Just how popular is Major League Soccer in 2014? It all depends on how you examine the North American top-flight. Television ratings for regular season and postseason MLS matches don't leap off of pages or computer screens, but league officials can brag about reported attendance figures. MLS got to the 19,000 fans per game mark for the first time in the history of the league, averaging crowds of 19,149 for regular season contests. Pop the champagne, right?
Not exactly. As has been the case for several years, and will likely continue to be a trend, one club brought in over 43,000 fans for every home contest. That team naturally drove up MLS average attendance figures. At the opposite end of the spectrum is a different Western Conference side that, if we're being honest about it, was lucky to bring in 1,000 paying customers every time it played in an arena that it shared with a much more successful "rival."
Critics of MLS would be quick to point out that reported attendance numbers for matches don't always pass so-called "eye tests." Those individuals would do well to remember that every significant sports league fudges attendance figures now and again. The Cleveland Indians, for example, will often claim to have 20,000 people in attendance when only half of that figure seems to be at Progressive Field. Part of it has to do with paying customers versus those who show up, and part is about teams and organizations saving face.
In the end, more people paid money to watch MLS games live and in-person than ever before. That is only a good thing for the league moving forward. MLS may struggle to get attention from national TV viewers and from stations such as ESPN, but a majority of clubs are doing just fine at the local level. There are no legitimate reasons to believe that league attendance won't again be on the rise in 2015.
18 Chivas USA: 7,063
17 San Jose Earthquakes: 14,947
16 Colorado Rapids: 15,082
15 Chicago Fire: 17,076
14 New England Revolution: 16,681
13 FC Dallas: 16,816
12 Columbus Crew: 16,881
11 DC United: 17,030
10 Montreal Impact: 17,421
9 Philadelphia Union: 17,631
8 New York Red Bulls: 19,421
It wouldn't be a MLS calendar year without the Red Bulls being surrounded by some sort of uncertainty. There are rumors that Red Bull is done with its MLS investment, reports that have been refuted by the club. Whispers have been swirling about for roughly 18 months that captain Thierry Henry will call time his playing career after New York's postseason run concludes. There is also speculation that designated player Tim Cahill could be seeking a return to the Premier League or back home to Australia.
7 Sporting Kansas City: 20,003
6 Real Salt Lake: 20,351
5 Vancouver Whitecaps: 20,408
4 Portland Timbers: 20,806
3 LA Galaxy: 21,258
2 Toronto FC: 22,086
The tradition that is Toronto FC being a nightmare for supporters continued in 2014. Things started out well enough during the winter when the club snagged designated players Gilberto, Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley. Toronto also acquired Brazil No. 1 goalkeeper Julio Cesar on a loan. TFC fell apart after a hot start, Cesar never returned to the club after the World Cup, and it's been rumored that all three of the team's DPs may make moves away from Toronto in January.
1 Seattle Sounders: 43,734
Seattle are the only MLS team that has real reasons to play home games in a NFL stadium. The Sounders pack thousands upon thousands of fans into CenturyLink Field every time they play a home MLS contest, and Seattle continue to post attendance marks that humble every other club in the league. It doesn't hurt that the Sounders had a great team in 2014. Seattle won the Supporters' Shield by defeating LA Galaxy 2-0 on the final Saturday of the regular season, and the Sounders are favorites to win MLS Cup this fall.
Leave A Comment
Looking for an AD FREE EXPERIENCE on TheSportster?Get Your Free Access Now!