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Was 2008 the Year MLS Exploded?

Earlier this year I did a little piece on MLS attendance, and I just wanted to update y’all on the final stats. Here, in order of total attendance per game, are your 2008 MLS team-by-team attendance rankings:

  1. LA Galaxy (26,009)
  2. Toronto FC (20,120)
  3. DC United (19,835)
  4. NE Revolution (17,580)
  5. Chicago Fire (17,034)
  6. Houston Dynamo (16,939)
  7. Real Salt Lake (16,179)
  8. NY Red Bulls (15,928)
  9. Chivas USA (15,114)
  10. Columbus Crew (14,622)
  11. Colorado Rapids (13,659)
  12. SJ Earthquakes (13,113)
  13. FC Dallas (13,024)
  14. KC Wizards (10,696)

As we all know, numbers can be deceiving. For instance, it looks like DCU and TFC bring out about the same number of fans every week. The difference? TFC’s BMO Field is sold out almost every game, while DCU barely fills a fourth of the stadium.

But, what I’m more interested in is trends. Here is a list of teams’ attendance trends in 2008, ranked by average number of more (or less) fans per game than last season:

  1. LA Galaxy (+1,757)
  2. Houston (+1,056)
  3. Chivas USA (+809)
  4. NE Revolution (+793)
  5. Chicago (+544)
  6. Real Salt Lake (+219)
  7. Toronto FC (-10)
  8. SJ Earthquakes (-76 based on 2005 attendance numbers)
  9. NY Red Bulls (-608)
  10. Columbus Crew (-680)
  11. KC Wizards (-900)
  12. Colorado Rapids (-1,090)
  13. DC United (-1,132)
  14. FC Dallas (-2,121)

So, six teams went down (SJE and TFC both are excluded because they fill their stands) and six came up. Even steven (or stephen, if you are a Colbert fan). LAG gets the biggest bump (the Beckham Bump). The top five teams’ gains appear to be partially due to their improved play (the Bandwagon Effect), while the bottom three could be losing fans due to their uninspired play.

FCD has to be the most troubling club to Commish Don Garber. Losing 2,000 fans per game is bad, especially when you only draw 13,000. If Kenny Cooper leaves, the former Burn could be in danger of losing even more fans.

Overall, attendance on average was down 310 people per game. Not a big move, so nothing to be too distraught over. But…

Any downward move is tough to bear for a league talking about expanding to 18 teams in the next couple of years. Not to mention, the ol’ Beckham Bump will soon lose its luster (or the man himself may bolt overseas).  So, no, this was not the year MLS exploded. Perhaps that year will never come. I hate to say it, but I am a little disheartened by these numbers.

But, as they say, who knows what next year will bring?

I, for one, hope it brings more butts squarely into the seats. I need my MLS.

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