Bringing the Fans to MLS: The Hardcore Fan

fansThe MLS playoffs are upon us.  Traditionally, this has been a time of disappointing attendance in MLS when only the most hard core supporters still come out to support the team.  Because of a lack of group sales, lead time and cold weather, attendance frequently suffers (although this year may prove the exception).  Because of their committment to their teams and MLS, we wanted to ask a couple of these rabid supporters what drives them as MLS fans and what they want to see from their League.    Today, we present interviews with two of the hardest core supports.  Monty Rodriguez of the Midnight Riders and Corey Jamison of ESC.  Thanks to both for helping us look at these hard core fans.

During the regular season, we presented a five part series on bringing fans to MLS.  You can see part I here,  part II here, part III here part IV here and part V here. We have collected anecdotes from hundreds of friends, coworkers, fans, families, store owners and acquaintances in an effort to determine what will bring more fans to MLS.   Here are Corey and Monty’s thoughts.  What does MLS (not a specific team) need to do in order to keep you coming?

Monty Rodriguez:  Keep improving the product. Increase the cap, let teams have more flexibility, and don’t favor certain teams over others. In all honesty, I’ll probably keep coming no matter what, but it’s important that they make these changes to improve the league.

Corey Jamison:  1. (continue to) Keep the game honest to the world standard (no overtime periods, etc). 2. Maintain a high level of play, and look to improve upon it. 3. Grow young American players.

FB:  What does your team do to keep you coming?

MR:  A lot of the above applies. A new stadium would be wonderful. Open up the purse strings a bit, spend to the cap, do a better job scouting.

CJ:  1. Produce a relatively competitive team (not every single year, but most years).
2. Respect the fans. (I root for NY, this they have not done)
3. Provide a reasonably compelling reason to show up (quality stadium/environment to watch the game, etc.)

FB:  Do you feel that you have a vested an interest in seeing great atmosphere/attendance at your home games as the team/League? Why/Why not?

MR: Yes … being head of the major supporter’s group, knowing the team appreciates the fan support, both of those are key.

CJ: Yes, as it enhances my experience in and enjoyment of the game. I belong to a supporters club to not just watch the game, but to be a part of it.

FB: What (if anything) do you do to increase interest/attendance in MLS?

MR: Improve the product first and foremost. That’ll help attendance. Marketing has to get better (both team level and MLS level). Show the competitive nature of the league. Show the cheap prices (as compared to other sports). Hell, show people some of the players that have played in this league and gone elsewhere, their improvement happened here.

CJ: I help run a supporters club, but basically I support my team and encourage others to join me and do the same. By standing and singing for 90 minutes, hopefully we create a fun atmosphere that will encourage other like-minded individuals to enjoy the game with us, and come back for more.

FB: If an MLS team is playing a non-MLS team in a competition or friendly, for whom do you cheer? Why?

MR: In a competition, the MLS team … it’s good for the league. In a friendly, I don’t pay attention.

CJ: It depends on the competition, really. I would say most games that my team isn’t in, I wouldn’t watch. I suppose I would generally root for the success of an MLS team in international competition to increase the stature of our league, but, RSL winning an off-season friendly against a second division German side while touring Spain for fitness…doesn’t exactly rile my competitive spirit.

Thanks to both for their thoughts. As we have said all year, these are the fans many MLS organizations are now trying to reach and keep.  We have seen the success in places like Columbus and now Seattle and Toronto.  Will the success spread?

One plug. We recommend you check out our guest spot on MatchFit USA’s Soccer Show.