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MLS 2015 regular season sets attendance record

Photo by Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports
Photo by Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports

The 2015 regular season was a historic one for MLS.

Not only was it the 20th in its existence, but its attendance numbers were also the best that they have ever been.

MLS announced Monday that the average attendance in 2015 was 21,574, well above 2014’s average of 19,147 fans per game. Helping the league achieve that benchmark was the Seattle Sounders, who set a new attendance record with an average of 44,245 fans per game.

The league’s two expansion franchises, Orlando City SC and New York City FC, came in second and third, respectively, in average attendance numbers. The Lions hosted an average of 32,847 per game, while NYCFC came in at 29,016 per game at Yankee Stadium.

FC Dallas, the Chicago Fire and the Colorado Rapids had the lowest figures during the year, with the Rapids only posting an average attendance of 15,657.

With the new record, MLS now has a higher average attendance than Ligue 1 in France and the Eredivisie in the Netherlands.

What do you think of the league’s attendance numbers during 2015? Surprised by the increase or were you expecting it? Do you think the average attendance will rise or fall in 2016?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Not surprised that FCD, Fire and Rapids have lousy attendance.. 2 things… far flung stadium locations and lousy stadium design …no roof and a stage.

  2. You can bet for sure the Galaxy are planning a stadium move behind the scenes. No way are they gonna let LAFC move into Downtown LA while they stay down in god-knows-where-is-Carson-exacty. Galaxy have sold out every game since Gerrard and Dos Santos arrived. Makes the parking situation at the Stub Hub Center suck almost much as Gerrard and Dos Santos play.

    That’s funny, I know. But it brings up an important question: what’s more important? Asses in seats or points in the table?

  3. The MLS now has a strong base of fans in most of its teams’ cities that attend the matches on a regular basis, giving us these amazing numbers. I can’t be more thrilled; it makes me proud to be an American soccer fan. The problem is that no one outside of this group (which is tiny in regards to the general population) watches MLS games on TV. TV and sponsorship deals make up the bulk of income of major sports leagues, and I’m afraid we could be decades away from having the huge TV audience these other leagues have. We actually do have a pretty large population of soccer fans, but most of them are eurosnob traitors that will show up in droves to watch the LA Galaxy play Real Madrid but won’t watch any MLS games all year. Oh well, I think the lack of income could be a good thing in the long run–hopefully it will make the MLS teams focus on youth development (rather than simply trying to buy success).

  4. The attendance figures are great but what about TV ratings because those matter more than attendance. Increase in ratings will help secure a fatter TV deal next time. From what I understand TV ratings are a bit higher than previous seasons but only marginally better and not where they should be.

    • Yes TV is of equal to greater importance. But the level of play sucks so friggin bad its never going to improve ratings. 75% of the US couldn’t name a single MLS player or even a team for that matter. This is and always will be a garbage league until they eliminate the salary cap. Should be called MSL for Most Sucky League. Its good to sleep to though.

  5. Great news indeed for the league. I’d say wait until we are regularly winning CCL before building huge stadiums (Atlanta excluded). The quality on the field is what is really going to make big stadiums viable.

  6. I think the Wikipedia article put the 2015 MLS figures slightly higher than Mexico and Argentina and over 5K higher than Brazil (every other league in SA are even smaller). We are only marginally short of Serie A, by about 400 avg per game, and only about 5K behind Spain. We are effectively the 5th highest league in attendance in the World.

    Congrats to the MLS

    I expect that figure to be stable for a few years until the Orlando and Atlanta Stadiums come online/

    • Agreed. I’m up north of Chicago and there has been discussion of looking at a team up here between Chicago and Milwaukee. Some land has been looked at and some rumblings of investors. Mmmmmm…

  7. I think that the league (and owners) would prefer seat numbers be kept at at the lower end. This is to assure that seat availability is at a premium and puts upward pressure on prices. If you sell out every game, you may have a reason to add seats, but if you have a 20K stadium and are averaging 19k, you have 90 percent capacity, yes, but that 10 percent unsold puts downward pressure on ticket prices. While it’s good to have attendance climb, wait a few year to see if it’s a steady climb, or a fluke. It is always good to have a waiting list for season tickets, It show a strong upward pressure for seats.

