Soccer Business Bits: Attendance Worries?

mls With the first month of the season behind us,  enough games have been played to take a closer look at attendance around the League.  There have been successes (Seattle, Toronto), disappointments (Dallas, New York) and one pleasant surprise (Chivas).  Most of the teams in the League are off; some are way off.  The addition of Seattle’s big numbers mask the problem but the numbers are tracking well below those of 2008.  mls-daily.com does a great job of tracking the numbers here.

With the new stadium a season away, the Red Bulls get a pass, as do New England and Colorado with only one home date so far.  Despite its new stadium, RSL has also struggled to draw, but the weather excuse is probably most valid in Utah.  The Dynamo seem to be holding steady, and their history suggests attendance will pick up. Chicago is troubling, as are DC and San Jose.

Is it the economy?  The absence of Beckham? Bad weather?  Regardless of the reason, attendance is down for 10 franchises with some (Chicago & Colorado) down more than 30% from last year.  Perhaps most dire is the situation in Frisco, TX, where FC Dallas played before a remarkably sparse crowd (even the announced sub-7k attendance seemed very generous) in their weekend tilt against Toronto.  We have previously discussed the problems in Dallas, when this story raised some issues about the team’s pre-sale efforts.

We will keep tracking these numbers as the season rolls along and the weather warms.  However, summer is usually a low point for League attendance (especially in the South).  Let us know if you have any thoughts on the attendance issues facing MLS in 2009.

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