MLS set to break season attendance record

[CROWD COUNT] Major League Soccer is set to break its record for average attendance set in 2012. With one week left in the 2014 regular season, MLS is averaging 19,045 fans a game, marking the first time it has topped the 19,000-a-game mark. A record eight teams are averaging more than 20,000 fans a game, and at least five teams will break single-season average attendance records.

Seattle leads all teams with an average of 42,863 fans a game and will set a club average attendance record for the sixth straight season if it draws more than 62,840 fans for Saturday's season finale against the LA Galaxy. The Sounders will win the Supporters' Shield on Saturday if they beat or tie the LA Galaxy, so there is a good chance they'll get a big crowd at CenturyLink Field.

Toronto FC, Portland, Real Salt Lake, Sporting Kansas City and FC Dallas all have or will set attendance records in 2014. All but FC Dallas have been playing at or near capacity all season. In the case of Portland, it has sold out every MLS game -- 68 games in all -- in its four years in the league. Sporting Kansas City drew its 52nd consecutive straight sellout at Sporting Park on Oct. 10 for its game against Chicago even through the baseball Royals clinched the ALCS the same evening. Wednesday's crowd of 20,665 for RSL's home match against Chivas USA was its 15th sellout in 17 league games.

Eleven MLS teams have increased average attendance, while eight teams have decreased average attendance.

D.C. United leads all teams with an average increase of 25 percent. Its crowds have steadily improved in its worst-to-first campaign, but its average is bolstered by a crowd of 53,267 it is credited drawing for a game against Columbus that was part of a doubleheader with the Spain-El Salvador pre-World Cup friendly at Fedex Field.

San Jose's average attendance was boosted by a second home match away from tiny Buck Shaw Stadium. In addition to its annual match at Stanford Stadium, the Quakes opened Levi's Stadium, the new home of the San Francisco 49ers.

Perhaps the most impressive increase has been achieved by FC Dallas, which is set to break its average attendance record set in 1996, the first season of MLS. Average attendance is up more than 55 percent since its MLS Cup campaign in 2010.

The biggest drop has been experienced by Montreal, down 15 percent. With likely one last game before it goes on hiatus, Chivas USA's average attendance is down 14 percent. It will set a single-season MLS record for the lowest average attendance unless it draws 12,328 or more fans for its midday game Sunday against San Jose.

The arrival of expansion teams New York City FC and Orlando City and likely exit of Chivas USA should assure MLS of breaking its average attendance mark again in 2015, though it would need huge crowds in New York and Orlando to approach the 20,000-a-game mark.

2014 MLS Attendance (by average):
TEAM AVG. (+/-)
*Seattle 42,863 (-3%)
Toronto FC 22,086 (+22%)
LA Galaxy 21,258 (-2%)
Portland 20,777 (+0.5%)
*Vancouver 20,371 (+1%)
Real Salt Lake 20,351 (+6%)
Houston 20,117 (+1%)
*Sporting KC 20,054 (+2%)
New York 19,421 (-0.2%)
Philadelphia 17,631 (-7%)
*Montreal 17,557 (-15%)
D.C. United 17,030 (+25%)
*Columbus 16,880 (+5%)
*FC Dallas 16,791 (+9%)
*Chicago 15,907 (+4%)
*New England 15,676 (+6%)
Colorado 15,082 (-3%)
San Jose 14,947 (+17%)
*Chivas USA 7,156 (-14%)
MLS 19,045 (+2%)
*One home game to play.

2014 MLS Attendance (by increase):
TEAM AVG. (+/-)
D.C. United 17,030 (+25%)
Toronto FC 22,086 (+22%)
San Jose 14,947 (+17%)
*FC Dallas 16,791 (+9%)
Real Salt Lake 20,351 (+6%)
*New England 15,676 (+6%)
*Columbus 16,880 (+5%)
*Chicago 15,907 (+4%)
*Sporting KC 20,054 (+2%)
*Vancouver 20,371 (+1%)
Houston 20,117 (+1%)
Portland 20,777 (+0.5%)
New York 19,421 (-0.2%)
LA Galaxy 21,258 (-2%)
*Seattle 42,863 (-3%)
Colorado 15,082 (-3%)
Philadelphia 17,631 (-7%)
*Chivas USA 7,156 (-14%)
*Montreal 17,557 (-15%)
MLS 19,045 (+2%)
*One home game to play.

MLS Attendance Year-By-Year:
YEAR AVG.
1996 - 17,406
1997 - 14,603
1998 - 14,312
1999 - 14,282
2000 - 13,756
2001 - 14,961
2002 - 15,821
2003 - 14,898
2004 - 15,559
2005 - 15,108
2006 - 15,504
2007 - 16,770
2008 - 16,460
2009 - 16,037
2010 - 16,675
2011 - 17,872
2012 - 18,807
2013 - 18,594
2014 - 19,045

Highest MLS Attendance:
AVG. TEAM (+/-)
44,038 Seattle (2013)
43,144 Seattle (2012)
42,863 *Seattle (2014)
38,496 Seattle (2011)
36,173 Seattle (2010)
30,897 Seattle (2009)
28,916 Los Angeles (1996)
26,009 Los Angeles (2008)
24,252 Los Angeles (2007)
24,204 Los Angeles (2005)
*One home game to play.

Lowest MLS Attendance:
AVG. TEAM (+/-)
7,156 *Chivas USA (2014)
7,460 Miami (2000)
7,906 Dallas (2003)
8,072 Kansas City (1998)
8,183 Kansas City (1999)
8,336 Chivas USA (2013)
8,689 Miami (1999)
9,058 Kansas City (1997)
9,088 Dallas (2004)
9,112 Kansas City (2000)
*One home game to play.
9 comments about "MLS set to break season attendance record".
  1. Ken Jamieson, October 21, 2014 at 11:52 p.m.

