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Attendance halfway through the season


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So far, after 16 league games in its first season in the Major League Soccer, the Toronto Football Club (TFC) has averaged 15,746 spectators per game. This includes league games played at home and away.

Here's some perspective, for amusement.


The MLS is ranked in the top twenty domestic professional outdoor sports leagues, in terms of average attendance per game (15,504). TFC is poised to exceed that average as players and fans prepare to complete the second half of their inaugural season in Toronto.

Meanwhile, the average attendance per MLS game compares well with the Scottish Premier League (16,194 per game) and the Championship League in England (18,221 per game), ranked 19th and 13th worldwide. The Bundesliga 2 is ranked 16th with 16,815 per game.


In the Canadian context, MLS and TFC attendance falls short of the Canadian Football League's average of 29,343 per game. The CFL is ranked 6th worldwide, just below Major League Baseball (31,423 per game).

The National Hockey League is ranked 2nd among indoor leagues and has an average attendance per game of 16,961.

Of course, these averages are the product of factors such as the total number of games played in each of these leagues, the seating capacity in their facilities, the draw of big teams playing smaller teams, and so forth. There are other relevant comparisons to be made, in terms of regional and national television viewers and overall league and team revenues per game, but attendance is a good reflection of the popularity for leagues and teams at the local level.


Within the context of the MLS, the Toronto attendance record so far (19,986 per home game, 12,919 per away game) compares very well with the MLS teams of 2006.

Last season, with 32 games per team, the average attendance for all MLS teams combined was 15,504 (both home and away games).

The top five MLS teams, in terms of attendance, were Los Angeles Galaxy (20,184 home, 19,929 away), Chivas USA (19,840 home, 19,929 away), D.C. United (18,215 home, 14,193 away), Houston Dynamo (18,935 home, 12,472 away), and Real Salt Lake (16,366 home, 15,388 away).


Of course, in terms of the TFC's club context, the average attendance at home games (19,986) has been hovering at 99% capacity at BMO Field (20,195).

This compares very, very, very well with top MLS teams. For example, Los Angeles Galaxy and Chivas USA got 77% and 73% of the capacity of Home Depot (27,000) in 2006. The average attendance at BMO Field has been about 74% of the capacity at the Home Depot Center.

Teams that play at home venues with a seating capacity close to that of BMO Field don't come near TFC's 99% capacity attendance. For example, Colorado Rapids at DSG park (18,000 capacity) and last year they got 67%; Columbus Crew's venue has a capacity of 22,555 and they got 59%; and Chicago Fire plays Toyota Park (20,000 capacity) and they had 71%.

The club that came to closest to TFC's high percentage of capacity would have been New York Red Bulls who will play at the planned Red Bull Park (25,000 capacity) and, based on 2006 attendance figures, they would have had 71% of its capacity. Still, TFC's current home average is better -- it would be 80% of the capacity of that new park.

There is room for growth in attendance at these parks, just as there is room for growth in the seating capacity at BMO Field. There are no official plans to expand seating at TFC's home, but for away games, rivalaries are perculating and this builds interest as TFC goes on the road, especially as the club competes for play-off spots. The hardy contingent of TFC fans who join the team on the road will also encourage competition in the away stands.

As the second half of the season begins, and as the improved TFC team approaches the play-offs, expect attendance at Toronto's away games to boost the club's average attendance overall.



Here is a Chart and a Table that compare TFC's attendance figures for the 2007 season with the other MLS teams for the 2006 season. It illustrates a couple of things.





1. TFC is in the top bracket in terms of attendance at home games.

2. Among the top five MLS teams, Los Angeles Galaxy and Real Salt Lake are virtually at the 1:1 ratio for home and away attendance. TFC's ratio is 1.55 home spectators to each away specator; that's as good as Houston Dynamo (1.52 ratio).

However, TFC's average attendance per away game (12,919) is 2nd to last among MLS teams. New England Revolution and Los Angeles Galaxy averaged 21,700 and 19,929 per away game last year. Both teams can count on full houses at BMO Field but have so far got less than average attendance when TFC has played at their home parks.

[Please note that the chart and table compare TFC's current attendance averages with the averages from last year for the other MLS teams at end of league play. If someone has the statistics for the first 16 games this year for the other 12 teams in the league, please add them to this thread.]


Note: I found official statistics for the attendance at 15 of 16 TFC league games. Attendance was not announced for the 12-May game at BMO Field against Chicago Fire. But it was a full house and so incuding it or excluding it would not change the home average by much -- up or down.



List of attendance figures at domestic professional sports leagues


Major League Soccer Statistics -- Team Attendance Report


Toronto FC Scheduled Games









Apologies for the formating. I could use some help sorting out how to add links to other sites and how to display images. The online help info hasn't been useful, I'm afraid. Anyone?

