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Take Me Out to the Ballgame – The Prequel

With the 2012 MLS season fast approaching, here’s a look back at recent MLS attendance before we move forward.

  5 year comparison
  YTD
  Avg +/- GP
 2007   16,767     195 
 2008   16,460   -1.83%   210 
 2009   16,037   -2.57%   225 
 2010   16,675   3.98%   240 
 2011   17,869   7.16%   306 

2007-2011
  Average Median %<10K %>18k
 2007    16,767     15,353    8.21%   40.00% 
 2008    16,460     15,188    10.95%   33.81% 
 2009    16,037     14,686    14.67%   31.11% 
 2010    16,675     15,332    7.50%   36.25% 
 2011    17,869     17,639    5.56%   48.69% 

MLS Attendance – Equal # of Home Games
  2010 2011  
  Att Cap % Att Att +/- GP Cap % Cap
 Seattle  36,173   97.28%   38,495   6.42%   17   103.52%   37,185 
 LA Galaxy  21,437   79.40%   23,335   8.85%   17   86.43%   27,000 
 Vancouver NA NA  20,408  NA  17   97.18%   21,000 
 Toronto  20,453   93.06%   20,267   -0.91%   17   92.21%   21,978 
 N.Y./N.J. Red Bulls  18,441   73.21%   19,691   6.78%   17   78.17%   25,189 
 Portland NA NA  18,827  NA  17   101.07%   18,627 
 Philadelphia 19,252  92.59%   18,258   -5.16%   17   98.69%   18,500 
 Sporting KC  10,287   99.06%   17,810   73.13%   17   96.44%   18,467 
 Houston  17,310   76.93%   17,694   2.22%   17   78.64%   22,500 
 Real Salt Lake  17,095   88.39%   17,594   2.92%   17   90.97%   19,340 
 D.C. United  14,532   64.59%   15,196   4.57%   17   67.54%   22,500 
 Colorado Rapids  13,329   73.70%   14,838   11.33%   17   82.04%   18,086 
 ChivasUSA  14,575   53.98%   14,830   1.74%   17   54.92%   27,000 
 Chicago  15,814   79.07%   14,273   -9.74%   17   71.37%   20,000 
 NE Revolution  12,987   57.72%   13,222   1.81%   17   58.76%   22,500 
 FC Dallas  10,815   51.03%   12,861   18.91%   17   60.68%   21,193 
 Columbus Crew  14,642   71.58%   12,185   -16.78%   17   59.57%   20,455 
 San Jose  9,659   93.46%   11,858   22.77%   17   93.85%   12,635 


My disclaimer about the capacity calculations


For my 2011 calculations, I took the 3 teams playing in football stadiums, DCU in RFK, Houston in Robertson and New England in Foxboro and assigned maximum capacities as follows, DCU-22,500, Houston-22,500 and New England-22,500. I took the 22,500 from an approximate average of the soccer specific stadiums in use. Capacities were adjusted for the few games that were moved to larger venues. In 2012, Houston will move into its new home, BBVA Compass Stadium, with a soccer capacity of 22,000.
Additional note: Over the years, several stadiums’ capacities have been reported with different numbers. For example, I used 20,455 for Columbus in 2011. If any of you have the accurate soccer capacity for stadiums that differ from mine, please let me know.


So How Did They Finish?

East
   GP   W   D   L   GF   GA   GFA   GAA   PPG   PTS   GD 
 Kansas City  34   13   12   9   50   40   1.47   1.18   1.50   51   10 
 Houston  34   12   13   9   45   41   1.32   1.21   1.44   49   4 
 Philadelphia  34   11   15   8   44   36   1.29   1.06   1.41   48   8 
 Columbus  34   13   8   13   43   44   1.26   1.29   1.38   47   -1 
 NY Red Bull  34   10   16   8   50   44   1.47   1.29   1.35   46   6 
 Chicago  34   9   16   9   46   45   1.35   1.32   1.26   43   1 
 DC United  34   9   12   13   49   52   1.44   1.53   1.15   39   -3 
 Toronto FC  34   6   15   13   36   59   1.06   1.74   0.97   33   -23 
 New England  34   5   13   16   38   58   1.12   1.71   0.82   28   -20 
West
   GP   W   D   L   GF   GA   GFA   GAA   PPG   PTS   GD 
 Los Angeles  34   19   10   5   48   28   1.41   0.82   1.97   67   20 
 Seattle  34   18   9   7   56   37   1.65   1.09   1.85   63   19 
 Real Salt Lake  34   15   8   11   44   36   1.29   1.06   1.56   53   8 
 Dallas  34   15   7   12   42   39   1.24   1.15   1.53   52   3 
 Colorado  34   12   13   9   44   41   1.29   1.21   1.44   49   3 
 Portland  34   11   9   14   40   48   1.18   1.41   1.24   42   -8 
 San Jose  34   8   14   12   40   45   1.18   1.32   1.12   38   -5 
 Chivas USA  34   8   12   14   41   43   1.21   1.26   1.06   36   -2 
 Vancouver  34   6   10   18   35   55   1.03   1.62   0.82   28   -20 


