Paul Kennedy, Soccer America
Major League Soccer's average attendance dropped for the second year in a row from a record average attendance of 22,106 set in 2017 to 21,330 in 2019, but ticket revenue per game increased, jumping to a record average ticket price of $31.
The 2019 average attendance, a year-over-year drop of 2.5 percent after a drop of 1.1 percent in 2018, is the lowest in the last five seasons, since the jump of almost 13 percent from 2014 to 2015.
The difference between the increase in ticket revenue per game and decrease in announced attendance figures is attributable to a cutback in the number of complimentary tickets distributed to sponsors or groups or discounted tickets sold to resellers for sale on the secondary market.
MLS attendance figures include sold tickets and complimentary tickets, not the number of fans who attended as measured by turnstile counts or ticket scans.
MLS isn't the only U.S. pro league to experience a drop in average attendance. Average attendance in Major League Baseball has dropped 4.0 percent and 1.6 percent the last two seasons and is down almost 14 percent from its high in 2007.
The good news ...
-- Atlanta United led MLS in attendance for the third year in a row. Six of the seven largest U.S. soccer crowds of the year have been MLS games Atlanta United hosted at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
-- FC Cincinnati averaged 27,336 fans per game, ranking fifth all-time among MLS expansion teams.
-- Portland increased the capacity of Providence Park from 21,144 to 25,218 following the $85 million renovation of its downtown stadium and extended its sellout streak that began when it joined MLS in 2011.
-- Following a change in ownership, Columbus increased attendance by an average of 19 percent, the largest increase by a team using the same seating configuration as in 2018. Philadelphia and LAFC were the only other teams playing all their games in the same stadiums with the same configurations to register increases.
The bad news ...
-- Chicago finished last with an average of 12,324 fans a game for its final season at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview. It represented a drop of 29 percent over the last two seasons and is the lowest average attendance in MLS since Chivas USA was disbanded after the 2014 season.
-- The New York Red Bulls' average attendance has fallen 16 percent over the last two years. In 2017, they had announced sellouts of 25,219 for five of their last nine games. In 2019, they covered sections of Red Bull Arena's upper deck, reducing the capacity by about 5,000 seats.
-- Houston's average attendance dropped to 15,674 fans a game, down 25 percent since 2012 when BBVA Stadium opened.
-- Real Salt Lake and Sporting KC had their lowest average attendance at their soccer-specific stadiums since 2011, while Vancouver's average was the second-lowest in its nine seasons in MLS.
2019 MLS Attendance
RANK TEAM AVG. (CHANGE)
1. Atlanta United 52,510 (-1%)
2. Seattle 40,247 (-1%)
3. FC Cincinnati 27,336 (first year)
4. Portland 25,218 (+19%)
5. Toronto FC 25,048 (-6%)
6. LA Galaxy 23,205 (-5%)
7. Orlando City 22,761 (-5%)
8. LAFC 22,251 (+1%)
9. NYCFC 21,107 (-9%)
10. *Minnesota United 19,723 (-17%)
11. Vancouver 19,520 (-11%)
12. San Jose 18,781 (-1%)
13. Sporting KC 18,601 (-7%)
14. Real Salt Lake 18,121 (-3%)
15. NY Red Bulls 17,751 (-5%)
16. **D.C. United 17,744 (+1%)
17. Philadelphia 17,111 (+4%)
18. New England 16,737 (-9%)
19. ***Montreal 16,171 (-13%)
20. Houston 15,674 (-7%)
21. Columbus 14,856 (+19%)
22. FC Dallas 14,842 (-4%)
23. Colorado 14,284 (-7%)
24. Chicago 12,324 (-17%)
League Average: 21,330 (-2.5%)
*Moved from TCF Bank Stadium to new Allianz Field in 2019.
**Played one game each at Maryland SoccerPlex and Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in 2018.
***Played one game at Olympic Stadium in 2018.