MLS Season Tickets Update – Thanks to SBJ

The Sports Business Journal will be doing a full MLS preview this year which should be real interesting to read in the next couple weeks or so. It really has been fun to see the amount of MLS/World Soccer headlines in there go up ten-fold over the past year or so. Just wanted to pass on this table of information to you regarding season tickets sold as of 2/17/2008. Might have seen this somewhere else, but there is some good stuff here..

TEAM

2008

2007

% CHANGE

Chicago Fire 2,759 2,553 +8%
Chivas USA 837 858 -2%
Colorado Rapids 2,968 1,866 +59%
Columbus Crew 3,227 3,190 +1%
D.C. United 5,976 4,721 +27%
FC Dallas 3,002 3,134 -4%
Houston Dynamo 4,116 2,205 +87%
Kansas City Wizards 1,539 464 +232%
Los Angeles Galaxy 7,915 9,308 -15%
New England Revolution 4,001 3,502 +14%
New York Red Bulls 3,170 2,391 +33%
Real Salt Lake 4,632 4,421 +5%
San Jose Earthquakes 3,822 N/A N/A
Toronto FC 16,641 12,435 +34%
TOTAL 64,605 51,048 +26.6%

We’ve already heard about Toronto FC selling out a second consecutive year, but let us look briefly at how announcements, stadium construction, on-field performance affects season ticket sales. Colorado Rapids are a pretty big surprise here, up 59% from last year at this time and there on-field play has been sub par at best, no real announcements this offseason. You can’t possibly contribute this to the signing of Christian Gomez? Some of the other teams are little more clear cut. The anticipation of a new stadium and a more aggressive ad campaign has helped the Red Bulls put more butts in the seats. Kansas City’s relocation to their minor league baseball stadium has already increased ticket sales ensuring that intimate stadium feeling they were hoping for. Is it possible that Houston’s successes on the field are translating intermittent fans into season ticket holders? Anticipation of a possible stadium deal as well as the talks between Oscar De La Hoya and the club (which hadn’t been confirmed by 2/17) could have been a factor as well.

It really is good to see New England on the rise in Gillette, D.C. up 27% in RFK, and the Red Bulls up in Giants making the Atlantic rivalries that much more important.

Couple questions to ponder though:

Real Salt Lake’s new stadium is coming, why no jump in season ticket holders? They still sit at the fourth-highest total in the MLS though…

What is Chivas USA doing wrong? Contenders in the Western Conference yet again this year and this still can’t get a fan base.

Does a decrease in the Galaxy’s season-ticket holders this pre-season mean that the Beckham Effect is losing influence?

With Seattle, according to Don Garber, past the 12,000 season ticket mark – where will they be come this time next year? How about Philadelphia?

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DS, 10.23: Playoff Mania; Myriad Post-Season Conclusions; Glass 2/3 Full; Selling MLS Right + Goals Comps

– It’s that time of year: the narrow window between the regular season and the post-season when playoff previews/prediction pieces start popping up like delicious, dream-inducing mushrooms. I’ll be churning one out tomorrow; assuming I can quiet the voices in my head for just one friggin’ minute, it will assume a size commensurate with my knowledge of things to come…so, that’s just a word or two by my count.

Turning, however, to people who have already turned in their preview/prediction pieces, let’s run down today’s – and in the order that I like them: Steve Davis (who belongs to no man, no media outlet), WVHooligan’s drew epperly, and Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl (I ranked Grant last do to the somewhat throw-away feel of his playoff stuff; he more than makes up for it with quality commentary on Bruce Arena’s status, Altidore for the Nats, and the Ryan/Solo drama).

Some team-specific pieces bear flagging as well. For instance, is Houston’s 2007 defensive record really the best all-time (wouldn’t shock me) and does Dallas have a shot against them given the Houston-philic head-to-head record between the two Texas teams (talking to toucans tasting Twix twixt trees twined together)? More recommended reading: Can the choking-late Revolution clear their throats? Is FC Dallas’ post-season strategy really “belief”? Is Tor! Tor! Tor! correct in calling Kansas City v. Chivas a good match-up – and this is crucial – for KC?

– Another thing popping up like…like…I dunno, microwave popcorn…are the season reviews – or, more to the point, the near-relatives of season reviews. I’m talking about things like My Soccer Blog’s endangered coach’s list (a short and static list; probably accurate too) and Who Ate All the Cupcakes’ thumbnail reviews for the five teams on the wrong side of the playoff picture.

But there’s one item out there that bears deeper commentary. USSoccerplayas.com’s Ian Plenderleith, who has been tracking some stats all year, wraps up a couple of them this time around: average goals per game and attendance. While I’m in full agreement with his bottom line for both – respectively, that goals are good and that attendance, while up, needs to go higher before we celebrate – but a couple underpinning arguments invite quibbling.