Top 3 conference finishers and 4 next best qualified for MLS Cup Playoffsin 2011. For 2012, the top 5 finishers in each conference will make the playoffs, regardless of single table point totals. For the new schedule and playoff formats, click here.

   GP   W   D   L   GF   GA   GFA   GAA  PPG   PTS   GD 
 Los Angeles  34   19   10   5   48   28   1.41   0.82   1.97   67   20 
 Seattle  34   18   9   7   56   37   1.65   1.09   1.85   63   19 
 Real Salt Lake  34   15   8   11   44   36   1.29   1.06   1.56   53   8 
 Dallas  34   15   7   12   42   39   1.24   1.15   1.53   52   3 
 Kansas City  34   13   12   9   50   40   1.47   1.18   1.50   51   10 
 Colorado  34   12   13   9   44   41   1.29   1.21   1.44   49   3 
 Houston  34   12   13   9   45   41   1.32   1.21   1.44   49   4 
 Philadelphia  34   11   15   8   44   36   1.29   1.06   1.41   48   8 
 Columbus  34   13   8   13   43   44   1.26   1.29   1.38   47   -1 
 NY Red Bull  34   10   16   8   50   44   1.47   1.29   1.35   46   6 
 Chicago  34   9   16   9   46   45   1.35   1.32   1.26   43   1 
 Portland  34   11   9   14   40   48   1.18   1.41   1.24   42   -8 
 DC United  34   9   12   13   49   52   1.44   1.53   1.15   39   -3 
 San Jose  34   8   14   12   40   45   1.18   1.32   1.12   38   -5 
 Chivas USA  34   8   12   14   41   43   1.21   1.26   1.06   36   -2 
 Toronto FC  34   6   15   13   36   59   1.06   1.74   0.97   33   -23 
 New England  34   5   13   16   38   58   1.12   1.71   0.82   28   -20 
 Vancouver  34   6   10   18   35   55   1.03   1.62   0.82   28   -20 


Tiebreakers: 1-Head to Head, 2-Goal Differential(Full Season), 3-Goals Scored(Full Season)
4-Road Record(Full Season), 5-Home Record(Full Season), 6-Fair Play


Observations


Three years ago, it was Seattle giving a big boost to the league. Then it was Philly’s turn, finishing 4th in overall average attendance. Last year, Vancouver topped Toronto and finished 3rd in average attendance while Portland was 6th with a 100% capacity season. This year, perennial Div II attendance champs Montreal joins MLS and there is no reason to expect they will not fill the house for every match.


MLS has now weathered three miserable years of a poor economy fairly well. Average attendance was up 7.16% compared to 2010. Below is a table comparing the average attendance figures of MLS to the ‘Big Four’ in the most recently completed seasons.

Average Attendances
League 2010 2011 +/- %
MLS 16,675 17,869 7.16%
NBA 17,150 17,319 0.99%
NHL 17,067 17,126 0.35%
MLB 30,138 30,352 0.71%
NFL 66,957 67,396 0.66%


Streaking

  • Vancouver were winless on the road for the entire season. They are the 8th team to achieve the dubious accomplishment(4 in 2002).
  • The Galaxy went undefeated at home in 2011.
  • Seattle has won 5 straight regular season road games.


MLS Throw Ins

  • There were 106 draws in 306 matches(34.6%).
  • There were 165 clean sheets in 306 matches, counting scoreless draws(26) as 2.
  • For the season: goal scoring was up around 5.0% from 2010, 2.58 vs 2.46.


