Questions: Crew, Revs, Nielsen, Beaverton, Attendance

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By Tony Edwards - San Jose, CA (Apr 19, 2012) US Soccer Players --  It's Thursday, and Tony joins Robert Warzycha in looking for answers in Columbus, details Kansas City's impressive defense, and offers no excuses for MLS attendance.

What is Coach Robert Warzycha doing to shake up the Columbus attack?

Trying new combinations, in training at least. Tony Tchani or Eddie Gaven at attacking midfield? Kirk Urso at left wing? Why not? When you've only scored 4 goals in five games, some experimenting might be in order.  Is this evidence that panic has set in already?  Perhaps, but six points from five games is still enough for 6th in the East and they're tied on points and goal differential with 5th-place New England who've played six games to the Crew's five.  Speaking of New England….

Should you be late getting to a Revolution game?

Not if you want to see New England score. So far, the Revolution have scored 4 goals in the first 15 minutes of games, but only one goal afterward. Starting the game strong is not New England's problem.

How many shots has Kansas City goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen faced in seven games this season?

16, and he's saved 14 of those shots.  How good has the Sporting defense been?  On Thursday, the Whitecaps became the first team to put seven shots on goal against Kansas City.  Only New England in Week 2 is close to that, finishing with six.  In the other five games?  Nielsen needed two saves.  What this isn't good for is the saves leaderboard.  Nielsen is 14th.  Where he's  first is in save percentage for any keeper that's played more than one game.  His 88% is impressive, but four other MLS keepers are also at 80% are better. 

Which is the latest team to open up a dedicated practice/training facility?

The Portland Timbers. Located in Beaverton, the facility has a 6,000 square foot indoor facility, and grass and field turf fields. The advantage and comfort of having one place to practice can't be overstated.  Neither can a first-class facility, something currently left out of the discussions surrounding a stadium for DC United.  Their current practice facility are fields located in one of the RFK Stadium parking lots. 

MLS has rightly trumpeted the attendance in Seattle and Montreal, among others, but how many teams are averaging less than 15,000 per game this season?

While the League overall is averaging a healthy 19,490 so far, five teams (New England, Chivas USA, Colorado, Chicago, and Columbus) are averaging less than 15,000. New England and Chivas USA are averaging less than 12,000.  As noted in the comments, San Jose is technically in the sub-12k category but their stadium capacity is under 12,000.

Whether you expect the Kansas City phenomenon to continue or not (both in playing and attendance, where they are averaging more than 18,600), that franchise has shown how to revitalize a market. Every market is different, but Kansas City has shown that if the League is going to live up to their 'Major League' tag, there can't be excuses.

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9 Responses to Questions: Crew, Revs, Nielsen, Beaverton, Attendance

  1. It is unfair to put San Jose in a “poor attendance” category given that Buck Shaw Stadium only seats 10,525. They have had two home games and sold both out.

    By contrast, all the other venues are not even close to selling out: Home Depot Center (27,000), Dick’s Sporting Goods (18,000), Toyota Park (20,000), Crew Stadium (20,145), and New England (Gillette Stadium-68,000+) do not have the same seating limitation as San Jose.

    Here is a question that would be interesting: How do teams rank in terms of percentage of stadium capacity that they sell?

  2. That’s a good point and a good question. Let’s stick in a qualifier for San Jose, shall we?

  3. Note that while Gillette seats 68K, they artificially restrict it to 20K for MLS games, just like Seattle and Vancouver limit their stadiums.

    Keep in mind that Home Depot Center is also limited capacity for weeknight games due to their shared parking arrangement. Also, Chivas limits capacity to 18.8K per game (instead of the 27K that Galaxy use).

    So are you suggesting we compare to true stadium capacity or MLS stadium capacity?

  4. And DC no longer uses the upper tier so they’re sub-20k. In response to all of that, if there was a market they’d be selling to actual capacity so I would count that for the soccer-specific stadiums. The NFL and former NFL stadiums, probably not.

  5. Tony Edwards says:

    I see where Matt is coming from, and acknowledge its a fair point. However, its not like there aren’t other, larger options here in the Bay Area for the Earthquakes to play in, i.e., the Quakes sent out an email today that they expect 50K to attend the June 30 game at Stanford Stadium (versus the Galaxy, with fireworks).