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Good research, but some of the information is almost useless, like average attendances (brought up by big clubs in Scotland, includes freebies in MLS, etc.) and overall TFC attendance (each club can only be responsible of its own home attendance).

Colorado didn't play in their SSS last year and it'd be surprising that NJ wouldn't increase attendance in an SSS.

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Thanks Daniel.

Counting freebies is not so useless, I think, because attendance is closer to a direct measure of local support for the club, as I said above, than are other ways which quantify financial success. Bums in seats, right?

Doubleheaders on the other hand, well ... that does dilute the significance of the measure.

But isn't that kind of uncommon on the TFC schedule even if it is more common with New England or New York with the larger non-SSS stadiums? It would be interesting to see how significant those factors are in the counts.

The statistics above are for MLS league games only. Pre-season games, exhibitions, other tournies, and playoffs are excluded.

When you see how the away game attendance records vary team-to-team, the away count remains a good reflection of the wider popularity of the travelling team. Some teams draw more spectators than others when they play away. Some seem to do so in the context of club rivalaries. Others just may have a higher profile due to star players or due to past performance in the play-offs and such.

One thing the available stats suggest is that a capacity of 20,000-25,000 is just about right for the MLS teams at this stage in the league's development.

The top teams in the attendance ranking are not necessarily the top teams in the standings, at the end of the day, but they have consistent support locally and stir up interest at away venues for their road games. I think they can rightly claim credit for attendance that exceeds the local team's average home count. And the teams that draw smaller crowds away are responsible for less than average attendance, at least to some extent.

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great stuff!...i cant believe the CFL averaged 29 000 last year...that is great.

it always amazes me that soccer leagues in other countries really are not as well attended as we think...the top teams in each league play in NFL sized stadia, but after that most teams play in quite small venues...i guess the difference in revenues is made up in television and other things beyond ticket sales.

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These must only be for Pro leagues as I'm sure NCAA football conferences would be way up there.

The Bigs 10-12-East, ACC, SEC, Pac-10.

If assuming NFL is one and EPL is two what is between 2 and MLB at five? Serie A, Primera, Bundesliga, NZ Rubgy Union, Aussie Football?

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  • 2 weeks later...

BXl Boy, can do.

However, could someone provide step-by-step instuctions on how to add graphics to comments? And how to add links, as well?

I haven't had much success so far, as you can see (or not see) above and below.

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Here are a few tables that display the best attended domestic Pro-Soccer Leagues of 2006. [see Footnote]

The leagues are ranked by four criteria: Average Attendance, Total Attendance, Number of League Games, and (by request) Population of the Host Country (or countries).

I've also provided a chart which graphically shows the correlation between population and average attendance. How to interpret this info is open for discussion.



This table shows the correlations based on the rankings of the teams in the Top 21 set.

The strongest correlation exists between Total Attendance and Average Attendance. Unsurprisingly, another very strong correlation is between Number of Games and Total Attendance. A modestly strong correlation exists between Number of Games and Average Attendance.

The question posed upthread is about the influence of population size on these rankings.

The correlation between Population and each of the other three criteria is weak.

Link to Table 3: Correlations. link


It might be useful to view this data by clustering the leagues by both population size and average attendance per game. See Basic Data</u> near the bottom of this comment for the ranges of each criterion.


Population and Average Attendance Chart.</u>

This chart provides a simplified graphic of the relationship between a League's average attendance and the population of the host country (or countries).

The chart displays five major clusters based on average attendance and relative position on the chart in terms of population.

The highest ranked (by average attendance) had 30,000-plus in attendance per game and had populations that ranged from about 50 to 80 million. The medium ranked cluster had 14,000 to 20,000 per game and a population range of about 10 to 80 million. The lowest ranked cluster had 8,000 to 10,000 per game and populations from 10 to 50 million.

A fourth cluster is comprised of three leagues ranked 6th, 15th and 16th in average attendance (12,000 to 18,000) and this cluster's host countries ranged in population from about 120 to 200 million.

The populations of USA/Canada (334 million) and China (1.3 billion) are outliers in this set but are ranked 13th and 18th on average attendance per league game.

There are other more subjective ways to cluster the leagues -- such as overall quality, competitiveness, and so forth -- that one could use to make more sense of the rankings.

Link to Chart 1. link



Through this series of tables the leagues are shuffled according to rank for each criterion.

The tables look alike but the bolded column in each table designates the criterion used to rank the teams in in that instance. The color scheme shows which leagues are at the top, the bottom, the median (i.e. as many are above as are below), and the cluster around the median (i.e. 3 above and 3 below the median). The Major Soccer League is highlighted with a black shade.

Flipping through this series of tables will provide a graphical comparison between the criteria. The graphics may be easier to understand intuitively than a statistical correlation expressed as a number in the Correlations Table. (Mileage will vary.)