    It’s a good trend, and one I think is due to the influx of foreign stars, but socccer fans are fickle.n the old NASL, the Cosmos had an average of 50k when they had Pele, but seriously declined after he left.

    I don’t think that the MLS is ready to build 40K+ stadiums just yet. But if television viewership increases too, and larger TV rights contracts happen, the league could infuse a lot more expensive talent, and continue to see a cycle upward to where 40k+ stadiums are warranted

  8. Keep in mind these are MLS “numbers”. The real numbers are probably 20-30 percent lower.
    MLS numbers include those that bought tickets but did not attend, thought about attending but didn’t or know somebody that was at the game.

    • Possibly true but at least for the Cascadian teams (Seattle, Vancouver, and Portland) the numbers aren’t too far from the actual attendance. They really do have people in the vast majority of the seats claimed.

    • At least in the US, attendance figures at sporting events are always tickets sold, not actual people walking through turnstiles. Makes sense too because if someone bought a ticket but didn’t show up the team still gets to keep the ticket revenue.

    • I absolutely agree. I would like to have the ability to have a 30k game every now and then, rather than being capped at 20k and have a full season of sell-outs. I think that even at 30k, we’re eventually going to get to the point of having consistent sell-outs in every market. The US is making a pretty major shift away from Eggball right now at the youth levels. This will be rippling up fairly soon.

      • The league likes sell outs (and I agree). Remember that there are ways of managing this situation other than simply adding seats. Right now the league wants two things (1) full stadiums and (2) increased TV audience. Given this reality, I’d expect to see them raise the ticket prices before they build capacity.

        One day there will be a build out of next generation stadiums. Probably not for at least a decade, and probably not at the 35k-40k number I see thrown around here a lot . For starters, these “mid size” stadiums scarcely exist for a reason…. the scale is not economically or structurally efficient. Usually they only exist near mid-market college football teams who don’t care if the stadium loses money.

        Expect the next generation to be 45-50k seaters, fully enclosed in some cases. They will be very nice places. Just not that soon.

  9. I have been saying for some time that the new soccer specific stadiums need to be bigger. Considering that the top 3 teams in attendance were not playing in soccer specific stadiums, and 2 were expansion teams, that should tell you the demand is there. If you build it, they will come.

    • It really depends on the market, don’t you think? The three clubs you mention are outliers. For the vast majority of the teams, a capacity of 25,000 is just fine. I admre your optimism, but does it make sense to spend the extra money for 10,000-15,000 extra seats if you anticipate attendance in the 20,000-25,000 range on your best days?

      • I think a lot of it has to do with where the stadiums are being built as well. I live in Colorado and for some dumb reason (it was cheaper) the Rapids built a new stadium five years ago in Commerce City. It’s a bout 20 minutes outside of Denver and the public transportation to get there is terrible. If they built the stadium in Denver or Boulder I’m sure their numbers would be better (it wouldn’t hurt if they weren’t dead last either).

        I’d say NY Redbulls have a similar problem. The stadium isn’t actually in NYC but in NJ. While there is the NJ Transit line that runs to the stadium they’d do much better being in NY like NYCFC.

      • @Max, With soccer blowing up in this country, and big attendance in Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, Orlando, etc., the decision to build stadiums outside of urban centers seems completely counter-intuitive. I think it made more sense in the early days of soccer-specific stadium planning, when investing anything in soccer seemed like a big gamble. I look at the Galaxy’s situation in Carson, Colorado’s in Commerce, Dallas’s in Frisco, and Philly’s in where-ever-the-hell, PA, and it’s clear they all got a cheaper deal building outside their respective urban cores.

        Had they had better foresight, maybe team ownership would have spent more time and money finding stadium sites within the urban core. Then again, Houston is right in downtown Houston, and they can’t fill that stadium to save their lives.

    • Actually where the Red Bulls play is near Newark which has multiple train lines. and is closer to Downtown Manhattan than Yankee stadium is

      • Yep. It’s a convenient train ride from much of the NY metro area. But too many NYC folks consider NJ to be the equivalent of a foreign country.

      • Being in NJ does not stop a lot of people from going to Giants/Jets games. That being said, attendance would be higher if in was in Manhattan or northern Brooklyn, but real estate is TOO expensive.

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