    The fact that MLS is on the cusp of breaking its attendance record while one club sets a league-record worst average attendance speaks highly for the health of the other 18 clubs. Chivas USA has been an abysmal failure and brings into question whether a second team in LA is feasible. With so many other good candidates for expansion, why flog a dead horse. Fold Chivas USA, as MLS did with Tampa Bay and Miami in 2001, and award a new expansion team somewhere other than LA. I am also of the belief that putting a second team in NY is also a mistake, although geographically they are not as close as the LA duo.

  2. Mike Jacome, October 22, 2014 at 12:20 p.m.

    Being a SSFC season ticket holder I can testify of 38,000+ people attending every single game. But I'm somehow confused by attendance numbers like Toronto and Houston, they report over 20,000 atttendance per game, however when I watch on TV I can see clearly the 20 thousand something stadiums capacity filled at only half way... This is a mystery to me...

  3. Cristian Tane, October 22, 2014 at 1:13 p.m.

    Mike, it's not a mistery. MLS, like all North American leagues, is reporting "tickets distributed", and not "people actually attending", like European leagues. TFC sold 17.000 season tickets. If half of these stay home because let's be honest this was another disaster year, the stadium looks half empty, but they still report 18-19k. If there were 100 people in the stadium, they will still say 17.000.

  4. Mike Jacome, October 22, 2014 at 2:14 p.m.

    Ken, I wholehearted agree with you about the LA franchises. Galaxy can barely bring 23,000 average followers to their 27,000 caopacity stadium, whereas Portland wishes they have such big capacity, (Portland have had 68 consecutive sellouts in their 20,000 stadium and they have 5,000+ in the waiting list)LA does not need another team. But California might be ready for another franchise. I'm sure Sacramento could easily gather 15,000 per season. Why not rebrand Chivas and give to Sacramento?
    Regarding NY, I think the NY Cosmos demonstrated that there is market in NY for big soccer crowds. The mistake was "making up" a new franchise from thin air...What about investing in reviving the NASL NYCosmos, and incorporating it to MLS instead?

  5. nick p, October 22, 2014 at 5:30 p.m.

    Orlando City is hoping to put up a huge number for the home opener and since the 1st season will played in a Football stadium

  6. Ken Jamieson, October 22, 2014 at 7:23 p.m.

    Mike, I will reserve judgement on the New York situation until NYCFC has at least a year under its belt. Regarding the Cosmos, while they did reasonably well last year (starting with a crowd of almost 12,000 before averaging 7,000) they are averaging only 4,700 a game this year (peaking with their home opener of 7,906. Regarding the Chivas debacle, while I am sure many would like to see the franchise kept in California and Sacramento makes a good case based on one USL Pro season (don't look too deeply into the history of pro soccer in Sacramento, though), there are other areas in the US equally, if not more deserving of a franchise. Minnesota, which is rumored to be on the MLS short list, has a long and storied pro soccer history and probably deserves into MLS as much as any place. The bottom line is clear: if Chivas goes on hiatus or is disbanded, stabilize the Galaxy before bringing in a second team. With Landon retiring and Robbie Keane nearing the end of the line, will the support be there if the Galaxy are no longer the dominant force in MLS? MLS will be better served by reaching more markets than over-saturating the "big" markets.

  7. Mike Jacome, October 23, 2014 at 12:55 a.m.

    "MLS will be better served by reaching more markets than over-saturating the "big" markets."
    I couldn't agree more... MLS dug out gold by granting a franchise to Seattle, and consider this, SSFC has not been a dominate force in MLS like LA Galaxy has been... Nevertheless rattle has continued to gain followers (at the stadium and on TV) I'm sure if in the next five years Seattle became as successful than LAG by 2019 we'll be talking about attendance in NFL figures. But as good as Seattle potential is, would be extremely dumb for MLS to oversaturate the market and support a second franchise in Seattle. Finding new markets is the answer...Minneapolis, Detroit, Vegas, San Antonio or even small towns with a lot of soccer spirit...That is why promotion/relegation should be the way to go (eventually) because is the way to reach smaller but eager markets with a lot of potential, by giving a shot to teams with truly faithful fan base ...

  8. Ken Jamieson, October 25, 2014 at 5:46 p.m.

    Mike, excellent comments, given the way the city of Portland has gotten behind the Timbers and how MLS clubs in bigger markets like Chicago or Dallas struggle, bigger is not necessarily better. I agree with announced expansions to Orlando and Atlanta, both have paid their dues at the lower leagues. For Detroit, let's put a USL-Pro or NASL team there for a couple years before we start talking MLS. Minneapolis-St. Paul remains my most deserving market for MLS, even though I know my beloved NASL will suffer without Minnesota United FC and the passion of the Dark Clouds supporters.

  9. Drew Whisnant, October 27, 2014 at 3:34 p.m.

    Chicago made the large mistake of putting Toyota Park in a highly industrial(rail line) area of Bridgview, IL. About any other near suburb, or venue along a moajor highway west or north of Chicago and they could be in the top ten in attendance each year. The stadium is great, but not accessible and there is no neighborhood or city street to hang out before or after a game. The soccer specific stadiums have to be built in or near established neighborhoods that embrace soccer already and that will feed the walk up crowd. I would love to drive 20 or 30 minutes to see my local soccer club and support them regularly, but it is impossible with the location they chose. You have to plan on spending about 5 hours minimum to go to the game and then you would be lucky to see a win or even a good performance.

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