Major League Soccer has released updated match attendance figures for the 2012 regular season. As one might expect, there is both good and bad news found in those numbers.
MLS Executive Vice President of Communications Dan Courtemanche released the data via his Twitter account on Monday. According to that chart, which cites ESPN Soccernet and worldfootball.net as sources, the US domestic league is currently eighth in the world in overall attendance. Bundesliga, the English Premier League, La Liga, Liga MX, Serie A, Eredivisie and the Chinese Super League are all above MLS. Noteworthy leagues averaging lower attendance than is MLS in 2012 are Ligue 1, Coca-Cola Championship (second division in England) and Primera A Division out of Argentina.
The gap that separates spots 1, 2 and 3 from number eight is, as one might expect, rather large. Bundesliga averaged 45,726 fans in attendance per match last season. Premier League games brought in an average of 34,601 customers, and La Liga matches averaged 30,272 in attendance per game. MLS matches are currently averaging 18,828 fans in attendance.
The over 18k per MLS game is an 8.6 percent increase in attendance from this time last season. Over 4 million fans have already attended MLS matches in 2012, and there is still over two months to go in the season. According to the MLS Attendance blog that was last updated on August 7, Seattle Sounders are not shockingly leading the league in home game attendance, averaging over 41,000 per match.
Seven different teams in MLS are currently averaging fewer fans per home game than they were at this time during the 2011 season. Those teams are: New York Red Bulls, Chivas USA, DC United, defending champs LA Galaxy, New England Revolution, Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps. Some of those are easy to explain. Toronto are currently in last place in the overall league standings, Chivas share a home with Galaxy AND LA Jr. also aren't all that great, and New England are currently in the middle of a "rebuilding process."
The Red Bulls have continued to struggle attracting an audience, although some have blamed the team's schedule for that problem (the midweek afternoon game in July was a failed experiment). Galaxy have struggled to remain a consistent side in 2012, and they've also been without star players throughout the summer for a variety of reasons. The shine could be off the apple just a bit up in Vancouver, where the Whitecaps are still bringing in over 20k per home game. United desperately need a real home, as RFK is an absolute dump.
Here is a very brief summary of what we know as of August 20, 2012: Attendance for MLS matches is up, and ratings for league games showing on NBC Sports Network and ESPN/ESPN2 are also impressive. Neither of those stats are what I would call "staggering," however, and I'll be very interested to see how a MLS match that airs on "Big Daddy" NBC will do in the ratings. MLS continues to be world football's version of "The Little Engine That Could," but all diehard fans expecting some meteoric rise in the near future should again remember that the league continues to be involved in a marathon and not a sprint.