The Monday After & Media Matters

We’ve decided to take a different approach to our Monday After posts from today forward.  Rather than focus on attendance, we thought we look at any business issues that arose over the weekend and focus on one or two significant “gates” on either the high side or low side.  We are also starting a new regular feature called “Media Matters” when we will comment on the presence of soccer coverage in mainstream media.  If you stumble across such coverage, feel free to drop us a line at footiebusiness@gmail.com

On to the weekend.  For MLS fans it was a great Saturday night on Direct Kick, with games kicking off at 7:30, 8:30, 9:00, 10:00 and 10:30.  Add in the FSC game from Houston and there was plenty of soccer to choose from.  Attendance was generally poor across the league despite generally good weather nationwide.  Perhaps most dissappointing was the 15,400 in Los Angeles where the undefeated Galaxy beat expansion Phill 3-1.  Los Angeles is off to a great start this year and the franchise generally draws well and has had plenty of games in the Beckham era near the 27k capacity at the Home Depot Center.

WPS attendance has also been disappointing this year.  The weekend was notable for the 8k that saw Washington win 3-1 at RFK.  The match was part of a doubleheader with stumbling DC United.  Less than 3k were in Philly for the expansion franchise’s win over fellow newcomer Atlanta.

A couple of notes in our media matters section.  Two soccer stories in the most recent edition of Sports Illustrated.  One was a great feature on Jozy Altidore.  With the World Cup 6 weeks away, we should anticipate a number of these types of features in mainstream publications.  The other piece was in the “Scorecard” section that analyzed MLS’ status at the gate.  The article provided a neat two sided argument that compared MLS to the NBA and NHL with respect to attendance and provided reasons both in support and against the staying power of American soccer.

Keeping with the media theme, ESPN has certainly ramped up its World Cup coverage across both the internet and television platforms.  Ads for the World Cup are omnipresent on all programming on the ESPN networks and ESPN.com is running an article every day.  The WorldWide leader has invested an enormous amount of money in the World Cup and they are working hard to push their coverage

The Monday After: Week Four, Week Two & More

Before we get into our look at attendance in MLS and WPS from the weekend, a couple of other business thoughts.  It was a good weekend for MLS MatchDay Live as the online game server seems to have shaken most the problems that beset the new service over the past few weeks.  In DC, the United game was still not available on local television, as conflicts with hockey and basketball have created significant problems in making the games available.  Similar problems impacted the Revolution this weekend, as a conflict with the Celtics forced the Revs’ game onto a variety of different “alternate” channels that didn’t necessarily work as planned forcing many fans to miss portions of the game.

With respect to attendance, it was a fairly disappointing weekend for the league.  Things started well in newly expanded BMO Field where almost 22k saw TFC hold off Philadelphia.  In Houston, just under 15k saw Houston hold off Chivas USA.  More than 35k were in Seattle for the Sounders’ late victory over KC.  A solid 18,500 were in DC where United again failed to win.

In San Jose, less than a sellout (under 10k) saw the home team beat the Revs.  While on Sunday, less than 10k were at DSG for the Rapids win over TFC.  However, the most distressing result for MLS fans was the paltry 13k that were at Red Bull Arena for the New York/Chicago game.  Bad weather certainly didn’t help, but the Red Bulls (and the league) were certainly hoping for numbers closer to 20k for most of the season.  The next home game (involving rival Philly) will likely be better, but attendance for unheralded Western Conference opponents might be a problem for the rest of the season.

In WPS action, 3700 saw FC Gold Pride defeat NJ at Castron Valley Athletic Stadium.  We couldn’t find attendance for the other two games.

Soccer Business Bits: Salary Comparison, WPS Attendance & More

In an ESPN.com article about UCONN star Maya Moore, LZ Granderson provides some interesting detail about salaries in the WNBA.  Because fans often look at the WNBA for purposes of comparing MLS TV and attendance, we thought the salary numbers would also provide an interesting point of analysis.  Here is the passage from Granderson’s article: “The salary range for WNBA rookies drafted 1-4 is $44,064 in the first year and taps out at $56,182 in the fourth year of their contracts.  The max any WNBA player can earn is $95,000.”  From this sentence, it is apparent that WNBA salaries are well below those in Major League soccer where the minimum salary under the new CBA is $40k and a healthy percentage of players make in excess of $100k per year.  Moreover, the $95k cap on salaries is well below the higher end salaries in MLS.