With the goal-scoring, Plenderleith quotes Ivan Gazidis about MLS’s desire to get the goals higher, which is a fine plan, so far as it goes. But how do you improve that? Shop in bad defenders? Require the back four and ‘keeper to take a shot of rum after every save? Worse, because it’s sickeningly within the realm of possibility, do you do wacky crap like giving teams 4 points for a win if they score more than two goals? The point is, of course everyone (except those paid to keep them out) want to see more goals. But this is one of those, “it is what it is” kind of things: the best you can do is bring in better players and MLS has limited ability to do that. A tinker here or there could help – calling the offside rule as written (e.g. when the attacking player is even with the defender, it’s play on), to give an example – but there’s just not much for help here that doesn’t boil down to slow, progressive change…and slow, regressive change heading the other direction will trump that soon enough.

On the other point, attendance, Plenderleith sees 15,000 in Pizza Hut Park and sees a half-empty stadium. Growing up where and when I did (the Mid- and Northwest and 1980s and 1990s, respectively) and I think, “15K? At a soccer game? In Texas? Holy shit!” The league is growing, as Plenderleith admits, but I think people get so caught up in wanting MLS to thrvive that they forget what things looked like, literally, 10 years ago. Seriously, think back to 1997 (and try to block out the uniforms as you daydream): could you have pictured things where they are today? The glass got 2/3 full in 2007, so far as I’m concerned. Capitalizing on the momentum is by no means guaranteed, but this year defied nearly every hope and expectation I had.

– After (shamelessly) quibbling with someone whose work I generally admire, it feels good to say this: the league should hire Ian Plenderleith to sell MLS teams to municipalities and to confront soccer-phobes. His unsolicited presentation on why a city should want an MLS team is brilliant. And he’s correct on another score as well: MLS Commissioner Don Garber does come off as a half-soulless corporate slick far too often.

– Finally, file the following under good, good stuff: as threatened, Climbing the Ladder put out Top Goals compilations for every team in MLS. Not only is this very cool, but I envy scaryice’s technical savvy.

Daily Sweeper, 08.31: Refunds, Superliga, and Priorities

– With David Beckham laid up for what looks like a really long time, people – notably those who bought tickets at “enhanced rates” to see Beckham – are rightly mulling what it means for the rest of the season’s games featuring an LA Galaxy road-show absent the main attraction. Major League Soccer’s (MLS) officials have held a no refund policy thus far, but a couple people wonder if that’s such a swell idea (hat-tip: du Nord) – even if they agree, as the RSLFM Report does, with the “no refund” concept itself. Here’s what the RSLFM Report suggests as counter-proposals:

“MLS and/or RSL should replicate a form of its own consolation policy created after the cancelled-fireworks on Pioneer Day. Then, ticket holders were offered special vouchers for $5 tickets to the next RSL home match. Although a token, the small gesture was appreciated by many people.”

“An even better solution would be a special Beckham speaking/meet & greet tour.”

Now, this could be a personal preference talking, but I wouldn’t show to a free Beckham event if him talking was the only event on the schedule; so, count me against the second proposal. The first, though, I can see.

On the other hand, I’m not so squeamish about refunding money, but I’d handle it in two parts. First, I would refund the difference between regular admission and “Beckham Admission.” Part two comes with saying, “This special pricing crap will never happen again….at least not till our product is big enough to allow us to jerk around all-comers.” Then again, I found the price-gouging distasteful from the get-go. Yeah, I get why it’s done – e.g. people will, and did, pay – but, I think the guy who wrote the (quite good) piece behind the first link (under, “wonder if that’s such a swell idea”) has it right: MLS just isn’t big enough to piss off/alienate anyone. Continue reading

LAG v. TFC: Quality Advertising…

Here’s the $64 dollar question from Week 18: why was Toronto FC v. LA Galaxy televised on ESPN2?

(And, no, that’s not a typo: this is MLS; we don’t do $64,000.)

On one level, I can almost hear the calculations that ESPN’s honchos applied to this: well, David Beckham might play and, even if he doesn’t, the fans in Toronto put on an all right show, right? Hell with it; pull the trigger.

Then, however, it becomes more and more apparent as the week passes that Becks won’t play, but instead will show up looking sharp, but uninvolved, in his Hugo Boss. And, at that point, the writing is, or should have been, on the wall: ESPN would air a game featuring two of the worst teams in the league with an extended plea for understanding and obsessive observation of Beckham serving as a backdrop. Sad as the effort of seeking glimmerings of (fevered) impatience in Beckham’s facial expressions might have been, the lowlight of the evening surely came with LA GM Alexi Lalas’ appearance in the booth. The half-defensive conversation that occasioned almost got me thinking ESPN went ahead with the broadcast solely to air a statement of commiseration with fans itching to see Beckham.

The game went on behind all this, of course. The crowd in Toronto did their bit, yelling, whooping, even booing, but it could never be enough. The end-result came to watching 20,000+ passionate fans futilely encourage a clearly mediocre product. TFC looked all at once dominant and predictable, which is to say energetically ineffectual, while LA’s players just ambled around the park as if they pulled on Galaxy colors for the first time in their lives. All in all, nothing of note happened, so…y’know, a great advertisement for the game, it wasn’t.

Continue reading