Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Nobody Cares About the Sports League with the Third Highest Attendance Numbers in the US

"No offense to that club, but there’s no reason to go down the slippery slope that could lead us to Triple-A baseball, Major League Soccer and the WNBA. Better to draw the line at the major sports leagues, i.e. those that significant numbers of people care about."

Journalists are a pretty ignorant lot in general, and sports writers are the jocks of journalism, but I still expect better than this. Here's a guy who says that there aren't significant numbers of people who care about Major League Soccer, despite the fact that the MLS has the third highest per game attendance average of any sports league: more than the NBA and more than the NHL, which he includes in his list of leagues people care about. Maybe that was true 10 years ago. It was certainly true 20 years ago. However, to lump the MLS of today with the WNBA is ludicrous. There isn't a single AAA baseball team that averaged more than 10,000 fans per game. The WNBA can't even attract 10,000 people to their post-season games.'s_National_Basketball_Association

To keep it local, the Portland Trailblazers are considered the premier sports team in Portland, Oregon. They averaged 20,500 people the last couple years.

In contrast, the Portland Timbers sold out every home game last year and expanded seating to 20,000 for the last couple games to accomodate the crowds. This year, they will boost seating to 23,000 and expect to sell out every game. This will put give them a higher attendance per game attendance average than the Trailblazers, and the Trailblazers are consistently in the top 3 for attendance in the NBA.

The Seattle Mariners averaged 23,400 and the Seahawks averaged 66,400 in per game attendance. The Seattle Sounders averaged 38,500 fans for attendance.

Now, I know it isn't exactly fair to compare per game attendance numbers due to the larger number of games that the NBA and MLB have compared to the NFL and MLS, and due to the larger number of teams all those leagues have. Unlike the MLB, NHL, NBA and NFL, the MLS isn't the premier league in soccer. It isn't even close to being in the top 3. The best soccer players play in Europe where teams outspend even the New York Yankees. The MLS also has a long ways to go in reaching the average consumer: they don't have the history to attract much attention from non-sports fans, and there are still significant numbers of people with an anti-soccer bias due to its perception as a European sport. However, just because the best players play in Europe, doesn't mean the the MLS doesn't have quality players and a significant following. To write it off as an also-ran league comparable to the WNBA or minor league baseball is ludicrous. People who make their living writing about sports should know better.

My own opinion as to why the MLS has trouble garnering reasonable journalistic coverage has to do with advertising dollars. Most popular American sports leagues can make tons of money selling commercial time during stoppage of play. Soccer is a free-flowing game 90 minutes long where the only opportunity to sell commercials is pretty much limited to halftime. That greatly limits advertising dollars and makes it harder for TV networks to justify the airtime. It also means that soccer has to demonstrate strong grassroots support before networks will even consider airing a game. Also, due to the break-free nature of soccer, there are fewer opportunities for commentators to break down plays and explain to TV spectators what just happened. Either you get it or you don't. There is little time to bring the spectator up to speed.


steviepinhead said...

I appreciate your frustration, but I agree with you that things are changing.

Here in Seattle, we love our Sounders FC!

Douglas said...

"Here in Seattle, we love our Sounders FC!"

They are a fun team to watch. My family doesn't live in the NW anymore, but we made sure we caught a Sounders game on our family vacation last year. The kids loved it.