By Paul Kennedy
Major League Soccer attendance continues to lag behind its record-high final average of 18,807 in 2012 with an average of 17,480 through 150 games in 2013.
Three teams have registered increases of more than five percent over their 2012 averages for the same number of games, and six teams have decreases of more than five percent, though San Jose (down 37 percent) will wipe out almost all that decrease on Saturday as it has already sold 45,000 tickets for its match against the LA Galaxy at Stanford Stadium.
The most notable bright spots are two original MLS clubs, FC Dallas and New England, both up over 10 percent from the same point last season, and Seattle and Portland, which could both extend their streaks of having improved on their record attendance averages every year since they joined MLS in 2009 and 2011, respectively.
-- FC Dallas is benefiting from its strong play on the field -- it led the Western Conference for much of the season until it was overtaken by Real Salt Lake and Portland over the weekend -- but also from improved ticket sales operations in recent years that have pushed average attendance up 50 percent over the final 2010 average.
FC Dallas will need to average just under 17,100 for its eight remaining league home dates to break its season record average of 16,011 set in its first season in the Cotton Bowl. But that's not out of the question as the Hoops play all but one of their remaining home games on the weekend, and that's a July 4 date.
-- Attendance is up 12 percent over the first eight games of 2012 in New England, which finds itself in the thick of the playoff hunt with an exciting young team, though the Revs still rank 16th out of 19 teams with an average of 13,670 a game.
That's a long way from the club high of 21,423 in 1997 when they led MLS in average attendance, but the Revs' season average should increase as they do have a history of drawing well in the fall. (They averaged almost 25,000 for their final two games of the 2012 season.)
-- In each year of their existence, the Sounders have broken the MLS record for attendance record, an increase of more than 12,000 a game over the four seasons. They've played a league-low six home games and are averaging 41,502, up from the same period last season though below their 2012 final average of 43,144 (boosted by three crowds of more than 55,000 in the second half of the season when the upper deck at CenturyLink Field was opened).
-- Portland drew its 42nd straight sell-out on Sunday afternoon as the Timbers beat Colorado, 3-0, before 20,674 fans. Each season capacity has been increased at JELD-WEN Field so Portland will register another modest increase in 2013.
2013 MLS Attendance:
+/-% TEAM (2013 AVG.)
+14% FC Dallas (15,060)
+12% New England (13,670)
+7% Seattle (41,502)
+2% Vancouver (19,466)
+1% (1) Toronto FC (19,134)
+1% Portland (20,674)
+0.4% Sporting KC (19,426)
+0.4% New York (17,517)
-0.5% Real Salt Lake (18,548)
-1% LA Galaxy (21,949)
-2% Colorado (14,702)
-3% Columbus (14,148)
-5% Philadelphia (17,513)
-6% D.C. United (13,703)
-9% Houston (19,466)
-16% Chicago (12,723)
-29% (2) Montreal (21,413)
-34% Chivas USA (8,998)
-37% (3) San Jose (10,409)
Note: Percentage change is the increase or decrease over the team's average attendance after the same number of games in 2012.
(1) Toronto FC played its 2013 opener at Rogers Centre, where it drew 25,991.
(2) Montreal plays its first six games in 2012 at Olympic Stadium, where it averaged 33,267. It played its first two games in 2013 at Olympic Stadium, where it averaged 32,213.
(3) San Jose played one game as part of a Mexico doubleheader at A&T Park, where it drew 21,816, and another game at Stanford Stadium, where it drew 50,391, in 2012.
USL HIRE.Jake Edwards has joined the United Soccer Leagues management team as vice president. Edwards played at James Madison University and for the Charleston Battery before returning to his native England, where he most recently served as a strategy consultant for Octagon Worldwide, the world’s largest sponsorship consulting practice.
“Jake Edwards brings a background in a wide range of areas that will make him a key player as USL PRO continues to build its position as the strongest, best operated and most experienced North American men’s professional soccer league below and in support of MLS,” USL CEO Alec Papadakis said. “Jake’s hiring is part of our continued efforts to strengthen USL PRO through the addition of experienced and talented sports executives that can help create new business opportunities to benefit the league and its teams.”
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