Thursday, October 01, 2009

Attendance: Jumping From USL-1 to MLS

One of the arguments used against Major League Soccer expansion markets is that they already have a USL-1 team that draws poorly. Now that the Seattle Sounders have jumped ship, there are two franchises we can examine to see if this critique is fair.
  • Before Toronto FC came into existence in 2007, the Lynx represented that city in USL-1. They averaged 2,468 fans in 2005 and just over 1,700 fans in 2006.
  • Seattle is a similar story. From 2005 and 2008 their average attendance never broke 4,000 fans per game, and dipped below 3,000 in 2005.
This year, Seattle and Toronto are #1 and #2 in attendance within MLS, averaging just over 30,000 and 20,000 fans per game respectively. As you can see from these numbers, the case for using USL-1 attendance numbers to judge a market is tenuous at best. There are just too many other factors in play, including the makeup of each franchise's ownership group.

Major League Soccer has got to be hoping this trend continues. Vancouver and Portland will be coming online in 2011, and both of them have been in the top five of USL-1 attendance each of the last five years. In fact between the two teams there has only been one season since 2005 with an average attendance under 5,000 fans per game.

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