Sounders set MLS attendance record while league average drops

CenturyLinkField (Getty)

By KEVIN KOCZWARA

The attendance numbers are in and the Seattle Sounders once again reign supreme.

The Sounders set the Major League Soccer attendance record for a fifth consecutive year while the league average suffered a slight dip in 2013. The Sounders averaged 44,038 fans a game at CenturyLink Field this year, more than double any other MLS team, and more than double what MLB’s Seattle Mariners averaged this season.

Teams across MLS averaged 18,594 fans per game in 2013, down 1.1 percent from 2012’s record attendance. But four teams besides Seattle enjoyed 20,000 or more fans a game this year: the Portland Timbers, LA Galaxy, Vancouver Whitecaps and Montreal Impact.

The Sounders and 10 other teams saw an overall increase in average attendance. The Crew’s numbers jumped the highest, rising 12 percent this year.

On the other end of the spectrum, Chivas USA’s well-documented attendance numbers dropped by 36 percent to 8,366 fans a game. Chivas USA’s attendance is a major reason for the league’s overall average drop.

Montreal’s attendance, despite being at more than 20,000 fans on average, also dropped because the team played just two of its home games at Olympic Stadium. In 2012, the Impact played in the large stadium five times while soccer-specific Stade Saputo was being constructed.

—–

What do you think of these attendance numbers? Think the Sounders can have even better support in 2014? Shaking your head at Chivas USA’s figures?

Share your thoughts below.

This entry was posted in Featured, Major League Soccer, MLS- Seattle Sounders. Bookmark the permalink.

92 Responses to Sounders set MLS attendance record while league average drops

  1. David says:

    Some of the sentences in this are a bit garbled, so their points are not clear. What did come through is that Chivas USA brings down the league average. One question to anyone who knows the answer: has Seattle made any plans to increase capacity for even more games next season? They have really pulled in the crowds. Another question is does Portland have any plans to increase their stadium capacity, because probably could draw more as well?

    • Rex says:

      I think Seattle should keep capacity very control like they have done so far. Slow increase and increases for big games. Limited availability always creates more demand and the sense of something special so people want to be there just to be there.

      • Jon says:

        Roth said recently that they would definitely open the full stadium up more next year. They did it four times in 2013.

        Assuming the MLS doesn’t adjust the format…CLink will welcome Portland 2x, LAG 2x, and Vancouver 1x. Outside of those games, I’m not sure who else who draw significantly more than 40K, unless there’s a special event/circumstance.

        • petedx says:

          Portland can’t expand. The stadium is about 90 years old and the end that could add seats is occupied by a rather snooty athletic club that will shoot that down. Also FYI Seattle will only host Portland 1 time next year, this year they hosted them twice.

          • David says:

            Hopefully the schedule will be adjusted so that the cascadian teams each host 3 of the games each year. This last year Seattle hosted 4 of their 6 games after hosting only two the year before.

            • West of the Cascades says:

              Ideally, the Cascadian teams will play 12 games against each other, and 10 more against randomly selected teams from the rest of the league (all at home in the West Coast venues) to boost league attendance averages. Chivas will be forced to play all of its games on the road.

              • Mysterious J says:

                Ideally, Cascadia could just be it’s own league (and own country!) and leave the crumbs to the peons elsewhere.

          • ConradB says:

            In September, Paulson discussed possibly expanding Jeld Wen by a few thousand by adding terraces to the north end. We’ll see if it happens, but they are at least discussing it.

            link to stumptownfooty.com

            • petedx says:

              I don’t think the terrace thing will happen. The TA seems to be mixed on it, leaning towards against it. While it would make the lower 100 sections a little more entertaining all the 200 level would lose general admission status and a lot of the atmosphere in the north end.

        • lassidawg says:

          If schedule is same it would be PT 1x and Van 1x

          Seahawks are talking about adding 3k so there could be a chance to get near 70K for soccer

    • Naugles says:

      I missed the part where NYRB’s numbers would go up if there was only a second team in the area? Having Chicas in LA must be the reason the Gals did so well.

      Honestly, the largest MSMA in the country and the only pull 18K/game? Good thing they don’t run these numbers by percent of population, NYRB would be near the bottom. This while playing in an incredible stadium, with a Supporter’s Shield winning team.

      And for all of those that talk about location, one of the major selling points for another team in NYC is the pent-up demand of the soccer-loving immigrant population. Well a significant portion live in N. NJ and are the proximate NYC area. Harrison is not convenient to for soccer Mom’s and SUV’s of CT, Westchester and Long Island, sadly.

