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Monday, October 26, 2009

MLS 2009 Attendance stats final week

Seven months. Fifteen teams. Eight playoff spots. Two conferences. One winner. As it stands, Columbus, Houston and LA are the teams to beat in the MLS playoffs. I'm not crazy about the system that's in place but I understand it and enjoy it all the same. This was a transition year. A transition because the Beckham experiment unraveled. Also because the Seattle Sounders showed the large support there is for the game in the Pacific Northwest (Portland and Vancouver are the expansion teams in 2011). And finally, it was a transition year because the biggest markets also had the worst attendance records.

I will let the figures on the right column speak for themselves, but I offer some final thoughts for this MLS attendance season.

The winners:
  • Seattle, Houston, Salt Lake, Toronto. Houston and Salt Lake City both saw small improvements in attendance relevant to last season. I could say the same for San Jose, but their numbers (and some other clubs as well) were lifted by doubleheaders with much more flair (Chivas Guadalajara at the Candlestick Park). Seattle has the attendance record in MLS with a whopping 30897. The others in this group made only small gains relative to 2008, but this highlights the stability of the fan base.
  • Columbus, Chivas USA, Kansas City and even FC Dallas didn't lose an appreciable amount of attendance, which suggests a stable fan base. All have respectable numbers as well, although much can be done about Dallas. Their doubleheader with a Mexico match upped their numbers considerably.

The losers:
  • LA, New York, DC, Chicago, New England, Colorado. It should jump out at first glance that the worst losses are in the four biggest markets. Indeed, LA saw a sharp decrease partly in response to Mr "Goldenballs" and his parade from LA to Milan and back again. He redeemed himself on the pitch, though. I give him that much.
  • New York was almost always slow this season, partly due to J.C. Osorio's management, and also partly due to the inhospitable Giants Stadium environment. With the Red Bull Arena to be operational by next March, we could see a resurgence in fan appreciation for the team and perhaps more inspired play by its stars.
  • DC United, on the other hand, saw above average attendance relative to the rest of the league but the fans were less than inspired by the players, the stadium, and international competition. Chicago seems to have leveled out now that the Cuauteminha isn't a fad anymore. New England, on the other hand, suffer from a terrible stadium situation, lousy management, and general lack of spark on the pitch. This reflected on the stands. As for Colorado, I'm not sure I have much to elaborate with.

A final look at the distribution of general attendance shows the clear winners in Toronto FC and Seattle, the strength (even though diminished) of big markets like DC and LA. Dallas and Colorado clearly need improvement... and don't let the stadium size factor fool you... just look at all the figures in terms of average, relative and median attendance.

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