When attempting to gauge the success of American soccer clubs, particularly those in the leagues below MLS, the best metric is probably stadium attendance. Unlike the major professional sports leagues in this country, on-field success in the NASL/USL/NPSL/PDL does not necessarily result in increased popularity and financial stability. Just as an example, 5 of the 11 clubs that have won an NPSL title are now defunct.
When winning is combined with large attendance numbers, however, you can get success stories like Orlando City SC. OCSC came into being in 2011, the same year that their league, USL Pro, began play. They won the championship that year and won their second this September 7th before a league-record crowd of nearly 21,000. They’ve also led the league in attendance each year, averaging over 8000 per game this season. With that level of support, it’s easy to see why they will be joining MLS in a year or two. (It’s also easy to see why people are upset at the idea of putting an MLS expansion franchise in Miami, a city with a long track record of apathy towards its sports teams, including a former MLS club that folded!)
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
I did a little research and found some excellent resources with attendance numbers for NASL, USL Pro, and PDL, but next to nothing for NPSL. (Shocking that a Mickey Mouse league that makes things up as it goes would have no way for tracking the ONE THING that can be used to judge its overall health).
Cutting to the chase, here are Detroit City FC’s attendance numbers, followed by a bit of analysis. The numbers are listed in the match results section of DCFC’s Wikipedia pages (2012 Season, 2013 Season – this page was deleted two days ago for some reason) and are taken from the team’s Twitter feed and/or what was announced at the stadium.
* Denotes Friendly Match
* Denotes Friendly Match
** Denotes Playoff Match
- Over two full seasons, DCFC has drawn at least 1000 people to every single game – regular season, playoffs, and friendlies.
- In Year 1, the average attendance hovered around 1000 for the first half of the regular season but rose to 1567 in the second half.
- The Year 1 record for single-game attendance (1743) was topped four times in Year 2, and the current record (2634) represents a 51% jump from that first year record.
- From Year 1 to Year 2, DCFC’s regular season average attendance rose by a healthy 14.6%. If playoff games are included, that number rises to an outstanding 32.4%.
Comparison to other leagues:
- DCFC’s regular season average of 1484 would’ve ranked 6th (out of 61) in the PDL, 8th (out of 12) in USL Pro, and… Dead Last in NASL (more on this below)
I won’t bore you with charts and tables of NASL attendance statistics, but I will say that the growth is impressive (2012 numbers, 2013 numbers). San Antonio has actually taken a bit of a dip from 2012, but every other team has seen their numbers increase significantly. Prime example: Minnesota United averaged 2796 fans per game in 2012. In the 2013 spring season, that rose to 5225!, an 87% jump.
The NY Cosmos are drawing over 7500 a game and with the addition of Indy and four other clubs over the next two years, the NASL is well on its way to becoming a strong and viable alternative to MLS for American soccer fans who live in those cities.
There are those who believe that soccer will never “take off” in this country. They are too shortsighted to realize that it already has. MLS TV ratings remain modest, but there is a groundswell of support for teams in the lower leagues; Detroit City foremost in our minds. For year 3, I’d like to see us average 1700 per game and break the 3000 mark.
We’ve had a nice start, but now it’s time to take it to the next level.[Editor’s Note: I am legally obligated by the NPSL and Detroit Public Schools to remind you that crystal meth is NOT permitted on Cass Technical High School grounds.]