MLS Sees Strong Attendance Numbers, Thriving Fanbases For New Teams
MLS’ emphasis on “soccer-fanatical young adults, rather than soccer-mom families in minivans, is new” to the league, and it “is working,” according to Don Ruiz of the Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE. For Sunday’s Sounders-Timbers matchup, members of the Timbers Army “arrived early, cheered, sang, waved flags and chanted things that can’t be quoted -- or even adequately paraphrased -- in this newspaper.” One section of 500 visiting Sounders fans seated in an upper corner of Jeld-Wen Field “did their best to match them chant for chant, bleep for bleep.” MLS’ efforts to reach young adult soccer fans became a success “with the 2007 expansion to Toronto.” Toronto FC Senior Dir of Business Communications Paul Beirne said, “I don’t think it’s so much of a turning point as it is a progression.” Ruiz reported prior to Toronto, MLS “seemed to value the quality of a stadium over where it was located.” Teams such as FC Dallas and the Rapids “plopped their stadiums in the distant suburbs, surrounded by youth soccer fields in the hopes that those soccer-playing kids would get their parents to take them to MLS games.” The emphasis in Toronto, however, “switched to location,” as BMO Field is on the “fringe of Toronto’s buzzing multicultural downtown." Ruiz: "The fan base reflects that. It is adult. It is passionate. It drinks beer." Of the six MLS expansion cities since Toronto FC in ’07, “all but San Jose rank among the league’s top six in home attendance.” The Northwest teams “rank first (Seattle), third (Vancouver) and fifth (Portland) among the 18 teams.” Whitecaps MF Pete Vagenas: “I’m so proud of this league and the new teams that are coming in. ... Being a lifetime MLS guy: Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, I can’t say enough. The atmosphere in Seattle is obviously second to none” (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 7/11).