Moving forward, this season have an unbalanced scheduled, i.e.; each team will NOT play each other twice, home and away. Rather than me cutting and pasting the new format rules, here is the official release about the unbalanced scheduled for 2012. The other big change is with the playoff format. Once again, here is the official release outlining the changes for the playoffs and MLS Cup in 2012. The big thing to note is that while 10 teams will again make the playoffs, they will be the top 5 finishers in each conference with no wildcards.


San Jose is on their way to a new stadium. Until then, they will still bring up the rear in average attendance, given that their home field seats less than 11,000. Houston will open their new stadium, the 22,000 seat BBVA Compass Stadium, in May.
Fourteen of 2011′s eighteen teams had average attendance increases in 2011. FC Dallas’ and Columbus continue to be problem franchises at the gate. There should be real consideration of relocating these teams if their attendance remains sub-par. Toronto’s decline was negligible, while Philly’s can be attributed to playing the entire 2011 season in PPL Park(2 matches were in Lincoln Financial Field in 2010). DC United’s stadium issue remains unresolved, and with no signs of movement by the DC government, it seems only a matter of time before the rumored move to Baltimore might become a reality.


Speaking of rules, here are the 2012 roster rules. Changes include a higher cap, higher minimum wages, a higher maximum salary(what Designated Players will count), and new Designated Player salary cap levels based on age.


For some previews of the 2012 season, here are two(of many) sites that are running through each team, World Soccer Reader, and Major League Soccer Talk.


Soon I hope to post my annual ‘Crystal Ball’ edition, but in all honesty, I tend to agree with a sentiment expressed by Drew Epperly of WV Hooligan, that prognostigating this year’s season will be tougher than ever. With so many new faces, many from Latin America that few people have seen, it’s difficult to assess the impact they might have on their respective teams.





MLS In CONCACAF Champions League


In the last tournament, Real Salt Lake brought a new awareness of the CCL to the casual US soccer fan by making it to the finals of the regional club championship. This year, the three remaining MLS clubs are on the same side of the quarterfinal bracket, with LA playing Toronto and Seattle playing Santos Laguna of the Mexican Primera. Both of the home and home series will be played on March 7 and March 14.


Howard Hamilton of the SoccerMetrics has calculated CONCACAF coefficients which reflect continued Mexican club dominance in the region.


MLS clubs Los Angeles(MLS Cup and Supporters’ Shield winner winner), Houston(MLS Cup finalist), Seattle Sounders(Lamar Hunt US Open Cup winner) and Real Salt Lake will participate in the 2012-13 tourney.


A subject that I expect to see in some soccersphere spaces will be the continued automatic group stage slot for the Supporters’ Shield winner in the CCL. With an unbalanced schedule this season, and in my estimation, seasons to come, the shine has been taken off the prize of top point getter to many in the soccer community. Therefore, it is only reasonable to ask what bearing that might have on CONCACAF Champions League MLS slots. Just saying.


World Cup Notes


Any MLS players that make it onto their respective national teams will be away when their country plays World Cup Qualifier matches or Euro ’12 matches. The US begins its qualification on June 8.


2 Responses to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame – The Prequel”

  • hohum:

    FC Dallas and Columbus Crew share owners, the Hunt Sports Group. You mention there should be “real consideration of relocating these teams if their attendance remains sub-par.” I wonder if this has less to do with the markets those clubs are sitting in and more to do with the decisions and policies of the owners, such as poor marketing budgets.

    Given HSG’s long standing relationship with the league, I doubt they’ll be ousted as owners. But, maybe the league could do something to kick these guys in the ass and get them to up their game.

    Given their histories, I believe the cities of Dallas and Columbus can support their teams.

  • “Given HSG’s long standing relationship with the league, I doubt they’ll be ousted as owners. But, maybe the league could do something to kick these guys in the ass and get them to up their game.”

    No doubt. You are certainly correct regarding the marketing efforts in the two cities. But at a certain point in a team’s history, you would think that they would establish a fan base that attends the matches in larger numbers regardless of marketing, especially if the team is performing well on the field.

    There is certainly much to discuss about these two franchises and I’m sure we’ll be reading about it this season if they continue to have low attendances.

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