Over a nice, cold Bass on tap recently, myself and a friend in the business were discussing the Portland Timbers’ ongoing ticket sales efforts. Long story short, they are stacking up season ticket holders like the Kardashian’s are stacking up reality shows. That is to say, at a damned generous clip.
That’s great news for Portland and for MLS.
So he ranked all 18 MLS teams into three categories in attendance. Level One means everything is mighty fine, that crowds will rock and the atmosphere will roll. Level Two would be a little like a plain pizza without topping: things are OK, but could be better. Level Three means things remain on the skids, and GMs need to keep their resumes updated.
With Vancouver keeping pace with Portland, reporting similar ticket interest for its expansion season, things look like this in MLS today:
Level One (in alphabetical order)
- L.A. Galaxy, Philadelphia, Portland, Seattle, Toronto, Vancouver
- Chicago, Columbus, DC United, Houston, New York, Real Salt Lake
- Chivas USA, Colorado, Dallas, New England
Non-factors (due to changing venues or temporary venue stays)
- Kansas City, San Jose
Not bad for little ol’ MLS, eh? A third of the sides in Level One, another third in Level Two.
You could perhaps argue that New York and Real Salt Lake are doing well enough to gain Level One status. But I would say that that teams at top level are generally in the lofty and enviable stratosphere of the "waiting list." That is, supporters are shuffling along in line, biding their time until their number comes up and they may purchase season tickets. Maybe it’s not exactly so in a couple of the markets, but it’s close enough to call it that way.
The big take away here is a look at where this same little exercise may have gone a few years ago.
Let’s just look at 2005. You would have put Los Angeles in Level One. That’s it.
Real Salt Lake was doing well at the gate (second in MLS attendance at 18K on average), but playing inside the larger Rice-Eccles Stadium at the time prevented a real run on demand. In fact, back then, you probably could put only Chicago and Chivas USA in Level Two. Everyone else was just scrambling to improve themselves in the Level Three order.
So, things are moving for the league. In the right direction, that is. Let’s see where it all stands a year from now when we do this again.