I made a slideshow which presents each table morphing into the next table. You can watch a particular league shift based on the criterion used to rank the set of 21 leagues.

Slideshow of all four tables link

Links to individual Tables 2A to 2D

These are more readable for those interested in details.

Average Attendance link

Total Attendance link

Number of Games link

Population link


Basic Data.</u>

This table shows the basic data used to determine rankings by each criterion and used to determine the correlations based on each type of ranking.

Based on this data, here are the ranges per criterion.

  • Average Attendance: 10,000 to 37,000 per game.
  • Total Attendance: 1.3 to 13 million per season.
  • Number of Games: 90 to 552 per season (league games only).
  • Population: 5.1 million to 1.3 billion.

Link to Table 1 link


Footnote: I began with the top 32 Pro Outdoor Leagues but then decided to drop the American and Canadian football leagues, the baseball leagues, and the rugby leagues. The soccer leagues comprise the majority (66%) of the top pro outdoor leagues, by attendance.

Source of Basic Data: List of attendance figures at domestic professional sports leagues, Wikipedia, accessed 07/20/2007. link

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Comparing across leagues in different countries and sports is a little dangerous and very challenging to fair.

The structure of professional sports are different in different countries and in different sports.

Here are a number of factors that need to be considered:

1. Look at the total number of games played by each team in each sport. Without leaving North America, look at Major League Baseball and compare it to the NFL. There are far more games in Major League Baseball and that no doubt drives down the average attendance for baseball. Outside of North America, teams are involved in a number of tournaments in addition to the league. That means that the number of games that a fan can attend that would have interest are beyond league games. In soccer, that also drives down average attendance.

2. In some countries, club ownership is through athletic clubs or sports clubs. These clubs have memberships. There is no consistent approach to accounting for the attendance of club members at the games of professional teams. If they are not included in the reported numbers in those countries, the reported number is much lower than actual attendance.

3. In North America, there is a notion of franchise-protected areas which in the promotion-relegation style of other countries is unmanageable. For example, there are seven Serie A and B teams in Greater Sao Paulo (Sao Paulo FC, Palmeiras, Corintians, Sao Caetano, Santo Andre, Portuguesa, and Barueri) and an additional four just outside of the Greater Sao Paulo area (Ponte Preta, Paulista Jundiai, Santos, and Ituano). That is 209 league Serie A and B games alone in this area.

4. Getting back to attendance numbers listed for the two Brazilian leagues, they appear to be an attempt at calculating paid attendance. The CBF tries to keep teams in line by requiring all teams to submit their attendance and revenue numbers for each league game. On those reports, the numbers for total attendance, paid attendance, gross revenue and net revenue are required. In reviewing these reports (available on the internet at the CBF website), even these reports are not consistent. Nevertheless, I think it is safe to say that Serie A total attendance numbers would be closer to 20,000 than the number listed. And that does not address the sports club membership issue.

Nevertheless, I think most would be shocked by a general attendance comparison because most leagues operate on a much lower budget than North Americans would be used to. Secondly, the difference between attendance at big clubs and smaller clubs in some leagues (like Brazilian League Serie B) is almost unbelievable. That again is tied to the sport club concept where a sport club with a few wealthy members can still compete.

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All good points, Canuck Oranje.

My original idea was to try to place the TFC's attendance in the MLS context and, then, in worldwide context, and, now, in the context of the top soccer leagues in terms of attendance.

I think that the MLS probably gets a boost in its attendance during the play-offs whereas other leagues get a boost with promo-relegation battles. Of course, in some places the MLS play-offs are poorly attended even though teams are popular during league play.

Geography has to be a big factor when comparisons are made between Brazil and parts of Europe, let alone North America. As does ease of transportation over the medium to long distances in some leagues.

The tables and charts I made are in no way definitive, just illustrative and a point of departure for discussion of how TFC, and the MLS, fit into things today.

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I agree that promotion relegation battles do make a huge difference as do playoffs. The promotion-relegation concept also means that fans are more likely to stay loyal to teams even when they fall down a league or two rather than move to another in the top league.

My main point is that the comparison across countries becomes more confusing, the more you look at it.

Regarding the MLS, I think it may suffer from focussing to intently on attendance numbers rather than raising its quality of play within a budget. Many clubs around the world, generate a large percentage of revenue through the buying and selling of players too in addition to gate receipts. That is an area that the MLS has not developed.

Nevertheless, I find the subject of attendance, revenues, and league structures in different countries interesting. I have been looking at the link between money and success in soccer in Brazil and paid attendance in only one measure. Average ticket price also varies across different teams and the size and wealth of the associated social/athletic club is also very important. Then when you add the overall rate of improvement in the economy in some areas of the country, you get a picture of shifting team strength. While the biggest clubs are able to hold their positions reasonably well, there are a group of novo rich clubs beginning to make an impact at the expense of some older traditional clubs. Time will only tell how that develops.

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