Keeping with women’s sports, we pulled some attendance nuggets from WPS Commissioner Tonya Antonucci’s media conference call.   According to her statement, season ticket sales for returning teams are up 20% and local sponsorships are up 150%.  WPS averaged over 4,600 fans per game in 2009 and the league is shooting for a a 5-10 % increase in 2010. Other bits from the call include an announcement about a two team expansion in 2011 and discussion of the new stadium in the Atlanta area.

Finally, a quick note on the stadium effort in Houston.  The City Council approved the deal for the stadium that will be shared between the Dynamo and Texas Southern football.  The county will vote to approve the arrangement on Tuesday.  In addition to the $15 million dollar city contribution to the land, the team will foot the bill for the additional cost of stadium construction.  Total cost of the projected 21k seat stadium is expected to be about $80 million with the Dynamo ownership (primarily AEG and Golden Boy Promotions) funding about $60 million.  The rest of the funds could come from tax credits,  the TIRZ money and from some of the stiumulus money floating around.  The TIRZ program will also provide the property for the stadium.   Another round of voting is required to move the project forward.

Soccer Business Bits: WPS, Transfers and Mun2 Ratings

wpsJust some quick takes today, we will be back in full tomorrow.   The inaugural WPS season ended this weekend with an upset victory for Sky Blue, FC.  From an attendance perspective, the game drew well, with over 7k in attendance at the Home Depot Center.  The game featured the League’s brightest star in Marta and was a home game for the best team (Los Angeles).   The first season is over, and we will take a business look back at WPS in the next few days.

There are multiple sources reporting that disgruntled Chicago defender Bakare Soumare has been sold to Ligue 1 team Boulgne.  These same reports are placing the transfer fee to be in excess of $2 million dollars.  Under MLS rules, the Fire will now have a substantial amount of money to spend to purchase and sign players. Previous writings suggest that the Fire will get 2/3 of the fee to spend with $500k going to new players and the rest to club development.  In a League with a salary cap under $2.5 million, 500k is a big number and should enable the fire to re-arm next season.

Finally, Mun2 hit a ratings high with its broadcast of the USA/Mexico match.  The mid-day game averaged almost 400k viewers (including DVR).  These ratings exclude public viewings like bars.  The Telemundo broadcast averaged 4.3 million viewers.

The Morning After: MLS & WPS Business Recap

barcaAnother weekend is in the books, as both MLS and WPS continue their march to the playoffs.  However, perhaps the highlight was the Barcelona/Galaxy friendly that drew more than 93k to the Rose Bowl.  Another huge crowd and another sign of the popularity of soccer in the US.  Stay tuned the rest of this week for a series of posts addressing this issue.  We have spoken with folks across the spectrum of soccer fandom to find out what would either make them MLS fans or make MLS more popular.  We will post these reports over the next couple of days.

Elsewhere, it was a wild week on the field in MLS, but a fairly disappointing one at the gate.  Just over 12k were in Foxboro for the Revs/TFC draw.  14,500 were in Chicago for the Fire/RSL game and just over 10k made the trip to Dallas to see the Hoops destroy KC.  In Houston, just under 15k were in attendance while Colorado pulled less than 11k.  10k made the trip to San Jose. These are pretty bad numbers, however this may simply reflect the presence of four of the worst home draws hosting on the same weekend.

This weekend was notable for the second free preview of Direct Kick offered during the year.  The first was opening day, and the League is again promoting the service for the stretch drive.  This still remains one of best deals in televised sports.

In WPS action, 5k saw St. Louis and Boston play to a 1-0 score line in the Gateway City.   A very poor crowd of 2300 also saw the home team win as FC Gold Pride held off Washington on Saturday.   Midweek, 3100 saw Boston and Washington play in DC.  For a very frank interview with Tonya Antonucci about the business state of the League, please click here.

