Qwest and BMO attendances are propping up the MLS

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.

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4 comments on “Qwest and BMO attendances are propping up the MLS
  1. So the Revs, NYRB, and DC United get kind of a pass for playing in a football stadium, but the Dynamo don’t?
    Robertson Stadium is the football stadium for the University of Houston. It’s also a complete dump. So, as a function of the facility, the Dynamo draw relatively well.
    No, it’s not an NFL stadium, but Roberston was designed for a football-sized crowd and done so during the days of the Southwest Conference was the University of Houston was a relevant college football program.

  2. precious,
    I did not give the Revs, NYRB, and DC Utd a pass. Their attendance really sucks and it will continue to suck even when they move to soccer stadiums. That is bad news for them.
    I did not know Robertson was the U of H football stadium so in that context, the Dynamo’s attendance is not half as bad. But it could be better given their MLS success.

  3. As a Toronto FC fan, you’d probably think I see this graph as a positive, but I don’t.
    Despite all these attendance numbers we can throw up on a graph, the owners of Toronto FC have no plans for the immediate future to upgrade BMO Field in any way.
    We are a club with 16,000 season ticket holders and a waiting list with 14,000 more wanting to get seats as well. But with all these current customers and potential spenders, where is the plan to lay down grass and work out a deal with the city for more control of the facility? Where is the plan to expand seating – not only for MLS league matches but national team and friendly/tourney games? Where is the plan to build a roof to protect the fans from harsh weather and winds that have become increasingly severe in 2009?
    Sure, it’s nice to post some good attendance numbers and feel good about our level of support here in Toronto, but with nothing on the horizon to increase those numbers in any meaningful way is very disconcerting.

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