By Paul Kennedy
The Seattle Sounders' announcement that they have already sold out Clint Dempsey's first home game Aug. 25 against Portland -- 66,000+ -- is yet more good news for MLS on the attendance.
While it might not yet match last year's leaguewide record of 18,807 a game, MLS might get close after being down as much as 7 percent early in the season.
The weekly average of 18,986 for games played Saturday and Sunday marked the fifth time in the last six weeks that the weekly average topped MLS's 2012 final average and pushed the season average to 18,115 a game. By contrast, the weekly average topped MLS's 2012 final average only five of the first 15 weeks.
There's more good news on the Dempsey front as Seattle has more games remaining -- seven at home and seven away for a total of 14 -- than any other MLS team.
The bad news is that World Cup qualifying commitments will require Dempsey to miss at least four Seattle games -- three at home.
The USA has World Cup 2014 qualifiers Sept. 6 at Costa Rica and Sept. 10 against Mexico in Columbus, so Dempsey will miss the two Sounders' games Sept. 4 and Sept. 9 for sure and will be returning for a home game on Sept. 13, three days after the Mexico game.
The USA closes out World Cup qualifying Oct. 11 against Jamaica in Kansas City and Oct. 15 at Panama, while the Sounders host Vancouver Oct. 9 and play at Portland four days later. The Vancouver home game is a Cascadia Cup match, so that midweek game should still draw well, though perhaps not as well as the crowd of 53,679 that attended the June 8 meeting at CenturyLink Field, and Portland sells out all its games.
MLS attendance should also benefit in the final third of the season from strong playoff races for positions 1-5 that are shaping up in both conferences.
Besides Seattle, the LA Galaxy and Portland, ranked second and fourth in average attendance, also have seven home dates remaining. The only other team that still has seven home games to play is Chivas USA, last in MLS with an average of only 8,715 fans a game.
2013 MLS Attendance:
21,764 LA Galaxy
19,842 Sporting KC
19,446 Toronto FC
18,837 Real Salt Lake
18,314 New York
15,831 FC Dallas
13,740 San Jose
13,577 D.C. United
13,544 New England
8,715 Chivas USA
MANCHESTER UNITED ENTERS SOCIAL. Given its global reach, it might seem surprising that Manchester United has just launched official pages on Google+, Instagram and Renren (Chinese-language social media).
This follows the club's launches on Twitter and Sina Weibo (Chinese micro-blogging site) in July. (The Manchester United twitter page already has more than 673,000 followers.)
Manchester United will use its Google+ page to share behind-the-scenes content, features and exclusive interviews. A live Google+ Hangout with two members of the first team will take place in late August.
Manchester United also has over 34 million fans on its Facebook page, which launched in 2010.
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