Looking at MLS Attendance Over the Years

We work with a lot of private data here at KORE, so sometimes it’s fun to mix it up and play with some publicly available data to see what we can learn and share! 

With the start of the 2019 Major League Soccer season this month, I found data on MLS team attendance per season since the league began back in 1996. I took that data, brought it into Tableau Public and found some really positive trends and tidbits, which isn’t surprising. 

Beyond the underlying growth in popularity of soccer in the United States, Major League Soccer and its member clubs are some of the most progressive when it comes to levering business intelligence to drive their business forward. We’ve seen a significant increase in adoption of everything from data warehousing and visualization to more sophisticated retention modeling and CRM implementations, all of which have a very direct impact on sales and ticket utilization. 

Here are some of the highlights that we saw when working with the visualization we put together:

  • The league’s average attendance in their 1996 inaugural season was 18,063 per game but dropped to 14,984 the next year and stayed flat for a few years. Since those low point years, average attendance has grown around 50%, hitting 22,106 in 2017 and 21,875 in 2018.
  • Atlanta United FC has gotten all the buzz and understandably so when you look at their numbers the last two seasons. But the Seattle Sounders shouldn’t be overlooked as a key driver for MLS attendance growth. They’ve been able to sustain six straight years averaging over 40,000 fans per match, second only to Atlanta.
  • MLS attendance as % of total capacity has consistently grown since 2009, now holding steady at over 90% for the last four seasons. In fact, last year more than half the league (12 of 23 clubs) averaged attendance at over 90%+ capacity.
  • Toronto FC has seen a lot of growth based on recent team performance, bringing in over 26,000 per match the last three years, well up from 18,000 per match back in 2012 and 2013.
  • The Vancouver Whitecaps have also seen sustained 20,000+ per match since launching in 2011 while the Montreal Impact have averaged between 18 to 20,000 per match since their launch, so all three of the Canadian teams are key to MLS’ live match success.
  • Even with LAFC’s launch, the LA Galaxy showed an increase in attendance from 2017 to 2018, so the appetite for soccer in Los Angeles seems like it should easily support two major franchises.

We’d encourage you to have some fun with the Tableau dashboard below. You can look through difference seasons in the league history at the top, or pick a team to see how each club’s growth and forecast compares to the league over the years. Isn’t data fun?

Photo Credit: USA Today Sports Images
Data Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Major_League_Soccer_attendance

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