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Seattle Sounders break MLS attendance record, average 44,038 fans per game

Oct 29, 2013, 10:08 AM EDT

MLS Galaxy Sounders Soccer AP

Major League Soccer attendance statistics are in and, once again, the Seattle Sounders are setting records.

For the fifth year running the Sounders set an MLS attendance record by averaging 44,038 fans per game at CenturyLink Field.

For contextual purposes, that’s higher than any team in Major League Baseball, save the Los Angeles Dodgers who averaged 46,216, and more than double the average attendance of the Seattle Mariners.

Comparing that number to the Premier League, Seattle trumps the average attendance of Sunderland A.F.C. by an average of 3,500 fans. The Stadium of Light, which holds 49,000 supporters, recorded an average of 40,544 fans during the 2012-13 season.

The Sounders’ attendance rate was also more than double any other MLS team, with the LA Galaxy’s 21,770 next in line and only three other teams (Portland, Montreal, Vancouver) averaging 20,000 fans or more.

While Seattle’s attendance rate is impressive, the numbers would not be possible but for the NFL-sized capacity of CenturyLink Field. The Link, along with Vancouver’s BC Place (54,320), New England Revolution’s Gillette Stadium (68,756) and D.C. United’s RFK Stadium (47,359), is one of four MLS stadiums that possesses the capability of putting 40,000+ fans into the seats. No other MLS stadium has a capacity above 27,000.

(MORE: Up next for the record-setting Sounders, the Cosmos’ American attendance mark)

For the second year in a row total MLS attendance topped out at 6 million, while the league average took a slight dip (1.1%) from 18,807 in 2012 to 18,594 fans in 2013.

Eleven MLS teams increased their average attendance – Columbus Crew (12%), FC Dallas (8%), New York (6%), New England (6%), Vancouver Whitecaps (3%), Colorado Rapids (2%), Seattle Sounders (2%), Sporting KC (2%), Portland (1%), Real Salt Lake (1%), Toronto FC (.08%) – while eight teams experienced decreases. Notable drops included Montreal, down 10% as the Impact moved from Olympic Stadium to the Stade de Saputo, and LA Galaxy, down 6% following the departure of David Beckham.

It was hardly surprising that the dysfunctional Chivas USA was the team with the most significant decrease in average attendance, plunging 36 percent to 8,366 fans a game. So on behalf of all MLS fans let me just say – muchas gracias, Jorge Vergara.

2013 MLS Attendance:
AVG. TEAM (+/-)
44,038 Seattle (+2%)
21,770 LA Galaxy (-6%)
20,674 Portland (+1%)
20,603 Montreal (-10%)
20,097 Vancouver (+3%)
19,923 Houston (-5%)
19,709 Sporting KC (+2%)
19,461 New York (+6%)
19,218 Real Salt Lake (+1%)
18,131 Toronto FC (+.08%)
17,867 Philadelphia (-4%)
16,080 Columbus (+12%)
15,499 Colorado (+2%)
15,373 FC Dallas (+8%)
15,228 Chicago (-7%)
14,844 New England (+6%)
13,646 D.C. United (-1%)
12,765 San Jose (-4%)
8,366 Chivas USA (-36%)
18,594 LEAGUE (-1.1%)

Highest MLS Attendance:
AVG. TEAM (+/-)
44,038 Seattle (2013)
43,144 Seattle (2012)
38,496 Seattle (2011)
36,173 Seattle (2010)
30,897 Seattle (2009)
28,916 Los Angeles (1996)
26,009 Los Angeles (2008)
24,252 Los Angeles (2007)
24,204 Los Angeles (2005)
23,898 MetroStars (1996)

Lowest MLS Attendance:
AVG. TEAM (+/-)
7,460 Miami (2000)
7,906 Dallas (2003)
8,072 Kansas City (1998)
8,183 Kansas City (1999)
8,336 Chivas USA (2013)
8,689 Miami (1999)
9,058 Kansas City (1997)
9,088 Dallas (2004)
9,112 Kansas City (2000)
9,635 San Jose (2010)

  1. Mike Gwaltney - Oct 29, 2013 at 10:25 AM

    Fair play for mentioning the stadium capacity of the 4 big stadia. But to be fully fair, I think this article should mention stadium capacity and average attendance as a percentage of that. I think L.A. pretty much fills up every game, doesn’t it? That shows something about the support there.

    Portland deserves noting in this article. Another season with every seat sold. Yes, all 17 home games were sell-outs. For the third year in a row.

    So Seattle should be celebrated for the phenomenon that it is at the Clink, but don’t forget to mention the attendance juggernaut Jeld-Wen is – one reckons that if the stadium doubled in size it would still sell out.

    • pecorasc - Oct 29, 2013 at 10:56 AM

      LA’s capacity is 27,000. That leaves their attendance at only 80% capacity. Portland, Montreal, Houston, KC, Salt Lake, Toronto, Philadelphia and San Jose all boast higher attendances based on % capacity. That indeed shows something about the support in LA, but not what you thought it did.

