Friday, September 25, 2009

MLS Attendance: The Sophomore Slump

With the impending addition of franchises in Philly, Vancouver and Portland, I thought it would be interesting to see how much of a "sophomore slump" expansion franchises experienced in regards to attendance.

Here are the numbers for the recent expansion teams, as well as Houston who moved from San Jose in 2006. The Year 1 number is the mean attendance. The successive year numbers are the percent difference compared to the team's first year.

Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4
Chicago 17,887 -10.5 -25.2 -8.4
Chivas USA 17,080 16.2 -16.2 -11.5
Salt Lake 18,037 -9.3 -11.5 -10.3
Houston 18,935 -16.1 -10.5 -14.9*
Toronto 20,130 0.0 +1.0* n/a
* season still in progress

The stat line for Chivas USA shows the danger of using the mean attendance, rather than the median. In 2006, they hosted the Revolution as part of a doubleheader that included Chivas Guadalajara. That game drew over 92,000 fans -- almost 30% of their total attendance for the year. If you factor out that anomaly, their attendance looks like this:

Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4
Chivas USA 17,080 -12.3 -16.2 -11.5

What surprised me about the numbers is that for most teams, attendance kept falling for two years, rather than just one. Houston and Toronto managed to buck that trend.

There has been recent buzz that Seattle has a 6,000 person waiting list for season tickets, and as such may raise their seating capacity next season. If they in fact see a significant boost to attendance in their second season, they would be the first expansion franchise to do so, further underlining how amazing that franchise's support has been.

To be fair, Toronto could probably sell more tickets right now, but they can't expand their capacity without some major construction.

No comments: