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Major League Soccer 2013 Attendance - By The Percents

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It wasn't a record breaker this time around, but the 2013 season was still pretty good in terms of attendance numbers. How did the percentages work out, though?

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

This season, MLS attendance ended up with a nice looking number, 18,594. It wasn't quite as high as last season's number, but we're not concerned about that. We're doing this 'by the percents' thing for a third straight year, and this time around we've got a few differences to note: Unlike 2012, the league did not have an extra team with a great attendance record joining the party. Unlike both 2012 and 2011, the league did not set a record for attendance this time around, either.

That's neither here nor there, though. It's become a yearly occurrence for me to do some quick number crunching and figure out the percent of seats filled, rather than the straight attendance average. Here's last year's. That's skewed by a few numbers, specifically the huge number of seats filled every week at Seattle. The % method has its flaws as well (San Jose's tiny stadium and a few teams, Chivas included, playing in cavernous stadiums they could never fill still hurt it, in particular.)

Overall, I think it's a better indicator of just how good the attendance looks, and a much better way to see how the league is doing in comparison to the NBA or NHL, the two sports that MLS is most often compared to. (It's a fair comparison, of course. The NFL is a juggernaut in attendance and even the teams that can't fill the stadiums still have huge numbers, averaging over 50,000 a game. Major League Baseball has 81 home games a year, which makes it completely unfair, rather than the just sorta unfair we have when comparing two teams that play 41 home games to teams that play 17.)

Let's take a look. Numbers for stadium capacity came from Wikipedia articles for each respective arena, and I've rounded up on the % numbers when called for:

TEAM NAME ATTENDANCE STADIUM CAPACITY TOTAL %
Seattle Sounders 44,038 38,500 114
LA Galaxy 21,770 27,000
81
Portland Timbers 20,674 20,438 101
Montreal Impact 20,603 20,801 99
Vancouver Whitecaps 20,097 21,000 96
Houston Dynamo 19,923 22,039 90
Sporting Kansas City 19,709 18,467 107
New York Red Bulls 19,461 25,189 77
Real Salt Lake 19,218 20,213 95
Toronto FC 18,131 22,453 81
Philadelphia Union 17,867 18,500 97
Columbus Crew 16,080 20,145 80
Colorado Rapids 15,499 17,424 89
FC Dallas 15,373 20,500 75
Chicago Fire 15,228 20,000 76
New England Revolution 14,844 20,000 74
DC United 13,646 19,467 70
San Jose Earthquakes 12,765 10,525 121
Chivas USA 8,366 27,000 31


Goddamnit, Chivas. An enormous drop in attendance from Chivas represented the biggest change from last year's numbers, as they went from a pretty crappy but still not mind-shreddingly horrifying 48% to an all the aforementioned 31%. Yuck. A few stadiums changed their capacities, including Dick's Sporting Goods Park, and it ended up working out for the betterment of these numbers for the most part. (Indeed, the Rapids went from 81% last year to a tidy 89% thanks to an increase in attendance coupled with a slightly smaller stadium capacity.)

Funny enough, it ended up not changing at all from last season. Despite the slight drop in attendance, the stadiums remained 87% filled all season. That's a good thing. If you remove Chivas from the equation, that bumps up to a lovely-looking 90%.

Again, this number will never truly be fair until every MLS team has their own stadium to call home. (Chivas is included in this equation. I still maintain that they would be well-off trying to get a cozy little 15K seater in a different part of LA where they can cultivate their own fanbase.) Until then, it's nice to see that we're steady as she goes on growth, even if the straight numbers may be a bit lower than 2012.