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D.C. United's Attendance Struggles

Steinberg here. The great Goff is back stateside. I have an e-mail to prove it. He's watching all of you, so be good.

I know you'd rather get insider info on United than pedantic arguments about Marc Fisher, but DCU is in KC shaking off that loss (quotes below), and I promised to include my dialogue with Marc, so here's what I just posted on the Sports Bog. Again, I realize this is tired ground. But hey, why should Raw Fisher rack up traffic based on this argument, and the Insider be left out?

So Fisher and I have had a running dialogue about the attendance for local sports teams over many months. The latest skirmish came when Fisher included this line in a recent column:

The Washington Diplomats of the North American Soccer League -- their cheerleaders were the Honeydips -- lasted a bit longer, from 1974 to 1981, but, like today's D.C. United soccer squad, struggled to attract fans.

This seemed to me the cheapest of cheap shots, from a man who seems to delight in antagonizing soccer fans no matter the context. And so I asked Marc why this was so. He said he has nothing against soccer fans. I said, considering the circumstances and the fact that D.C. is a lame sports town, United could not possibly be described as "struggling." He wrote this:

Soccer fans are forever making all manner of excuses. Why can't they just be happy that their team is drawing the size crowd it draws....You're right that this is a mediocre sports town, but I don't see how that justifies the endless whining from United fans--it's a fact of life that all franchises here but for the Redskins have to deal with. The ones that are managed well do well; the others will just drift.

I attempted to again argue that United, when looked at with anything approaching fairness, does not "struggle" to draw crowds; that their baseline for success--as with the Wizards and Caps and others--is not 90,000. "If cordoned-off upper decks aren't a sign of struggle, I don't know what is," he wrote.

I know this has no real significance other than scoring bloggable points, but anyhow here's my point: When judging teams, consider their peers and their game. That's all. If you put, say, a feisty Butler basketball crowd in the Alamadome, it would look dumb. Pitiful. Ridiculous. But put that same crowd in Hinkle Fieldhouse, and it looks great. Don't compare United to the Redskins; compare United to its peers. As I wrote to Marc, "It's all about context, and in the proper context--fourth/fifth-tier pro sports league, vs. New York Red Bulls and Washington Capitals and stuff like that--United does smashingly well."

Anyhow, that's just words. You can read Marc's many words on the topic from this morning over here. I grew up a baseball kid, and have no desire to see the Nats draw poorly. But when you're sent blog posts like this from well-respected bloggers, with the intro, "So there really is no such thing as a Nats fan, eh?" and then read about United's "struggles," well....

What follows are the numbers for the local teams, after the jump.

Washington Redskins
2006 Average: 87,631
Total Bodies: 701,049
League Rank: 1st out of 32
Full Seats Ranking: 5 out of 5. They might be drunk and violent and occasionally homophobic, but bless them, Redskins fans show up or the games. You could build 80-foot towers at FedEx and lock people on the top floor with no windows and no oxygen and only Kangaroo TV modules to follow the score, and they would still pay $100 for the honor of being there, and probably attempt to tailgate.

Maryland Basketball
2007 Average: 16,822
Total Bodies: 319,616
League Rank: 2nd out of 12 (eighth in the country).
Full Seats Ranking: 5 out of 5. Maryland draws and draws and draws. When I get complaints from fans of smaller schools about our coverage, this is always my argument.

Maryland Football
2006 Average: 49,393
Total Bodies: 345,752
League Rank: 7th out of 12 (41st in the country).
Full Seats Ranking: 3.5 out of 5. You know, I honestly don't understand why The Post doesn't devote more coverage to the Terps, in all sports. They play 20 minutes from our offices, and they pack people in there. Terps football games have the feeling of big events, even with bad noon starts and terrible traffic.

D.C. United
2007 Average: 20,458
Total Bodies: 265,953 (two home games remaining)
League Rank: 2nd out of 13
Full Seats Ranking: 3 out of 5. Yeah, those upper decks are unsightly. But no one thinks MLS teams belong in 40k venues. And a United game is, bar none, the best fan experience in the metro area, which has to count for something. And if you consider the league's youth and budgets, vis a vis the other pro leagues, you have to be extremely obstinate not to be impressed. Also, they have micro-brews at their tailgates.

