… And no, I’m not freaking about it. Yet.
I think you need a good half-season of attendance numbers to really judge where everyone is at. This allows time for games on a variety of days, allows teams to see quality and/or regional opponents; allows games in better weather; and some of the other competing sports clear out as college basketball, the NBA and NHL end.
For example, there has been much grumbling over DC United’s attendance for Saturday night’s 1-0 win over Houston – which ended up at 12,594. Some teams would be fine with that, but United has been one of the top attendances teams for a while, accustomed to bringing in 20,000 most nights.
Now, people will rush to United’s defense, since that night there also was:
* a Washington Nationals preseason game vs. Baltimore
* a Washington Wizards game vs. the Miami Heat
* a DC Armor arena football game right next door at the Armory (first home game in team history)
The Wizards drew better than 20,000. The Nationals actually got outdrawn by United, while the Armor were pleased with their 2,000+ against something known as the Reading Express. However, some fans could have very easily looked at the situation, knowing had bad traffic/Metro probably would have been, and stayed home. Pretty understandable in my book.
Another factor unique to DC is the annual Cherry Blossoms hoopla, which draws tourists out the minute the weather is nice, and other than some wind, Saturday was a good day. It’s possible that folks who might come to the United game simply for Saturday night entertainment skipped it because they were out all day. Perhaps the combination of all the above factors held the number down.
It is also fair to wonder if the continuing negative news about the United stadium project in Maryland, combined with some casual fans perhaps showing a suspicious eye toward the league regarding BeckhamGate ’09, isn’t having a bad effect on attendance. United are averaging 14,425 after two games – down more than 2,000 from the first two home games last season (the latter of which was a 13K effort on a Thursday – the following game was on a Saturday, and drew 23K).
I can’t get into why only 6,524 showed up for FC Dallas vs. Chivas USA last week, because I don’t live in that community and I’m not familiar with the factors that could have caused it. But it is an embarrassingly low total. Kansas City neared that Sunday (6,922), but remember, they play at much lower capacity than other teams to start with, and the weather was horrendous for that game. Fans want to beat their chests and say they’ll be there in any weather – but for many folks, that simply isn’t true.
The Galaxy drew 16,709 for their loss to Colorado – a low total for them, but I don’t think MLS will worry too much about it. Toronto got their typical 20,658 for a 2-0 loss to Seattle.
Every other game was about identical:
* Chivas USA (vs. Columbus): 12,827
* United (vs. Houston): 12,594
* Salt Lake (vs. Columbus): 11,806
* Fire (vs. New York): 11,633
* Revs (vs. Dallas): 11,314
The average for the 8-game week was 13,058. It isn’t impressive, but when you factor in the weather and reduced capacity for the KC total, I don’t think there are any absolutely embarrassing totals – gone are the days (I hope) where we saw multiple games each season (even playoff games) draw fewer than 5,000 fans.
So, no, I don’t think it’s time to be too worried yet. Teams deserve to have a good slate of games under their belt, offering a variety of opponents and such to show how things really stand. The sample size at this point is too low to get overly freaked out.
We’ll look at it again at the start of May and see how things stand and discuss if any conclusions can be drawn.
But if you have attendance thoughts already, feel free to share them in the comments section.