The Full 90

MLS shattered attendance record in 2015

A fan probably enjoyed watching Sporting Kansas City forward Dominic Dwyer score four goals on July 1 at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan.
A fan probably enjoyed watching Sporting Kansas City forward Dominic Dwyer score four goals on July 1 at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan. along@kcstar.com

Major League Soccer’s average regular season attendance rose to an all-time high in 2015 to 21,574, an increase of 12.7 percent from last season, according to a league press release.

The percentage increase is the largest by a major North American professional sports league since 1993, when Major League Baseball boosted its average attendance by 16.2 percent from the year before with the help of two expansion teams.

Led by another record-setting season by Seattle Sounders FC, MLS teams sold out 161 games, up 28 from 2014. Total attendance eclipsed 7 million for the first time ever, with 10 clubs averaging more than 20,000 fans per game.

Club

Average Attendance (+/- % from 2014)

Seattle Sounders FC

44,247 (+1.2%)

Orlando City SC

32,847

New York City FC

29,016

Toronto FC

23,451 (+6.8%)

LA Galaxy

23,392 (+10%)

Portland Timbers

21,142 (+1.6%)

San Jose Earthquakes

20,979 (+40.4%)

Houston Dynamo

20,658 (+2.7%)

Vancouver Whitecaps FC

20,507 (+0.5%)

Real Salt Lake

20,160 (-0.9%)

Sporting Kansas City

19,687 (-1.6%)

New York Red Bulls

19,657 (+1.3%)

New England Revolution

19,627 (+17.7%)

Montreal Impact

17,750 (+1.9%)

Philadelphia Union

17,451 (-1%)

Columbus Crew SC

16,985 (+0.6%)

D.C. United

16,244 (-4.6%)

FC Dallas

16,013 (-4.6%)

Chicago Fire

16,003 (-0.4%)

Colorado Rapids

15,657 (+3.8%)

Some key takeaways:

▪ Chivas USA having folded and expansion clubs Orlando City SC and New York City FC entering the league certainly factored into MLS attendance. Chivas USA averaged less than 8,000 fans per game last year, while Orlando City and New York mostly filled 30,000-plus seat venues.

▪ Average attendance also got a nice boost from the San Jose Earthquakes, which opened its shiny, new stadium this season. Avaya Stadium added a couple thousand more seats and significantly more standing room than their previous venue. In addition, Toronto FC expanded its stadium, factoring in to its increase.

▪ New England’s 17.7 percent rise is a nice surprise given Gillette Stadium’s proximity to Boston (40 miles). The Revolution have struggled to fill seats during midweek games in years past, but playing at home just once during the week in 2015 dodged that trend.

▪ Sporting KC’s attendance dropped, yes, but only slightly. There’s no rhyme or reason to this, at least to my knowledge, although the Royals remaining atop the A.L. Central Division all season long could be a major factor. Nevertheless, Sporting KC has the third-longest MLS sellout streak at 70 consecutive games. Only Seattle (124) and Portland (85) have longer league sellouts.

▪ MLS has come a long way in a short amount of time. This season’s average attendance is a 42.8 percent increase over the league’s average attendance in 2005 (15,108). Also, MLS is now the seventh-largest when it comes to attendance, trailing leagues such as Serie A in Italy by less than 4,000 fans per game. Oh, and there’s this:

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