By Paul Kennedy
Thanks to rising attendance, Major League Soccer has had a strong story to tell.
MLS averaged 18,807 fans a game in 2012 -- up 17 percent in just three years -- ranking third among American sports leagues, ahead of the NBA and NHL and behind the NFL and MLB, and sixth in the world among soccer leagues behind only the Bundesliga (Germany), Premier League (England), La Liga (Spain), Liga MX (Mexico) and Serie A (Italy).
(Both the Dutch Eredivisie and French Ligue 1 have both experienced decreases in 2012-13 that should drop them below MLS.)
But MLS faces perhaps its most challenging year in the last decade. For the first time since adding Real Salt Lake and Chivas USA in 2005, MLS will not welcome an expansion team or open a new stadium.
And it won't get the corresponding bump in attendance that these expansion teams and new teams have brought, especially in recent years.
Of the eight teams that averaged above the 2012 average of 18,807, seven were teams that arrived or opened a new stadium in 2009 or later. There was a difference of an average of almost 10,000 fans per game between those teams that arrived or opened a new stadium in 2009 or later and those teams that arrived or opened a new stadium before 2009.
For MLS to boost attendance this year, it will be entirely based on year-to-year jumps -- quite a challenge given that many of the best-drawing teams are at or near capacity to begin with.
More than ever, it will be back to basics for MLS clubs, making the work of ticket salespersons critical if MLS is to continue telling a positive storyline.
New teams/new stadiums (2009-12)
2012 AVG. TEAM (FIRST YEAR)
43,144 Seattle Sounders (2009)
22,772 Montreal Impact (2012)
21,015 Houston Dynamo (2012)
20,438 Portland Timbers (2011)
19,475 Vancouver Whitecaps (2011)
19,404 Sporting Kansas City (2011)
19,087 Real Salt Lake (2009)
18,281 New York Red Bulls (2010)
18,053 Philadelphia Union (2010)
New teams/new stadiums (1996-2008)
2012 AVG. TEAM (FIRST YEAR)
23,146 LA Galaxy (2003)
18,155 Toronto FC (2007)
16,409 Chicago Fire (2006)
15,175 Colorado Rapids (2007)
14,397 Columbus Crew (1999)
14,199 FC Dallas (2005)
14,001 New England Revolution (2002)
13,846 D.C. United (1996)
13,293 San Jose Earthquakes (2008)
13,056 Chivas USA (2005)
U.S. CENTENNIAL JERSEY UNVEILED. U.S. Soccer and Nike unveiled the new U.S. men’s and women’s national team home jersey celebrating the federation’s 100th year.
Known originally as the United States of America Foot Ball Association, the organization was officially formed on April 5, 1913. Three years later, the USA played its first international men's game against Sweden in Stockholm, winning 3-2, and the new kit is inspired by the uniform worn by those players,
The new jerseys featuring a solid white design with obsidian blue collar and sleeve detailing and a wide and deep V-neck to match the 1913 jersey are available online and in stores starting Friday.
NEW SUPPORTERS' SHIELD. The Independent Supporters Council, MLS's association of supporter groups, funded the design for a new Supporters’ Shield, awarded each season to the MLS club with the best regular-season record.
"It is unique in the landscape of American sports,’’ Sean Dane, president of Supporters' Shield Foundation and a leader in the Kansas City Cauldron, told the New York Post. “I think it highlights what makes the supporters culture in the league great. It also highlights the ability of Major League Soccer to work in partnership with its supporters in a way unseen in other sports. The effort of the ISC and its members is commendable and it helps to further the growth of supporters culture in the country. That’s a win for all involved and I am proud to be associated with all them.”
The new sterling-silver Supporters’ Shield, which weighs more than 35 pounds, was designed by Kyle Stewart and made in Toronto by Award Co.
LIGA MX ADOPTS MATCH ANALYSIS. Liga MX has reached an agreement with Match Analysis to use the video and technical analysis systems of the California-based company.
Among other Match Analysis products, Liga MX will use the K2 Plus, a market-leading system that provides corner-to-corner video and player tracking, among other things.
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