By Paul Kennedy and Ridge Mahoney
Major League Soccer drew an average of only 14,696 fans for eight games in Week 4 -- the lowest weekly average for a week with more than one game in several years.
The low numbers -- which included a record low crowd at Houston's BBVA Compass Stadium and four crowds of less than 12,000 elsewhere -- were not entirely surprising.
-- Three teams were playing at home a week after home games were heavily promoted as part of MLS's Rivalry Week, and three others were following up on their home openers.
-- The fact that many MLS stars were unavailable because of World Cup qualifying could not have helped.
-- It was a big sports weekend with the start of the NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament.
-- Bad weather has extended into late March in much of the country.
Was it a mistake to start so early -- the March 2 start was MLS's earliest start ever -- and play through a FIFA weekend? MLS is apparently thinking these early weekend dates are better than stacking up loads of midweek games later in the year.
The 2013 season average after Week 4 is 18,698, down 8.1 percent from 20,334 after Week 4 in 2012.
MLS HOME OPENERS.New England was the last team to open at home, drawing an announced crowd of 12,215 fans who braved high winds to watch the Revs' match with Sporting Kansas City.
Eight MLS teams drew larger crowds for their 2013 home openers than they did in 2012. Nine teams drew smaller crowds for their 2013 openers. Two other teams -- Vancouver and San Jose -- matched their 2012 totals -- both sellout crowds.
The 2013 home openers averaged 19,787, down 8.5 percent from the 2012 average of 21,628.
2013 MLS Home Openers
ATT. TEAM (2012 OPENER)
38,998 +Seattle (38,709)
37,896 Montreal (58,912)
25,991 +Toronto FC (20,070)
22,022 +New York (21,024)
21,000 Vancouver (21,000)
20,919 Houston (22,039)
20,674 +Portland (20,438)
20,370 +Real Salt Lake (16,738)
20,148 LA Galaxy (27,000)
19,868 +Sporting KC (19,777)
18,160 Philadelphia (19,074)
18,075 FC Dallas (20,906)
17,072 +D.C. United (16,314)
16,528 Columbus (18,197)
15,122 +Colorado (14,749)
13,242 Chicago (18,075)
12,215 New England (12,925)
10,525 San Jose (10,525)
7,121 Chivas USA (14,464)
19,787 AVERAGE (21,628)
+=increase over 2012 opener.
ASIAN QUALIFIERS STREAMED.ONE World Sports is presenting a free preview of its exclusive coverage of Asian World Cup qualifiers on Tuesday. Streaming coverage of four qualifying matches will be shown on broadband at no charge.
Japan, the Group B leader with 13 points, will clinch a World Cup spot by beating Jordan in a game that kicks off at 10 a.m. ET. It could also clinch by tying if Australia and Oman tied in a game that kicked off at 4:30 a.m. ET.
The other matches that will be streamed: South Korea-Qatar at 7 a.m. ET and Uzbekistan-Lebanon on delay at Noon ET.
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