Take Me Out to the Ballgame… or not

Posted on by Peter C

rfk_crowdAfter reading the piece on 2-0 v 0-2 teams at Climbing the Ladder, my own interest in numbers has led me to offer these early season tidbits on MLS attendance.

First off, for all of my observations, I’ve taken the 4 teams playing in football stadiums, DCU in RFK, Houston in Robertson, New England in Foxboro, and RBNY in the Meadowlands and assigned maximum capacities as follows, DCU-22,500, Houston-22,500, New England-22,500 and RBNY-25189(the posted capacity of Red Bull Arena). I took the 22,500 from an approximate average of the soccer specific stadiums in use. Of course, the showing is Seattle is a vision of a possible future for soccer in America, but for now, I”m sticking with the 22,500 number.

Now for some numbers…

In week one, the average attendance for the 7 games was 17,095. This translated into an average of 84.9% of capacity. In ’08 6 games drew 80.1% of capacity.
In week two, the average attendance for the 7 games was 14,168. This translated into an average of 67.8% of capacity. In ’08 7 games drew 81.9% of capacity.

Here are some factors may lead to some analysis of the early MLS season.

Both Saturdays had NCAA basketball tournament games. Saturday 2 had the US-El Salvador match in conflict with most of the matches. I’ll leave the MLS/Nats discussion for others at this time, there are certainly plenty of smart soccer voices speaking to this issue. Saturday 2 wasn’t the season opener for anyone except RSL, who played away in Seattle.

Three teams were at home for weeks 1 and 2; FC Dallas, San Jose and Seattle. Seattle went from 117.4% of capacity to 103.1%. I suspect they’ll settle on a final ‘regular’ capacity after a few more weeks, but for now I’m using their own number of 27,700. San Jose went from 100.34% to 89.1%. Not bad, but with a cap of 10,300 I think most folks would expect 100% for the entire season. I know I do. And then there’s Dallas, which drew 77.6% of capacity for its opener against Chicago, but drew a paltry 6,524, or 31.8% while hosting Chivas USA in week 2. New York was the other team with under 50% attendance in week 2, their home opener. Their showing in Seattle must have turned off some folks, you think?

And while I’m on this attendance kick, here is my calculation for the ‘Beckham effect’ in MLS. For all teams except LA, I took the ’07 and ’08 seasons’ average for all home games and subtracted the LA visit to get a non-Beckham average. I then found the differential from that average and the LA game. For LA I used their 2006 average for a baseline. The result? I get the number of just over 462,000 over the 2 year period, 6.9% of the two year league total. At a later time I’ll extrapolate the increase to approximate a dollar figure that the increase represents. And then there’s the 600,000 jersey sales, but that’s for another post.

If you want to get a head start on the money aspect, this report by HVS prepared for Portland’s push for MLS found at Footiebusiness, can be culled for game day spending in the league. You can also use numbers provided in the Forbes report.

What are we to make of this? I dunno, it’s probably too soon to tell, but future posts will probe more deeply the business of MLS and the relationship of attendance to profitibility. Should prove interesting especially given that FC Dallas was named in the Forbes report as one of 3 MLS teams turning a profit.

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