    Additionally, MLS can tout percentage of capacity all it wants, but when your capacity is under 11K, it doesn’t exactly scream major league to me.

    Thanks for reading and for the comment Matt, much appreciated.

  6. @Justin Okay, if stadiums restrict seating (which is fine), then use those numbers for determining percentages. It is a fair point that you raise, but aside from the weeknight restriction on HDC, the question must be raised, why does Chivas restrict seating at HDC for weekend games? Why does Gillette?

    @Tony, how much does it cost the Earthquakes to rent those other facilities. Stanford Stadium, I am sure does not come cheap and I am sure that other facilities don’t as well. I am a DC United Fan and I know that RFK rent puts a huge dent in DC United’s bottom line (pushes them far into the red on what would otherwise be either a break even or a profitable team). San Jose is going to build their own stadium (something I wish Will Chang would just up and do and give a great big middle finger to the DC Government), so they will have an approximately 20,000 seat stadium to call their own and they won’t have to pay rent.

    Finally Tony, how many NBA arenas go partially empty or draw less than 10,000 a game for some franchises–yet no one calls that league a minor league.

  7. Tony Edwards says:

    Matt, we can certainly take this off line if you’d like.

    Certainly, from an outsider’s perspective, it seems there would be some understanding from DC United that public funding will be difficult to come by, to be polite.

    And I imagine you are right about facility costs in the Bay Area, but in conversation, Earthquakes mgmt readily acknowledges they are playing in a minor league facility, much as KC did for those years in that independent ballpark. But, its an entertainment business and facility costs (however they are defined), are part of doing business.

    Comparing the world’s best basketball league, with a new labor agreement, mutliple tv contracts, billion-dollar revenue streams (and just sold the poorly attended New Orleans franchise for more than $300 million) to MLS is not an argument MLS is going to win for a long, long time.

    Sure, you can argue, longer-term, are Oklahoma City, Charlotte, and Sacramento (say) viable markets, but MLS owners (overall) would love to have the NBA’s problems.

    Thanks again for reading the site and for commenting.

    Tony

  8. There are two things here:

    1) I agree with Tony if you try to compare across leagues there’s no meaningful way to do it, and 2) When you start isolating NBA clubs with problems there’s almost always an obvious reason that doesn’t translate to MLS. Even Charlotte, where the Hornets were relocated and the local crowd hasn’t embraced the Bobcats, doesn’t really compare to what happened with the Earthquakes. You could say sure they do, both were about venues. Yes, but the Hornets had an existing venue, the Quakes didn’t. There’s also the non-sports revenue available to an NBA-sized arena that doesn’t really exist for MLS venues (and certainly not with the neighborhood issues the Quakes are dealing with).

  9. Matt,
    The teams in football stadiums artificially constrain their attendance for two reasons:
    1) To create demand. It’s hard to charge a market-rate for tickets if there are 60K+ available and a market of, say, 20K season ticket holders or regular attendees.
    2) To create a more intimate atmosphere, by ensuring that those, say, 20K fans aren’t spread out all over a cavernous stadium.

    There’s a third way some clubs maximize that as well, which is to tarp off the closed sections and use it for gigantic advertisements. This is what Seattle does at CenturyLink when the upper deck is closed (and what they did before they opened the Hawks Nest section behind the north endzone/goal). CenturyLink’s laid out in such a way that they were able to tarp off sections in their inaugural season and then open more of them up year to year as their season ticket base has increased. They’re averaging 38,588 this season, up from 30,933 in their first season (2009), with moderate increases each year in between. So that’s one way in which it’s worked for them to use a cavernous NFL stadium. New England’s lack of recent success isn’t helping them draw any fans, so I’m assuming they restrict theirs about as much as they can to create demand.

    Chivas limits attendance for the same reason as other teams. They only drew an average of 14K fans per game in 2011, and their peak was their second season (2006) with 19,840. So there’s really no need yet for them the upper deck at Home Depot Center.

    I’ll see if I can put together some numbers this weekend on average attendance vs capacity.