Georgetown Basketball
2007 Average: 10,441
Total Bodies: 177,501
League Rank: 5th out of 16 (41st in the country)
Full Seats Ranking: 2.5 out of 5. The big games last year had a big-game feel. The school plays in a massive arena far from campus. My understanding is the McDonough games rock. I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt.

Washington Wizards
2007 Average: 18,372
Total Bodies: 753,283
League Rank 12th out of 30
Full Seats Ranking: 2.5 out of 5. I will never forget the sight of empty seats at those two home playoff games last spring. Yeah, the Wizards had no chance. But still. Also, will attendance numbers change in the post-O'Malley years?

Washington Nationals
2007 Average: 24,217
Total Bodies: 1,961,579
League Rank: 25th out of 30.
Full Seats Ranking: 2 out of 5. Regardless of the official numbers, I've been to too many games where you could close your eyes and listen to the crowd and have no idea which team was at-bat. And not just Mets and Cubs games, as Fisher suggested. I'd love to see what the Nats would draw for an intra-squad game. Plus, those empty upper decks that so bother Fisher at United games are not much different at plenty of Nats games. But again, they're in a bigger, better, more high-profile league, and everyone agrees that they warrant a bigger stadium.

Washington Mystics
2007 Average: 7,788
Total Bodies: 132,396
League Rank: 8th out of 13
Full Seats Ranking: 1.5 out of 5. Not sure how much higher this figure will ever go, frankly.

GW Basketball
2007 Average: 3,403
Total Bodies: 44,233
League Rank: 11th out of 14
Full Seats Ranking: 1.5 out of 5. And I'm not trying to pick on GW; it's just a program I'm familiar with from covering them. They have a cozy on-campus arena, a team (last year) that was coming off its best season in school history and an exciting style of ball. And they draw flies.

Washington Capitals
2007 Average: 13,929
Total Bodies: 571,129
League Rank: 27th out of 30
Full Seats Ranking: 1.5 out of 5. But maybe it'll be better this year. And that whole club seats issue isn't the team's fault. Still, if a major Metro columnist wanted to target a team for struggling to draw, this might be the one.

By Dan Steinberg  |  October 3, 2007; 11:39 AM ET
Categories:  D.C. United  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Matchday Sudamericana [With Quotes!]
Next: KC Injury Report


I thought you hated Georgetown?

I'm sorry I blew my biggest Washington Post reply on Fisher's space. I should've done it here, or on the Sports Bog, or Caps Insider....

Posted by: Kim | October 3, 2007 11:50 AM | Report abuse

"Why can't they just be happy that their team is drawing the size crowd it draws"

Um, we are. It is his categorizing and misrepresenting DCU's attendance as a failure that angers us. So until he gets it right, we will complain.

Posted by: RK | October 3, 2007 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Ya know, congrats to the Nationals for selling 1.9 million tickets. DC United will finish the regular season around 300,000. Somebody please let hizzoner know that we'll gladly take 3/19 of the $700+ million the city is shelling out. That should cover infrastructure nicely thankyouverymuch.

OJO, pelado, two-faced Fenty! Hope you can sleep well at night with all hizzoner's honor being so intact and all.

Do the right thing, NOW!

Posted by: GrillMaster | October 3, 2007 12:10 PM | Report abuse

"And a United game is, bar none, the best fan experience in the metro area, which has to count for something." That should ABSOLUTELY count for something! If I had never gone to a United game and never experienced what a game is like, I would have never become a DC United fan. We may only average 18-19,000 people per game, but those 18-19,000 people have the best time of their life. I don't hear many people saying that about the Nats or the Caps.

Posted by: Kristin | October 3, 2007 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Kristin, that's unfair -- United win, while the other teams don't :)

Posted by: RK | October 3, 2007 12:16 PM | Report abuse

If it weren't for corporate suites at the new Nat's park and it's proximity to Congress - yeah Puerto Rico would still look good. Baseball will fail in the district again.

Wasn't that new owner supposed to spend on the team?

Posted by: A. Williams | October 3, 2007 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Redskins have eight -- count 'em -- EIGHT home games.

Nats have EIGHTY-ONE.

