State of the Game: Ranking MLS Markets and Looking To The Future

In this week’s edition of State of the Game, we discuss the latest developments across North America as the landscape of the leagues continue to change and the markets seek to gain traction with supporters.

Toyota Park

San Antonio Scorpions FC / NASL

As both the NASL and USL PRO started regular seasons this week, MLS looks to conclude week six on Sunday evening. Clubs across USSF’s top three professional tiers had a lively off-season including expansion clubs, new stadiums, and significant investments throughout. Through six weeks of Major League Soccer, the statistic remain true and tell the story of the league’s successes and struggles. In its eighteenth season, there have been growing pains and a desire for stability.

Chicago, Los Angeles (Chivas USA) and New England are desperate to capture the attention of potential supporters (read: customers) in their respective markets. For each of these clubs, this news should not be a surprise. Chivas USA has struggled the most in MLS and in each of their three home matches at the Home Depot Center, a facility shared with the Los Angeles Galaxy despite the altered maximum capacity.

Colorado, Columbus, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, Toronto, and Washington, D.C. are considered middle market clubs. With the exception of Columbus, the remainder of the clubs are on the higher end of the spectrum for the ability to fill seats in the stadiums. Los Angeles Galaxy’s classification as a middle market may come as a surprise following the club’s second consecutive MLS Cup victory. Alongside Los Angeles in discussions about what should be Major League Soccer’s strongest markets, New York ranks in the middle, as well.

The strongest markets in Major League Soccer are Houston, Kansas City, Montreal, Philadelphia, Portland, Salt Lake, San Jose, Seattle, and Vancouver. Many of these markets should come as no surprise, especially Portland coming off their 37th straight sellout at home and Real Salt Lake’s 8th. San Jose will look to repeat the same success at the small Buck Shaw Stadium (capacity: 10,525) when their new home is completed in 2014.

For the latest updates on San Jose’s new stadium, click here.

 

Refer to the graphic below for the analysis and an understanding of how each of the markets were categorized.

 

Contrary to club’s with the highest attendance percentage, kit and stadium sponsorships do not seem to agree. Three clubs remain without kit sponsors – Colorado, Houston, and San Jose; all of which reside in the middle and strong markets. Of the fifteen soccer-specific stadiums in MLS, four continue to operate without sponsors for the naming rights to the facilities – BC Place, Columbus Crew Stadium, FC Dallas Stadium, and Sporting Park.

USL PRO’s newest club VSI Tampa Bay FC announced their stadium plans towards the end of last week. The club will compete for support with the USSF second division and NASL storied club – Tampa Bay Rowdies. Further west, San Antonio of the NASL is preparing to unlock the gates at its new Toyota Park. The club is less than seven days until its home opener of the 2013 regular season and inaugural match at the recently constructed facility.

More to come next Sunday. Enjoy the remainder of this weekend’s regular season matches and the semi-final second legs of the CONCACAF Champions League mid-week.

What do you think about the state of the game in North America? Is there a topic you want to see covered? Let us know in the comments section below, or on Twitter and Facebook.

Reporting on the business side of the world's game.