Soccer Business Bits: Confederations Cup, MLS and More

us-soccerIt has been a very busy last few days in American Soccer.  The Confederations Cup has moved through the group stage, MLS is reaching the halfway point, Superliga is under way and the WPS is moving forward in its inagural season.  The big soccer business controversy of the week occurred on Wednesday night when the highly anticipated Seattle/DC match from Qwest Field was bumped from ESPN2 for extra innings of a College World Series game. Despite a 30 minute pre-game show buffer, it was into the second half before the baseball was over and the soccer game on the screen.  Unfortunately for MLS fans, the 3-3 tie was one of the best of the season and could have served as a great showcase for the League. MLS fans were (wrongly) angry with ESPN for failing to switch off the baseball to show the start of the MLS match.

Unfortunately for soccer fans, ESPN has a policy of staying with live events until their conclusion.  The game was made available on ESPN360 and replayed later in the evening.  Moreover, soccer fans must realize that the College World Series generates better ratings than MLS on the ESPN networks.  Commissioner Garber addressed the situation in his latest “Commissioner Speaks”.  MLS has done the right thing by making the game available for free on its website.

ESPN made another interesting programming decision during broadcasts of the Confederations Cup.  On Sunday, the Italy/Brazil and USA/Egypt matches were played at the same time, yet interestingly, ESPN chose to put the USA game on ESPN2 while the other game was on ESPN (complete with a 30 minute pre-game show).  Italy and Brazil are certainly two of the most prominent soccer playing nations in the world, but we strongly disagree with the decision to  have the USA play second fiddle in its own country.  However, it does say something about the relative popularity of these teams within the United States.  ESPN made its decision based on what they believed would draw the most interest.

SuperLiga 2009 is underway with small crowds in Chicago, Los Angeles, New England and St. Louis for the first match day.  The “St. Louis experiement” was not particularly successful, with less than 6k in attendance for a Wizards “home match”.  League-wide, MLS attendance was fairly typical with a big number in Seattle on Wednesday night with 29k at Qwest.  By playing in Oakland, San Jose was able to draw 17k against Los Angeles, in a game that got a TV lead-in from the Confederations Cup.  Houston did well with about 17k and New York was a pleasant surprise with 14k in a rain storm. There were 11k in Colorado and 8k in Dallas.  As always, we reccomend MLS Daily for a great attendance break down.

Finally, in WPS action, just over 3k were in Boston for a Wednesday night game, while only 2500 were in attendance for a weeknight game in New Jersey.  Just over 2700 were in St. Louis for a match against Washington.  For a League that had been doing well at the gate, this was a fairly disappointing weekend.  wps

Soccer Business Bits: Soccer on TV and More

tv soccerIn what has been something of a recurring topic over the last couple of weeks, we thought we would again discuss the televising of soccer in the United States.  We’ll start with the UEFA Final, which drew a big number both on ESPN and ESPN Deportes.  This press release from ESPN sets forth the numbers.  A quick glance: more than 1 million English language homes and approximately 500,000 Spanish language.  This was the most watched telecast in ESPN Deportes history garnering a 9.9 Hispanic Coverage Rating; the second largest such rating in 2009.  Bear in mind, this game went off in the middle of a weekday.

The Confederations Cup kicks off on June 14 and ESPN will be showing all games live.  It will be interesting to see how these results compare to the UEFA game.  The United States will get two mid-week games and a Sunday match-up against Egypt.  The mid-week games will be televised live; it will be interesting to see if ESPN chooses to replay the matches in primetime.   The entire ESPN schedule for the tournament is here.

Keeping it with the U.S Men, a large crowd turned out to Soldier Field for the Saturday evening qualifier against Honduras.  Not surprisingly, more than 50% of the fans were wearing the blue and white.  After watching the crowd in Costa Rica (no thanks to ESPN which broadcast the match from Bristol and appeared to have little access to stadium microphones), the Chicago crowd was quite a shock.  Nevertheless, it is heartening that the Men continue to sell large blocks of tickets.  This also goes for the news out of South Africa that more ticket requests for the World Cup have come from the United States than any other country.

We will touch on MLS tomorrow, but a quick word about the WPS week.  The League offered up a mid-week game in Los Angles with just under 4k in attendance.  Four days latter the Sol were back at it, hosting Washington in front of 5500 for the FSC game of the week.  I was pretty disappointed in the FSC production of the game.  The shadows made it hard, but it was impossible to see half of the field because of the light difference.  Also, the audio was pretty weak.  The crowd shots also looked pretty sparse.  As has become distressingly routine across the League, the St. Louis Sunday match is posting attendance as N/A.wps