is down 14 percent.
Attendance should remain solid through the rest of the season, though the full impact of the arrival of international stars Thierry Henry and Rafael Marquez at New York won't be felt until next season.
MLS attendance figures don't include crowds for friendly games against international opponents.
2010 MLS Attendance
|2. Toronto FC
|4. *Los Angeles
|5. *New York
|7. *Real Salt Lake
|9. Chivas USA
|11. D.C. United
|13. New England
|14. *FC Dallas
|15. Kansas City
|16. San Jose
+/1=increase or decrease over 2009 final average.
*owns stadium in which it plays.