      Consider that market tapped. Or is it just that they don’t drink Red Bull?

      • slowleftarm says:

        What was the point of this silly rant?

        • Ted Drews says:

          I keep forgetting I have to dumb things down on these boards.

          New York has 19.8 million people in the metropolitan area. They can’t fill a 25k seat stadium.

          I live here. The enthusiasm for soccer is overblown. There is no reason the region needs a second team, at least not one that will pull from the NYRB.

          • Jim says:

            I wouldn’t say the enthusiasm for soccer is overblown. Just from general observations, the attendance at bars for televised matches is far more than any other city in the country.

            Now, however, the enthusiasm for *MLS level* soccer is definitely overblown. And it’s not just soccer– college sports, women’s sports, and minor league sports have all suffered the same fate in the NYC area. My guess is that part of it is variety of options, and part is a generally snobby attitude. But yes, it doesn’t bode well for NYCFC unless MLS starts to radically change it’s business model and brings in more stars.

      • Stevedm says:

        Did that verbal fart make you feel better?

      • Joamiq says:

        The largest MSMA in the country… and about a billion other sports teams, plus a billion other things to do. Getting on people’s radars in the NY area is not easy.

        RB didn’t win the Supporters’ Shield until this past Sunday, so it’s not like that could have been marketed before. And I suspect for the casual soccer fan, RBA is just a soccer stadium, not an incredible stadium.

        Your geography paragraph is puzzling. You seem to suggest that there’s demand but that RB’s location is inconvenient, but then you claim that the market is tapped. These are two conflicting things. Either the market is tapped, in which case RB’s location isn’t the problem, or RB’s location is a problem, which means there’s an untapped market on the other side of the city. What is this stuff about drawing soccer moms and SUVs from LI and CT? I hate to break it to you, but that was never really in the plans for RB. No one’s going to spend that much time in the car for MLS, not in NY and not anywhere else. Harrison is convenient for people in Manhattan and Jersey. You know, the surrounding areas. Makes sense, right?

        If your point is simply that attendance numbers for RB don’t indicate that the demand is there for NYCFYCYFYC, sure, I can’t disagree. I don’t think NY needs another team. Then again, I’m guessing MLSHQ is looking at slightly more granular numbers than attendance averages. Just a hunch.

        • Ted Drews says:

          For someone who references “about a billion of other sports teams” I am sorry about my lack of precision.

          I guess I am one NY soccer fan who is a bit embarassed that Seatlle, with 3.5m in the area averaegs 40k+ and NYC with 19.8m can’t crack 20k.

          No, the suburban crowd was never figured in, nor should it have been. But those on the MTA/Path lines and access to the Turnpike, Rte. 9, etc. were. And in those areas are the ethnic neighborhoods that MLS loves to tap up: those soccer-starved fans just waiting to buy their season tickets for another team. What fiction.

          But $100m hit the bottom line for the League: that I get.

    • bottlcaps says:

      Chivas needs new branding, new stadium and a new owner. Right now it’s a blight on the MLS and not only in attendance. That MLS is standing around with it’s hands in it’s pockets as it doesn’t want to alarm present and future ownership groups.

      I think it’s well within the MLS purview to attach attendance requirements to a faltering team or face contraction like the Mutiny or Fusion. At the very least the MLS should be pushing Chivas to find a suitable stadium site, at the very most they should encourage Vegeras to sall the team.

    • Smith says:

      Chivas is a life sucking force that needs to be relocated and rebranded ASAP.

      • ChiMike9607 says:

        So, just where do we put Chivas? I think part of the re-branding should be that the mention “Chivas” be removed. Chivas isn’t the only team in Liga MX that’s rooted for here. Maybe we have Beckham BUY that franchise, and that becomes the Miami franchise.

  2. Rex says:

    Please add a team by team break down or a link to somewhere that does.

  3. Yusef says:

    I wonder how much the building of suburban stadiums versus urban stadiums impact attendance.