DCU has TWENTY-ONE (including international matches).

Dunno how many the Caps or Wizards have, but doesn't the sheer number of home games depending on the sport factor into it?

Posted by: Juan-John | October 3, 2007 12:37 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad Steinberg had the guts to take on Fisher. I just can't see Goff calling him out like this.

It must be nice to be a paid internet troll like Fisher. I wonder if he can give me some tips on breaking into the Biz.

Posted by: Bloomingdale, DC | October 3, 2007 12:39 PM | Report abuse

"Why can't they just be happy that their team is drawing the size crowd it draws"

I love the average to 20k people at a game. You can actually get something to eat, go the to the bathroom AND return to your seat during halftime.

This entire post falls into my whatever pile. Who cares about comparing DC United to the other teams in the area - not my or most of the hardcore soccer fans.

That said, some folks just love to give soccer fans a hard time. So let's amuse them and compare franchises. Let's gather all the awards won by each team in the area - meet at Fed-Ex field and see who is the winningest franchise? After all professional sports is only about winning!

Posted by: bobF | October 3, 2007 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Look, most people really couldn't care if Marc Fisher dies in a fire. In fact, some would rejoice. He's just trying to rile up the soccer fans and he's done a good job of it. Thanks Steinberg for sticking up for the beautiful game.

Posted by: dc | October 3, 2007 1:09 PM | Report abuse

"Why can't they just be happy that their team is drawing the size crowd it draws"

I am. Why can't Marc Fisher admit that 'struggling' was the wrong term to use?

Posted by: DCAustinite | October 3, 2007 1:09 PM | Report abuse

There are sports for everyone. If you are passionate about the game you're watching, you attend a DC United match. If you like music played throughout the game, you go to see the Wizards. If you like fights between players, you go to a Caps game. If you like fights between drunk fans, you head to FedEx. If you like to catch up on sleep, you buy Nats tickets.

See, everyone is happy!

Posted by: Hoost | October 3, 2007 1:14 PM | Report abuse

"So until he gets it right, we will complain."

Complaining is fine, as long as it's done nicely and respectfully. But there are a few soccer fans who antagonize Fisher by posting negative comments about him or baseball on his blog. That just confirms his opinion of soccer fans as hooligans.

(Dan: Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that Fisher's view of soccer comes from his time abroad (Germany?) when he formed a negative opinion due to incidents of hooliganism.)

I've only posted a comment on his blog once, and I've stopped because it gets lost in all the shouting. That doesn't help our image folks.

Posted by: I-270, Exit 1 | October 3, 2007 1:14 PM | Report abuse

to Hoost

you rock! awesome post.

Posted by: BobF | October 3, 2007 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Fisher's piece is troll bait, and it works beautifully. It pains me to see United supporters engaged in belittling other sports, while searching for their own reason to be outraged.

Fisher made some factual errors and some judgment errors IMHO, about United and it's fans. Point out the errors, but FFS, don't feed the trolls.

I'm as big a soccer fan as there is, and even I hate soccer fan whingeing.

Posted by: JkR | October 3, 2007 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Steinz, you are my new hero. Can we have a whiparound to get him a keg at the next tailgate?

Posted by: DCAustinite | October 3, 2007 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Well if people do not remember United had a couple of awful years, and they drew better those years than in years past.

Posted by: DC FAN | October 3, 2007 1:24 PM | Report abuse

As much as I want a new stadium, sometimes I wish United could just stay at RFK forever. As a season ticket holder, I'm pretty sure the first thing United would do in an SSS is jack up ticket prices and get rid of the exchange program. Plus, I love those bouncy seats.

Posted by: DC | October 3, 2007 1:30 PM | Report abuse

As a Hoya and diehard United fan, I'd just like to point out that the ratio of Georgetown student tickets to total undergrad population for this upcoming basketball season is rumored to be one of, if not the, best in the nation.

