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Major League Soccer 2012 Attendance - By The Percents

MLS set records for attendance this season, but how did they do in terms of the percentage of seats filled league-wide?

Doug Pensinger

Once again, Major League Soccer saw a boost in attendance in 2012, and once again they set a league record because of it. It's wonderful to see the growth of the game in the country continue in almost every stadium across MLS, and adding in the Montreal Impact only made things better. The league is outdrawing hockey by several million (by default, hoo-hah!) and is keeping pace with the NBA as well... in terms of average attendance at least. (TV numbers are still awful for MLS, namely because they're rarely to never on networks outside of the cable realm.)

Overall, the league went from an average of 17,921 to an average of 18,807, which keeps them above the NBA's (and last year's NHL's) average attendance.

However, the buzzwords about the attendance are still just that -- buzzwords. 'Six million fans', 'record attendance', 'seventh highest in the world' and the like are all well and good, but I'm more inclined to check just how many fans are showing up by the percentages. I did it last season and I found that the average MLS stadium was being filled up to 79.5% capacity.

There was certainly room for improvement there, I think we would all agree. So how did we do this time around? Let's check it out.

One thing to note is that DC United both helped the situation out a bit prior to the season by cutting down the max attendance at their cavernous stadium. United had a pathetic 32% capacity last season simply because they decided to keep the entire 48,000 seat monolith that is RFK Stadium open for ticket sales.

Here's this year's numbers. (Percentage totals are rounded up or down to make things easier.)

Seattle Sounders 43,144 38,500 112
LA Galaxy 23,136 27,000 85
Montreal Impact 22,772 20,521 111
Houston Dynamo 21,015 22,039 95
Portland Timbers 20,438 20,438 100
Vancouver Whitecaps 19,475 21,000 93
Sporting Kansas City 19,404 18,467 105
Real Salt Lake 19,087 20,008 95
New York Red Bulls 18,281 25,189 72
Toronto FC 18,155 21,800 83
Philadelphia Union 18,053 18,500 97
Chicago Fire 16,409 20,000 82
Colorado Rapids 15,175 18,086 84
Columbus Crew 14,397 20,455 70
FC Dallas 14,199 21,193 66
New England Revolution 14,001 22,385 62
DC United 13,846 19,467 71
San Jose Earthquakes 13,293 10,300 129 (hahaha)
Chivas USA 13,056 27,000 48

Our final number? 87% average attendance across the league, up from 79.5% last season.

Two things to note: Montreal and San Jose both have out of whack numbers due to playing one or two games a piece in larger stadiums over the season. Even without those games, there's a marked improvement in this season's numbers. Things still won't be completely fair until the Earthquakes have their new stadium opened, because their numbers continue to be hilarious in the percent department.

Actually, things won't be completely fair until every team (and I include Chivas in this calculation) has a stadium to call their own. At that point, we can start comparing and contrasting with a bit more gusto. This year did bring some solid changes to the league's stadium situations, so we're a lot closer to a good number than we were last season.

Last season, there were some pretty dismal numbers,specifically DC's above mentioned 32% clip. There were six different teams that were below 60% capacity, while the only one of those left is Chivas USA. Most of the teams near the bottom like Columbus, FC Dallas and Colorado saw improvement, while most of the decreases in attendance were minor ones like the 1% loss in LA. It's easy to see where the growth came from -- Montreal was a big help, while Houston getting their own stadium boosted things as well. And of course, DC gained about 40% by slicing their max capacity over 20,000 seats.

Remember, the NBA and NHL are both hovering around 90% average attendance, but every team has their own stadium. By the time that we get to a point where every MLS team can boast the same, probably four or five years from now, I have little doubt that MLS will have continued their growth to the point where they won't need a team getting 129% attendance to boost our league up to around that point as well.

(Oh yeah, and we're still handing baseball its ass in this incredibly biased category. Rejoice!)