    • SombraAla says:

      Depends on the city/team – I’m pretty sure that KC doesn’t care all that much as we drive everywhere here, but it’s safe to say that higher population density cities care much more, esp. ones where public transit makes owning a car less necessary (assuming the stadium isn’t readily accessible by public transit)

    • GJJ says:

      Living in Chicago, I don’t drive much. A while back it literally took me longer to get to and from my house (about a mile west of Wrigley Field) to Toyota Park in Bridgview than it did to get to and from my house to South Haven, Michigan the day before. That’s insane. I had season tickets with the Fire for two years, but I just don’t want to deal with the commute anymore. I’ve had people from the Fire call me to reup on my season tickets and when I tell them that I am looking at way more than an hour each way and don’t want to do that anymore, they swear down my throat that I must be mistaken and it’s only a thirty minute drive door to door. The fact that the stadium is in the suburbs is a really big deal to a lot of people I know. In a city like Chicago, people expect the stadium to be in the city and within walking distance from an el line.

      • ChiMike9607 says:

        The Fire needs to do a breakdown as to where their fans come from. While they draw well at Toyota Park, something west of the Loop (600-800 west between Randolph and Congress might have been a better site.

  4. Bill Brasky says:

    “…reign supreme.”

    I see what you did there.

  5. Larry says:

    The Sounders avg 44k a game. They have revenues of over 50 mil. Yet, MLS prevents them from fielding the best team they can all in the same of fairness. It just wouldn’t be fair if the Sounders were allowed to spend more than Chivas! Oh, and to top it off, MLS paid Dempsey’s transfer fee.

    • Quit whining about soccer in the US says:

      Quit whining please

      • Eurosnob says:

        He is not whining. He simply pointed out that the MLS’s business model is boneheaded and leads to absurd results.

        • M says:

          With UEFA trying to implement Financial Fair Play, and clubs going into administration left and right all across Europe, you might want to think about who’s business model has a brighter future…

          • SS says:

            Exactly. Look at the disparity in la Liga too. How many players in the lower-tier teams are still waiting for paychecks to clear?

          • Eurosnob says:

            And yet the European leagues are consistently able to offer a much better product on the field, the players are paid better, and for every club that goes into administratation, there are is a dozen of better run clubs that are ready to step up through for promotion. A small club like Cardiff or Swansea earned a promotion to EPL with smart management and player selection decisions. In contrast, MLS is trying to support incompetent owners of clubs like Chivas at the expense of better run clubs like Seattle, LA, Portland, etc. Are you seriously suggesting that MLS is doing better than EPL, Bundesliga, La Liga?

            • slowleftarm says:

              Are you seriously suggesting that the EPL, La Liga, Bundesliga etc. have better teams/players and make more money because they are better run and not because soccer is infinitely more popular in those countries than in the US?

              • Eurosnob says:

                By and large, these leagues are better run than MLS and, thus, can afford better players. Soccer is more popular in those countries, but this year Seattle averaged more fans at their games than clubs like PSG, Chelsea, AC Milan, Juventus, Benfica, etc. However, Seattle cannot fully spend what they earned at the gate due to the salary cap that is designed to benefit disfunctional low attendance/low performance clubs like Chivas.

              • BamaMan says:

                Bundesliga is much, much, much better run than MLS. If MLS followed Bundesliga exactly (pro/rel; mandated 50%+1 fan ownership; international schedule w/ winter break; consistent weekly scheduling) but also had a salary cap and a draft of 18+ US/CAN talent, MLS would have a good shot at becoming a Top 5 world league within a decade or two.

        • C C says:

          Except its that business model that has made it possible for all of this growth. So what was your point again?

          • Eurosnob says:

            And how do you know if the growth occurred “because of” or “despite of” the business model? Look at the disparity in the attendance numbers between Galaxy and Chivas. Which team is better run and is more successful both on the field and financially? Which of the two would benefit from changing the MLS business model (i.e., salary cap, no promotion/relegation, no free agency, etc)?

        • Quit whining about soccer in the US says:

          No, Eurosnob, he is definitely whining.

        • John O'Donnell says:

          Said the guy with Eurosnob as his name, reading about MLS.

    • Andrew says:

      Besides the fact that you almost certainly spend more than Chivas with 3 DPs (including the highest paid one), there are numerous other leagues you can follow if you do not like the salary cap or league structure.

    • TD says:

      curious where the 50M fee comes from? Is that a number someone has been able to figure out? I’d love to know how the the revenue breaks down. I’m impressed that a soccer team could gross 50M in this country. That’s great.

    • Joamiq says:

      They can and do spend more than Chivas.

    • SFTony says:

      You just killed your own argument. If their revenues are really $50 mil, with the salary cap, I bet it would be safe to say the club is pocketing $30 mil. Most clubs in the world would love to make that kind of money, and most of the best clubs in the world actually run at a loss and can’t claim those profits.