Posted by: hoyanick | October 3, 2007 1:33 PM | Report abuse

I think DC has a significant challenge in building sports team loyalty because so many of the sports fans grew up somewhere else and continue to root for "their team." The Redskins are different, and they clearly tap into a fan base that is rooted in the area, but if you go to see the Wizards, the Nats, or the Caps (and I've attended games for all three), there will be a bunch of people in the stands who are excited to get to see the opposing team. To me, DC United's amazing accomplishment is that they're attracting *United Fans*, not just soccer fans. When you go to a United game, most of the people in the stands are really, really rooting for them, and that creates the great atmosphere. And my experience taking non-soccer fan friends to RFK has overwhelmingly been that they're impressed by how fun the atmosphere is at United games and they want to go back.

I think baseball's boring, but that's my opinion, and I don't mind that a lot of Post columnists love it. If they wanted to write about how they don't get soccer and they think it's stupid that the players work all the time instead of spending most of their time standing around and occasionally engaging in light jogging, I'd be fine about it. What upsets me is when columnists like Fisher (and Tom Boswell, who's less obnoxious but no less dismissive), who don't actually attend United games or know anything about MLS give descriptions of the atmosphere, the policies, and the team that are factually incorrect, based on their soccer prejudices instead of actual reporting or facts. As far as I'm concerned, they're welcome to write about how they hate soccer (they're opinion columnists) but not to describe sporting events they don't attend and business models they haven't researched to their readers.

Oh, and thanks, Dan, for calling Fisher on "struggling."

Posted by: MM | October 3, 2007 1:36 PM | Report abuse

The anti-soccer thing persists because it is essentially rooted in nationalism. We have our own superior games that are part of our superior culture. So goes the thinking.

Posted by: LA | October 3, 2007 1:55 PM | Report abuse

I don't get what there is to argue about. If those stats are correct, then DCU draws more fans than the Wizards, way more than the Caps, and is nearly on par with the Nats. What is there to debate? Where is the struggle?

Just wanted to add, I am a HUGE redskins fan since I was a little kid. But given the choice to attend a United game or a Redskins game I would pick DCU 9 out of 10 times. There is no doubt in my mind that I'll have a better time at RFK watching United.

Posted by: jasonVA | October 3, 2007 1:57 PM | Report abuse

Here's a fan attendence question:

who has more readers, Raw Fisher or Soccer Insider?

As a downtrodden, frustrated, and struggling soccer fan I'll predict Fisher...but just curious :-)

Posted by: Tweaked | October 3, 2007 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Steinberg, you are a hero to us all for trying to reason with Fisher. However, it is ultimately futile because he is not reasonable when it comes to soccer. This is a person who once dismissed soccer as "Osama Bin Laden's favorite sport." Never mind that baseball is Fidel Castro's favorite sport.

Posted by: CMJHawk86 | October 3, 2007 2:15 PM | Report abuse

"Why can't they just be happy that their team is drawing the size crowd it draws"

First, the media plays a big role in the continued growth in attendance - which is a good thing for the team, the league and the city.

Second, Fisher's negative comments should always be of concern because non-fans read them and accept them as fact - rather than opinion. The Post does a LOUSY job at distinguishing between journalists trying to blog (like Goff) and bloggers trying to look like they are reporting news (like Fisher).

Third, his question begs an admission that the media (including non-journalists like Fisher) is important to soccer because his negative comments suppress growth among potential new fans.

Posted by: Mickey | October 3, 2007 2:19 PM | Report abuse

How many United games has Fisher been to?

The Nats might have more people at their games but I bet at least half of the people there are sleeping through the Mets collapse or just National League badball. You will never see a United game with someone sleeping during the match.

-United and A.L. Baseball Fan

Posted by: Steve | October 3, 2007 2:20 PM | Report abuse

I love the organic passion of DC United and college (Terps & G'Town) games. At Nats, 'Skins, and Wizards games I'm constantly bombarded with flashing Jumbotron commands to "Get Louder!" or music prompting a lame clap sequence.

At a United game the cheers are 100% fan driven. There aren't any cheerleaders - besides the unofficial ones in the stands - or scoreboard commands to cheer. It just happens because we all want to be there and it is fun to sing about the Black-and-Red!

Posted by: Suits Sucks! | October 3, 2007 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Hey. Good job going up against that guy. He's getting tons of hits today, but he's getting tons of hits because he posted about soccer. That has to be worth something.