      • krazymunky - Oct 29, 2013 at 11:10 AM

        No Beckham = -6% drop

      • Mike Gwaltney - Oct 29, 2013 at 11:20 AM

        fair point, thanks for correcting me. I should have done due diligence and looked it up myself.

      • greenhagen - Oct 29, 2013 at 11:36 AM

        To be fair, StubHub Center is in Carson. It’s hard to think of a worse location for getting big numbers to attend a game.

      • valiantdraws - Oct 29, 2013 at 12:47 PM

        It’s hard to think of a worse location? Clearly, you haven’t met my friend Frisco, Texas, Brideview, Illinois, or Foxborough, Mass.

      • greenhagen - Oct 29, 2013 at 12:52 PM

        Ha! I meant in LA.

      • galaxycontrol - Oct 29, 2013 at 4:09 PM

        “StubHub Center is in Carson. It’s hard to think of a worse location”

        It’s perfect if you want to avoid traffic. Besides they allow tailgating there. If it were in downtown L.A. no way they would allow tailgating and the parking prices would be much HIGHER.

      • greenhagen - Oct 29, 2013 at 5:08 PM

        @galaxycontrol

        I think the 4M+ folks that live in the SF and SG valleys would disagree with you! And as someone who lives on the Westside, traffic (and distance) prevents me from going to more than a handful of games a year.

        But with such a sprawling area, I agree it’s hard to find a good location. It would be nice to have the two local teams play at different venues so the fanbase could be more geographically driven.

      • adiez1975 - Oct 30, 2013 at 12:57 PM

        I’m an LA Galaxy season ticket holder. And yes the attendance may have dipped because if the departure of Beckham, but those were the casual “oh look honey, that famous soccer guy is playing in LA now” fans that stopped going to games. Good riddance. The serious fans are still there and are growing as seen in the rise if season ticket holders since 2008.

    • SD1 Timbers Special Forces - Oct 29, 2013 at 12:29 PM

      I’m a Timbers fan and honestly, our attendance isn’t worth being mentioned, really. But, when you do the math on Seattle, they have higher attendance than every single NFL team. That’s the number one sport in America, with a team from a much much smaller sport, who has higher attendance. That is astonishing. That will get the attention of NFL/MLB owners.

      Unfortunately, like in Atlanta, MLS has gotten attention, NFL stadium with MLS configuration where they have Corporate Suites where Supporters usually are, so that sucks.

      • Mike Gwaltney - Oct 29, 2013 at 12:48 PM

        Not sure why you think Timbers attendance isn’t worth mentioning. There aren’t that many sports franchises that have longer than a 3-year home sell-out streak going right now, with a long waiting list for tickets.

      • steves4 - Oct 29, 2013 at 2:54 PM

        Seattle doesn’t have a higher average attendance than any NFL team.

        http://espn.go.com/nfl/attendance/_/year/2013

        Are you talking about overall attendance, throughout the year? If so, it’s worth mentioning that MLS teams have more than double the amount of home games than NFL teams.

      • galaxycontrol - Oct 29, 2013 at 4:12 PM

        The Mariners and their 21,000 attendance want a word with you.

    • talgrath - Oct 29, 2013 at 3:15 PM

      Even if doubling the stadium size is possible (hint: due to surrounding buildings, it’s not) I doubt Portland could sell out every game like they do now, Portland isn’t that large of a city. Other than that though, I do agree with you, even if I am a Sounders fan; a sell out every game is impressive. No better place in the US to watch soccer than Cascadia!

      • Mike Gwaltney - Oct 29, 2013 at 7:03 PM

        Portland and Seattle are essentially the same size city (605k vs 630k, hardly a difference) and the metro areas aren’t as different in size as you think: 2.9m to 3.5m.

        I think with the number of people on the season ticket holders waiting list, you could expect to sell out a 30k seater stadium and still have a nice atmosphere. Though I am not complaining about The Jelly – it’s quite excellent as it is. And we have home-grown authentic atmosphere.

  2. hildezero - Oct 29, 2013 at 1:21 PM

    “…muchos gracias, Jorge Vergara.”

    Wrong! It’s “muchas gracías,”… :)

  3. valiantdraws - Oct 29, 2013 at 1:28 PM

    Um…how exactly do the Sounders have higher attendance than NFL teams?

    • dhagentj - Oct 29, 2013 at 2:58 PM

      He’s saying that over the course of the season, the Sounders draw more people in their 17 matches than any NFL team does in their eight.

  4. footballer4ever - Oct 29, 2013 at 2:10 PM

    @hildezero

    There he goes…(chuckles)

  5. midtec2005 - Oct 30, 2013 at 1:13 PM

    I noticed something else that I think is very exciting for MLS (although I think this site may have mentioned it before). If you look at the lowest average attendances, Kansas City has 4 of the top 9! What a tremendous turnaround. I think this shows how much growth is possible, even in markets that have been consistently mediocre (Chivas…). We may see a large increase in the Columbus attendance numbers in a few years, as their new ownership seems very motivated.

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