  6. Jersey2Colorado says:

    I never would be the person to say “drop this team, move this team, re-brand this team” but it’s time to make a business decision with Chivas… I’d be a bit more torn if they had a fan base, but arguably they dont.

    • Ian says:

      They have fans, but not enough to make the club financially viable. I hope they stay in LA, but move to their own stadium. A rebrand would be nice too, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.

    • beto says:

      +1

      a second LA team could be so good too. just like NY can handle two teams LA is so big that there are fans on the other side of the metro area that could support a second team. two major things that need to be addressed first 1. jorge veraga (sp?) –> terrible ower! 2. their own stadium on the other side of town..

      if i was looking to invest in the league this would be my unquestioned first option. better than forking over millions for an expansion fee to play in the south or some other town, no disrespect but the potential revenue in LA is far greater than anywhere else not touched by MLS already..

      • SFTony says:

        Simply moving to a stadium that is far away from the StubDepot Center would make their attendance go up considerably. Move North or East and you’ll take fans who live too far away from Carson.

    • AcidBurn says:

      Just to throw some gasoline on the fire…
      How does Chivas USA’s attendance compare to the top NASL teams? Perhaps the Atlanta Silverbacks or *cough* the NY Cosmos?

      Would dropping Chivas USA to the NASL and bringing up the winner of the Sock-cah Bowl 2013 to MLS actually increase MLS attendance figures?? Hmmmm

  7. Quit whining about soccer in the US says:

    MLS tickets are the best value in sports.
    Especially the CCL games. I think I paid $12 to see Seattle play Monterrey….in the 100 level….crazy.

    • Sly says:

      As a redbull fan. This I dream of. Can we imagine Club America or Monterrey vs NY in New York. No CONCACAF champions league game would be as hype. anywhere.

    • AcidBurn says:

      Yup, you can get RBNY season tickets still for something like $20 a ticket in the first rows of the upper deck above the supporters section.

    • SilkCityFC says:

      This. Especially in NY, where I would have to fork over at least $120 each for a Giants game or $75 to see the Knicks…

  8. byob el paso tx says:

    Only if stadiums were all like skc or similar to that. Also, stadiums need to be weather ready, like for HEAT or COLD and even rain. If u think about it, how many mls stadiums are ready for rain, snow, heat and protect the fans, i say like 4 without counting the indoor stadiums. Also soccer fans are picky and special, we like grass, we like roof cover, we like fancy soccer stadiums. I think garber needs to tell future expansion teams to get there stadium at the skc and red bull arena level. No more stub hub centers or toyota stadiums like fires, dallas, SL.

    • Quit whining about soccer in the US says:

      See my reply to Larry

    • lassidawg says:

      Not sure I would be bragging about the grass in KC around the time of the WCQ it was terrible, and probably more dangerous than any field.
      It is all about money no one is going to spend more than they have to for a soccer stadium.

    • West of the Cascades says:

      In Portland, in the winter, the fans can protect themselves (that’s what the scarves are for) … or yield their seats to some of the 5,000 people on the season ticket holder waiting list.

  9. SS says:

    For LA Galaxy to average above 20k is good when you consider the variable of location, other pro-sport & high-profile NCAA teams competing for attendance (Lakers, Clippers, Kings, Ducks, Dodgers, Angels, USC, UCLA), traffic (405, 101, 110, 5, 91), logistics, how wide of a “local” geographic area they attract fans from (some travel more than 1 hour w/out traffic to attend a game), you’ve got to give them a lot of credit for a year without the Beckham effect.

    • Brain Guy says:

      Completely agree. It’s tough to compete with lots of well-established teams (and other attractions). But mention similar factors with regard to RBNY and some people will still sneer about such “lousy” attendance figures in such a large metropolitan area. Regardless of your location, I think 20,000 (RBNY was around 19,500) is pretty good.

  10. MLSfan says:

    Toronto FC has steadily declined (obviously due to futility)

  11. OrlandoCityFAn says:

    Interestingly, if you take out Chivas and Seattle – Average Attendance was completely flat 17,715 in 2013 up 1 person from 17,714 in 2012. The drop in attendance is 100% attributable to Chivas and the only reason it isn’t worse is because Seattle did well.

