SBJ/November 5-11, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

MLS average attendance posts milestone

MLS teams averaged 18,807 fans per game during the 2012 regular season, marking the league’s best figure in its 17-year history.

This season’s average was up 5 percent from last year, which previously stood as the league’s best.

MLS ATTENDANCE

2012 REGULAR-SEASON TOTALS

Home team Avg. Change
Chicago Fire 16,409 +15.0%
Chivas USA 13,056 -12.0%
Colorado Rapids 15,175 +2.3%
Columbus Crew 14,397 +18.2%
D.C. United 13,846 -8.9%
FC Dallas 14,199 +10.4%
Houston Dynamo (a) 21,015 +18.8%
Los Angeles Galaxy 23,136 -0.9%
Montreal Impact (b) 22,772 NA
New England Revolution 14,001 +5.9%
New York Red Bulls 18,281 -7.4%
Philadelphia Union 18,053 -1.1%
Portland Timbers 20,438 +8.6%
Real Salt Lake 19,087 +8.5%
San Jose Earthquakes (c) 13,293 +12.1%
Seattle Sounders FC 43,144 +12.1%
Sporting Kansas City 19,404 +8.9%
Toronto FC 18,155 -10.4%
Vancouver Whitecaps 19,475 -4.6%
TOTALS 18,807 +5.2%

NA: Not applicable; 2012 expansion team
(a) Moved into new BBVA Compass Stadium this year; played in Robertson Stadium last year.
(b) Played its first five games at Olympic Stadium this season before moving into its renovated Saputo Stadium.
(c) Includes designated Earthquakes home games in March at AT&T Park (vs. Houston) and in June at Stanford Stadium (vs. Los Angeles).

Among the factors that contributed to this year’s gains were the Seattle Sounders continuing to post record-setting numbers; the addition of the expansion Impact in Montreal; and the Dynamo’s move to soccer-specific BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston.

The Sounders set an MLS attendance record for the fourth straight season, with the club’s average up 12 percent from 2011.

The league’s 18,807 average stands ahead of the averages for the NHL (17,445) and NBA (17,274) during their respective 2011-12 seasons. Howard Handler, MLS chief marketing officer, called that comparison “a helpful reference point and a nice benchmark.”

“Averaging almost 19,000 fans at our games underscores the steady growth of the league,” Handler said. “As important as it is for us to see fans connecting to our apps, websites and social media, attendance is central. It’s a powerful statement about our fans’ loyalty to their teams and adds to the overall notion that MLS continues to be on the rise.”

On the flip side, Toronto FC saw a 10 percent drop at the gate, fueled in large part by poor on-field performance. This comes after several years of solid attendance following the club’s founding in 2007. Chivas USA suffered a double whammy at the gate: lowest average attendance and sharpest percentage drop among all clubs — coming in a season in which Chivas USA finished at the bottom of the Western Conference standings.

“There are always ways to try and promote, market and sell better, but what you also find is that it’s the same as most sports leagues: attendance in some markets is the nature of a competitive business where there are wins and losses,” Handler said. “Fans take their clubs seriously.”

Handler added that the decrease in attendance for the New York Red Bulls (down 7 percent) should not be seen as a reason for pause in the league’s ongoing efforts to bring a second franchise to the New York market.

“We view them as different situations,” he said. “A small percentage of fans at Red Bulls games come from across the East River. A second team in New York is still a few years away. We’re confident a team in the Flushing Meadow [Queens] area will thrive and it will make for an incredible rivalry with the Red Bulls.”

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