Oct 18, 2007

Beckham Effect? MLS Attendance At Highest Levels Since Inaugural Season

Did David Beckham cause this? Major League Soccer's average attendance going into the final weekend is at its highest level since 1996, the league's very first season, according to pitchinvasion.net. Pitch Invasion thanks Andy_B at Bigsoccer for the raw numbers, so I figure I will too. Thanks Andy B at Bigsoccer!

In '96, average attendance was 17,306. This year it's 16,627, with 96.4% of games played. Expect sellouts at Toronto and L.A. to pad that number this weekend. It's only the second time average attendance has broken the 16,000 barrier (the last time being '96, when the league averaged 17,306 fans per game). The last time average attendance came this close to 16K was in '02, when it was 15,653. The worst average attendance year for the league? That would have been 2000, which incidentally was the New York franchise's best year on the field.

Another very interesting tidbit supplied by Andy and pitchinvasion is the percentage of games that had fewer than 10,000 spectators. This year, that number is at an all-time low, with only 8.5% of games having fewer than 10K. I wonder if Red Bull's success early in the season this year helped that number? Probably not, if past patterns hold; in 2000, the team's best year, 35.7% of games had fewer than 10,000 fans. I'm not sure what it means that the league-wide attendance appears so non-correlated to its (supposedly) biggest market. I suppose it's a good thing? I'll let the MBA guys work that one out.

Bottom line, things are definitely looking up for the league. Since 2005, attendance has been trending steadily upward. I don't doubt that Beckham's arrival did pad these numbers this year. What will next year bring? We'll have to wait and see. Either way, it could be telling for the future of the league.


  1. Certainly Beckham's numbers have padded both our numbers and the leagues numbers. 66 thousand at the Beckham game in New York is the equivilent of 4+ normal games! The introduction of Toronto, which has sold out all of their home games, I believe, certainly helps the numbers. I think what indicates health in general is if the lesser teams in the league, the Real Salt Lakes and the Columbus', are still seeing a rise in attendance, or even staying even, despite their poor form.

  2. that's a good point about Toronto. And yes, the Beckham game certainly had a significant impact as well, but I think even without that game the Red Bulls would have had decent attendance. I did another post on the subject a few days ago, if memory serves. Let me see if I can find it and drop in a hyperlink.

  3. I just checked. It was actually about the average of Saturday night games:
    In eight Saturday night home games this year, the team has averaged 20,537 fans--a respectable number that is inflated by the 66,237 who made it out for a certain Aug. 18 game against the L.A. Galaxy. If you remove that game from the equation, the average attendance for Saturday night games is 14,009, according to my math.

    But you just gave me a topic for my next blog entry :)