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Attendance Conundrum – Why MLS Fixtures Should Be Sold Out

Written by on March 17, 2011 | 3 Comments »
Posted in MLS

“The Training Ground” is a feature where new writers or readers who want to express a thought or opinion can submit articles for consideration.

This is from Tim Villarreal a 3rd yr. English/Creative Writing Major with plans for a Masters in Journalism so he can put to use the endless hours he spends watching every minute of every match available to him.

Last year at the Columbus Crew vs. LA Galaxy match in Columbus my son asked me why the stadium was half empty.  At the time I didn’t have an answer.

In doing some research I found the average MLS fixture attendance in 2010 was approx. 16,380 (a 4% increase from the year before) and the league’s third highest ever. The figure that jumped out at me was the 78% capacity average per game.

So instead of answering my son’s question with a cliché I wanted to find reasons why the fixtures should be sold out.  What better way to get these answers than dissect why my family enjoys going to an MLS game.

Once a month I pack my wife and our four kids in the family car and take a road trip to the nearest MLS match.  We pack sandwiches and fruit drinks with the intention of saving money.

With gas prices higher than my parents during the 1970’s, every penny spent is one less penny to spend on something else.  Luckily with the average ticket price at $25 dollars it only costs $150 dollars for us to walk through the gates of an MLS fixture.

For one to understand the savings you must know the comparison of average ticket prices to other major sports in the United States. The average for a NBA game is around $48 dollars and the NFL charges an average of $76 dollars per person.

I’m glad my family favors soccer because $456 dollars to see the Cleveland Browns is crazier than the fan who thinks Ronaldo is better than Messi. Now I am not a genius but it’s a mathematical certainty that MLS games are cheaper to attend.

I have been to both a NFL and NBA game and sat in one of those average priced seats.  Trust me, it’s a gamble on whether it’s a good seat or not. Usually it’s not.  For those who don’t know, there are NO bad seats in an MLS stadium.

The average MLS stadium capacity is around 21,000 providing an intimate setting where you experience the sights and sounds up close. Being right on top of the action is great but what do our kids know about soccer?

Besides watching Fox Soccer Channel non-stop, all four of our kids have played organized soccer at some level.  It is also well known that the United States has more youth soccer players than any other country in the world.

So I think it’s safe to say that the majority of kids that have played soccer can directly relate to a MLS match. My daughter confirmed this every time she would yell at the striker to “stay onside dude.”

It’s an amazing feeling when you can look at your child sitting next to you and know that they are pretending to be on the field.

It’s that empathy during a soccer game that most kids cannot get from the other big sports.  With this research I have found my answers.

If you take the price comparisons and the intimate setting, it may be enough to attend a MLS match. But I think the prodigious number of youth soccer players and their ability to relate to the beautiful game is enough to fill every soccer-specific stadium in the US.

Why should MLS fixtures be sold out?  Price, intimate setting, and the connection our children have to the game are the answers.  So next time, when my son asks me why the stadium is half full, I can tell him it’s because parents haven’t read my article yet.

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3 responses to “Attendance Conundrum – Why MLS Fixtures Should Be Sold Out”

  1. Brooklynn says:

    I never really thought about the savings to going to MLS games vs other sport games. Great article!!

  2. John Bladen says:

    Agreed, Tim. MLS matches are, by and large, affordable for nearly everyone. Some clubs have the luxury of charging top end prices, but they are the exception.

    The youth participation angle is a great point. I think if we could fast forward 10 or 15 years (only double MLS’ present age), we would see staggering differences. All those kids will be wage earners then, and I would bet that a good proportion of them will be tuning in to MLS rather than MLB or the NFL (assuming the NFL isn’t still on “hiatus” for pie-division reasons in 15 years).

    It’s unlikely that our game will ever surpass baseball, NFL football, or basketball in North America. But I think it has a great shot to be the ‘fourth’ major professional sport and a solid TV property for some network.

  3. Brian says:

    It would be easier to sell out MLS stadia if it were for matches that actually mattered. The league does everything possible to devalue its regular season, from having matches on international dates to making the playoffs more bloated. No wonder FSC didn’t want to pay for the nose for such matches. If it only matters how your team in October or November, why should you spend that $150 or whatever in April or May?

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