Wednesday, March 6, 2013


The Chivas USA home opener at the Home Depot Center had a historically low turnout and the Crew are part to blame.

The official attendance number of "7,121" garnered the attention of a number of independent soccer writers. In fact Grant Wahl, arguably the most well known US soccer voice, tweeted out there that the number was probably half the 7121 reported.

For a league that sees itself challenging the worlds best in a decade's time you bet this is an issue. MLS Commissioner Don Garber has already addressed it by stating that he will check back to see if it is still a problem in June/July.

But is this a Chivas USA problem? Perhaps it is a scheduling problem? Even a Crew problem? A little bit of all the above?


Major League Soccer is looking down the barrel of a year over year loss in ticket sales. For years now the league has been touting incredible growth. Most of that growth was due to the expansion in teams. Think of it the same way that McDonald's or Walmart measure growth. As long as they are expanding, they are growing the top line.

There are even an expanding number of former sharp independent voices joining the MLS choir to prove the soul sucking Walmart/Target expansion wins theory of successful brick and mortar business.

For a professional sports league that dabbles in the dark arts of a single entity system they seem acutely unaware that at some point the expansion has to stop. For other North American based leagues it is around 30 teams. MLS seems to think 20-24 is a good number. This means expansion is going to slow and the last few spots are going to be smartly chosen (at least as smartly as Don Garber thinks he is).

This year marks the first year in a few that the league isn't growing. Teams are the same as last year. With that in mind, here is attendance numbers from the first 9 games last year as compared to this year:

2012 : 183,182
2013 : 174,696

That's about a -5% drop over last year. Take out Seattle from both years and it is closer to a -7% drop.


It's no secret that Garber wants to see improvement in Columbus as far as ticket sales. He even kicked off a "Dare to be Massive" sales campaign last year here in town. It helped bring attendance back up from the wilderness of record lows in 2011 - but certainly not back to even the middle of the league in 2012.

This year will likely be more of the same for Columbus in terms of gate. 13-15k a home game seems about right. That's not a bad thing. Games are enjoyable. The stadium is great, plenty of space. Friendly atmosphere. But for a league that has ambitions of leading the world? Far from lofty expectations.


How the team draws away is important. Last year the Crew 13th in away aggregate ticket sales (slightly better than the 14th for home sales).

2012 Aggregate Draw Away : Team

459,436 : Los Angeles

337,001 : San Jose
335,088 : Portland Timbers
333,635 : Chicago
333,445 : Toronto FC
333,221 : Real Salt Lake
322,058 : Philadelphia Union
321,769 : Vancouver Whitecaps

314,842 : Kansas City
314,189 : New York Red Bulls
312,595 : Colorado
310,014 : DC United

302,712 : Columbus
300,984 : FC Dallas
293,116 : Houston
291,203 : New England
288,609 : Chivas USA
285,955 : Montreal Impact
283,567 : Seattle Sounders FC

The same teams seem to show up at the bottom no matter how you slice the data. Crew, Dallas, New England, Chivas. Interesting to seem Montreal and Seattle* at the bottom, but then again; This is a league obsessed with growth. Not many fans in away cities care about new teams. Regardless, the bottom part of the league is not a group you want your name in but yet the Crew are there.

Low attendance in a league unhealthily obsessed with ticket sales is a reality the Crew are going to have to live with for now.


Chivas USA pulled 14,464 at the Home Depot Center last year during opening weekend when the faced Houston. Double what the Chivas/Crew pulled this year.


*[UPDATED: Seattle is low because they cannot play themselves away. They inflate everyone's numbers. If you take out Seattle from each team's away draw it looks like this:

359,526 : Los Angeles
333,635 : Chicago
314,189 : New York Red Bulls
310,014 : DC United
294,736 : Toronto FC
291,203 : New England
285,955 : Montreal Impact
283,659 : Philadelphia Union
283,567 : Seattle Sounders FC
268,636 : Portland Timbers
267,910 : Kansas City
266,051 : Vancouver Whitecaps
264,401 : Columbus
262,229 : FC Dallas
259,752 : San Jose
255,553 : Real Salt Lake
254,812 : Houston
249,675 : Chivas USA
235,175 : Colorado

This is really interesting because what you are left with without Seattle's CenturyLink attendance is big population centers which means, for example, former Chicagoan's living in a new city must have or retain a connection with the team.

Also, the numbers don't jump as much with out the Sounder effect. Also, the LA drop without SEA. They must love them some Becks up there.]

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