    • Marcelo Balboa's Mustache says:

      I read this comment and thought “surely after that turd of a season DC United must bear some of the brunt of this decline.” Less than 1.5% decline. I have to hand it to United fans. You guys are one loyal bunch. Hats off to you for continuing to attend the depressing spectacles known as home games time after time after time. Oy.

  12. dude says:

    Chivas, but I also suspect it was the rather mediocre year that most teams had. There was parity, but the excitement factor has been down played this year. Hope next year provides some more dominant teams and stronger dark horses.

    • Marcelo Balboa's Mustache says:

      I don’t see how it possibly could have been bad for attendance to have ten points separating 1-8 places in BOTH conferences. This meant that the only noncompetitive/unmarketable games were essentially Toronto, DC, and Chivas. Other than that every game pretty much could draw a crowd. I don’t think more dominant teams help this cause. And as for strong dark horses, the way Colorado dismantled SSFC a few weeks ago make them a pretty good candidate, IMO (I’m a quakes fan btw).

  13. THomas says:

    Anyone know where that ranks the Sounders internationally? Has to be top 20.

    • Ian says:

      I read they would be 24th this year. 22 teams in Europe and River Plate in Argentina. All attendance figures were Wikipedia sourced so take it for what it is.

  14. bryan says:

    ignoring Chivas USA, the average would be 19,162. that would be a +1.92% change from 2012. sadly, we can’t ignore Chivas USA and i hope MLS doesn’t any longer. if, for the heck of it, we add 2012 Chivas USA numbers to 2013 attendance, the average would be 18,840; also higher than 2012 by 0.2%. growth for sure, but seems like a pretty even year overall.

    curse you Chivas USA!

  15. dan says:

    more reasons Chivas is killing us

  16. Wild Draw Four says:

    I have always wondered if Chivas could get by near San Bernadino and Riverside Counties. ‘Inland Imperial Soccer Club’ has a nice ring to it

  17. Brian says:

    How’d Chivas end up with the 2nd highest road average? Must be like how people slow down when driving past a car wreck to get a better view of the carnage.

  18. Brian says:

    Slightly unrelated but in the section titled “Record in One-Goal Games” the stat sheet still breaks out each team’s record in Shootouts. Does Apple still report Macintosh PC sales?

  19. Brain Guy says:

    Without Chivas, the average is well over 19,000.

    Someone remind me again why NY needs a second team.

    • SFTony says:

      The teams in LA play in the same place. If you have to drive to the same spot, you’ll choose the better product. The NY teams will be on opposite sides on Manhattan, drawing from completely different populations.

  20. Josef says:

    I can’t wait for the Cosmos MLS team. They’re going to be be so much better than the rest of this MLS trash that can’t fill a stadium.

  21. todd says:

    What really matters is the % occupancy of the stadium. I think they should report that. There’s no way that any other team can compete with Seattle just based on the number of seats open to fans.

  22. Sean says:

    Well done, Chivas USA. Well done.

    *slow clap*

    Bravo. Hope to see you in MLS next year…

  23. Norman says:

    It’s sad that the Sounders are by far the worst team in the world that averages at least 40,000 fans per game. Sounder fans = suckers.

  24. KJ says:

    San Jose will be getting out of their drag of a stadium in 2 years, then it’s D.C. and Chivas dragging it down… And New England. Of those 4, 3 have terrible stadiums that are not SSS, and Chivas is just a bad franchise, they need to move.

  25. Cody says:

    The Beckham-less effect.

  26. Nathan says:

    Ok, i see the mention of the Crew leading in increased attendance, but no mention that this is the second straight year that they’ve accomplished this.

    Good sign for soccer popularity in general that fans have been coming back to games despite former management and ownership scuttling the team and alienating the fan base.

    New ownership with a new manager next season should really boost our numbers again. 2014 will once again do well in the stands and hopefully be much better on the pitch.

  27. Chad says:

    Personally, I think St. Louis could strongly support Chivas USA if they re-name/re-brand the club. Texas clubs haven’t really impressed me with their support in Dallas (Frisco) and Houston, so moving that Mexican reject club to San Antonio or Austin might not be the best solution. Meanwhile, St. Louis has some of the richest soccer history in America and the city currently supports it’s youth teams with high attendance numbers. Many MLS players, past and present, are products of that great city. Besides, it would make one hell of a rival for Sporting KC who already has awesome support. Possibly create one of the best rivals behind Seattle-Portland.

  28. Pingback: TV executives interested in changing MLS broadcasting schedule | Soccer By Ives