The Monday After: A look at MLS Attendance

We haven’t taken a hard look at attendance in a number of weeks, but this past slate of games provides some food for thought.  The “weekend” started with a small Wednesday night crowd in Chicago, where approximately 13k saw a scoreless draw at Toyota Park.  The mid-week games continued on Thursday night with the usual 36k at Qwest.  On Friday night, just over 10k saw Chivas USA shut-out New England at the Home Depot Center.

TFC’s loss to DC United was before the usual 20k plus crowd at BMO Field.  In Harrison, a reported crowd in excess of 19k saw an impressive performance by the Red Bulls on a beautiful afternoon.  As has been the case for many Red Bulls games, attendance appeared to be less than the reported number.  Whether no-shows, poor scalper re-sales or fudged numbers account for the discrepancy, New York is one of many franchises where visible attendance doesn’t necessarily square with reality.

Just under 20k were at the Home Depot Center, a low number given David Beckham’s season debut.  In San Jose, the usual 10k plus were on hand for one of many scoreless draws plaguing the league.  Philly brought 18,500 to the stadium for their upset victory over playoff hopeful Chicago.

Going back to the Red Bulls, this is what we wrote last Fall when comparing the prospects at Red Bull Arena to the low attendance at the newly constructed Prudential Center that houses Devils Hockey.  This is the nightmare scenario for the the Red Bulls.  Build a sparkling new stadium with all the amenities, public transportation accessibility, natural grass and fill it with star players.  Pack in crowds for all 25k seats for a few games and then slowly watch attendance drop off.  Sure, the new revenue streams will be outstanding (recall that Rio Tinto has raised RSL’s revenue 42%).  But will Red Bull be happy with 13k on a Saturday night in August? Many in the New Jersey/New York area have no idea the new stadium exists and thus there is limited excitement about its debut.

Things certainly haven’t reached this stage yet. New York attendance has been solid all year with an average of 18k.  That said, given the new stadium and the star power imported this season, New York fans could have rightfully exepected higher numbers.  With a handful of remaning home dates and a likely playoff match, we will continue to monitor attendance at RBA.