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After poor crowds, College Football looks to Major League Soccer for solution

Jul 17, 2014, 2:01 PM EDT

With their wonderful stadium, fanbase and recent success on the field, are SKC the best in MLS? With their wonderful stadium, fanbase and recent success on the field, are SKC the best in MLS?

With attendances falling in certain College Football conferences last season, they’ve turned to Major League Soccer for help.

According to a story released in the Wall Street Journal, executives from Florida University, the SEC and Big 12 have all studied MLS and the rise in attendances over the past few years.

[RELATED: MLS midweek  roundup]

The fact that MLS sides such as Sporting Kansas City and the Portland Timbers are not only attracting new fans but keeping the old ones is particularly interesting to College Football folk.

With insight from Portland Timbers president of business operations Mike Golub and CEO of Sporting Club Robb Heineman, we learn about how College Football programs are partnering with MLS clubs to help build and solidify their fanbases.

Here is an extract from Ben Cohen’s piece, which I strongly recommend you read in full by clicking here.

Sporting KC is trending in the opposite direction. The team formerly known as the Wizards averaged 10,287 fans a game in 2010. Then it rebranded, moved from a minor-league baseball stadium to soccer-specific Sporting Park and saw attendance climb to 17,810 a game. That number has increased this year to a franchise-record 19,709 per MLS game.

How they pulled that off intrigues colleges that are struggling to fill their mammoth football stadiums. In addition to Florida, which sent a representative to Kansas City in the fall before a bigger team went in May, three other SEC schools have visited Sporting KC, Heineman said, while Oklahoma State announced a deal with Sporting Innovations in March.

  1. jdfsquared - Jul 17, 2014 at 2:40 PM

    Maybe MLS can get some tips from the SEC on improving those TV ratings.

  2. jcmeyer10 - Jul 17, 2014 at 2:44 PM

    This is some cool stuff. The fervor these teams can build should be looked at. Truly amazing a fan base that can be inspired to make those tifos. Doing something right.

  3. lyleoross - Jul 17, 2014 at 3:06 PM

    Hey, college football! Maybe it’s because you treat your players like dogs and the public is starting to catch on that you’re a bunch of greedy gits? Maybe it’s because your coaches make more than your university presidents do? Maybe it’s because you charge a small fortune for tickets? Maybe it’s because for every thirty seconds of activity, there is three minutes of TV time? Or maybe it’s because the public is pulling their kids from football programs because they don’t want their kids to suffer brain damage and so your losing your fan base? Naw, I’m sure it’s just a marketing issue…

  4. talgrath - Jul 17, 2014 at 3:23 PM

    I think it’s pretty simple, soccer is more of an active cheering event; you don’t sit down much you stay standing and sing along and chant and shout for 90 minutes. The environment of a soccer match doesn’t necessarily translate entirely to TV, you have to be there to sing along with the crowd. For games like football, you sit there, you cheer from time to time; it’s little different from watching the game from home, but at home the beer and food is cheaper and the seats more comfortable. The other factor is price, you can see MLS games, even in the very popular Seattle area, for as little as $18 (plus fees) per match using the four match pack or a quick check found tickets for Galaxy vs Sounders for $38.34 (plus fees); tickets to a Seahawks match, if you can even find them, start at about $200 per seat for the bleediest of nosebleed seats.

    • lilgurgi - Jul 17, 2014 at 3:43 PM

      That pretty much summed it up for me as well. Soccer is cheap to get into (need a ball and 2 things to lay on the ground to make goal) and watching Live pro matches is an experience in itself.

      The best thing I’ve heard is a radio personality (forget the name, otherwise I would give credit) stated that the thing that will put soccer to the next level will be when the ‘soccer dads’ become a common thing. There are a lot of people who grew up playing soccer who are now having kids and getting them into it.

  5. delegator - Jul 17, 2014 at 4:10 PM

    Let’s take a city that has both big time college football and popular MLS soccer: Columbus, OH. Fromt he Ohio State University web side, “For the 2014 football season, individual game tickets will be $79 each (plus any applicable fees), with the exception of the Premier Games vs. Virginia Tech and Michigan. Tickets for the Premier Game vs. Virginia Tech will be $110 each (plus any applicable fees) and tickets for the Premier Game vs. Michigan will be $150 each (plus any applicable fees).” That is anywhere from 50% to 150% more expensive than going to see the Columbus Crew. Plus, you’ll have 10x the logistical nightmare for parking, crowds, cost of concessions, and so on.

    Big Time football has its allure as an event, but for a family it is an expensive proposition at best and can present a host of difficulties. On the other hand, you can go see a division I-A game at the UMass home stadium (Gillette stadium, home of the NFL Patriots) for $20. It’s just that nobody cares to do so.

  6. mdac1012 - Jul 17, 2014 at 4:52 PM

    College football ticket prices have skyrocketed over the last decade. The average Alabama tix is about $700 and these schools are making student tix less available. The greed and hypocrisy of the NCAA is on par with FIFA the only difference is FIFA is dealing with multi-million dollar professionals and the NCAA is supposed to be looking out for the best interest of the “student-athlete.” In reality they are only looking to line their pockets as much as possible.

    Besides the cost of the tix, many of these stadiums are wifi and cell dead zones that keep people from using their phones. I have heard that cited as a contributing reason for falling attendance.

  7. andreweac - Jul 17, 2014 at 6:38 PM

    Maybe it’s because Americans are starting to wake up that college football is modern day indentured servitude? I know I boycott all NCAA games until they fix their policy on paying “student athletes.”

  8. Matthew - Jul 17, 2014 at 7:52 PM

    Reblogged this on Carolina Mountain Blue.

  9. mikeevergreen - Jul 18, 2014 at 6:31 PM

    Winning has something to do with it, and Florida isn’t winning right now. Chicago Fire isn’t winning. It also isn’t nearly filling its house.

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