The Sounders and Toronto FC are filling their stadiums to capacity. Their combined attendances contribute to little more than 30% of the total MLS attendance in the present season. The Sounders got off to a flying start when 32, 253 fans showed up for their inaugural match against the Red Bulls. Since then attendances have averaged 29,536 fans. A very impressive start. Toronto FC in their third year are averaging 20180 fans. The above graph shows they are boosting total MLS attendance substantially.
A very telling statistic: When Qwest and BMO are the venues as in week 4, the total attendance went up to 127,389. The next week both clubs were on the road, attendance fell to 84,577, a significant decrease of 34%.
The red bars represent average attendances while the blue bars represent total seating capacity. I have not given the seating capacities of RFK, Giants, and Gillette stadiums because these were basically designed for the NFL which are now also being shared by soccer teams.
As you can see the Sounders and Toronto FC are doing fantastically well with Qwest Field actually overflowing. Smaller soccer specific stadiums like Buckshaw and Community America, homes to the Earthquakes and Wizards are also operating at capacity.
The Texas based teams have one of the worst records when taking into account seating capacity. The Dynamo are averaging about half the total seating capacity of 32,000 at Robertson Stadium and Dallas is doing the same with 20,000 seat Pizza Hut Park.
There are dangerous signs that DC United and the Red Bulls are going to have a hard time filling seats when their soccer specific stadiums finally open. DC United has a 24,000 seat stadium in the works while an average of 14,561 fans attend home games at RFK. The picture is even more dismal for the Red Bulls who are struggling to fill 10,000 (9829) seats in cavernous Giants stadium. Next year, they move to Red Bull Arena which seats 25,000 plus. The same fate might befall the Revolution if they firm up plans to move to a smaller venue as they barely exceed 10,000 fans.
Stan Kroenke whose energies seem to be consumed by an Arsenal takeover might want to take a second look at his club, the Rapids who are not energizing their home base at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
Even impressive performances by Chivas and Fire with a loyal Latin American fan base are not enough to fill Home Depot Center or Toyota Park. They are filled to about 60% capacity.
A few more observations: East coast teams fare poorly compared to the West coast teams in attendances. Seattle, the home of Microsoft, is a hub for young technocrats who come from culturally diverse backgrounds. Soccer with its global emphasis is a natural fit. There also appears to be a suggestion that cities with an entrenched history in other major league sports like baseball, basketball, and especially the NFL, may be more impervious to soccer even with large immigrant populations from Latin American countries. A corollary, those exposed to good soccer in their countries might find MLS below par, which means that the MLS has to find ways to drive up quality by encouraging young foreign talent like Steve Zakuani in larger numbers.