Posted by: Larry France | October 3, 2007 2:36 PM | Report abuse

What is the DCU average if you throw out the Beckham date?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 3, 2007 2:38 PM | Report abuse

What about 10 years down the road? I bet you most of Fisher's kid's friends are playing soccer in school (heck, maybe his own kids do!) The trend is in favor of soccer and its attendance numbers will continue to increase.

Bottom line though, to each his own. Vamos United!

Posted by: ML | October 3, 2007 2:46 PM | Report abuse

What is the DCU average if you throw out the Beckham date?

According to MLSNet, United's total attendance at home is 265,953 through 13 home dates, subtracting 45,000 and dividing by 12 yields 18,412.75.

So while the Beckham game pulls United's average up, it doesn't do so dramatically.

Posted by: Kim | October 3, 2007 2:57 PM | Report abuse

here's an interesting thought I hadn't considered. How many of the tickets at Nats games are corporate season tickets of one sort or another, that people give away to clients, customers or employees, on days they don't want to be there? Yes, it's people paying money, but it's also tax-deductible, paid for by a corporation, and the people there didn't actually PAY to be there. I know the majority of Nats games I have been to, especially in the lower deck, are corporate tickets the boss doesn't want that day (which is most days) or thank you gifts from vendors. how would actual attendance change if we didn't have so many corporate freebies?

it wouldn't affect the Skins much, expect maybe in the yellow seats.

Posted by: northzax | October 3, 2007 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Look at Fischer's last sentence -- he wants United to stay in DC, and he wants them to have a stadium. C'mon, folks, how much more do we want? Someone fire up that peace pipe. I can see clearly now, etc.

Posted by: gringo | October 3, 2007 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Look at Fischer's last sentence -- he wants United to stay in DC, and he wants them to have a stadium. C'mon, folks, how much more do we want? Someone fire up that peace pipe. I can see clearly now, etc.

Yes, he throws those sops in to mask comments like the osama bin laden one, the struggles, and his open contempt for the poplar point plan. It's really easy to sound magnanimous when you're getting what you want.

Posted by: DCAustinite | October 3, 2007 3:15 PM | Report abuse


The Post had a very revealing article last season (or the one before) about how the Nats have something on the order of 30% no shows. This is mainly due to the situation you're describing but no one actually does use the tickets.

It's a high percentage of the pricey seats, and exactly why there are so many pricey seats in their new facility.

Posted by: Kim | October 3, 2007 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Juan-John | October 3, 2007 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Don't waste your time trying to convince Fisher and his ilk of the merits of the sport. Your energy is better spent getting more folks to go to DCU games and have fun while there.

For a good related article, go here:

Posted by: MR Caretaker | October 3, 2007 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Oh, who cares what this putz thinks. We like the game, and going to the games, because that's what we like. Fan turnout is good (who cares how we compare to the other sports -- I mean, don't the Wizards give away thousands of tickets to games so they can keep their attendance figures up? -- what I'd like to know is how we compare to other soccer leagues like Scotland or Portugal. I bet MLS is in the top ten attended leagues on average).

I love how some folks point to the Redskins as "the most profitable team in the NFL" as if that has something to do with it being successful. Sure, if you want to pay $100 for a ticket to go to a pre-season practice, that's great. I'd prefer that United not head in that direction.

Anyway; we really need to stop worrying about what fools like Fisher have to say. If he was a journalist, he'd be willing to admit that United's attendance is pretty good and pretty solid compared to other sports. But, he's not.....

Posted by: Hacksaw | October 3, 2007 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Steve said:

You will never see a United game with someone sleeping during the match.

...But you will see people passed out!

Posted by: ff | October 3, 2007 4:06 PM | Report abuse

-DC United home games have the best sports atmosphere in the metro area. As posters have commented, the bouncy seats, "organic passion" of our fan driven cheers, and multiple titles keep the fans coming back for more.

-Soccer is the world's sport, and can be played without encountering some of the expenses other sports require (hockey especially). As our nation becomes increasingly diverse it seems logical that soccer's popularity should rise in the coming years, aided by its practicality.

-Like most of the people in and around D.C. I will continue to ignore Fisher. Perhaps he should spend less time looking up at the empty seats in RFK's upper deck while daydreaming about the new Nationals stadium and instead take some notes on how to be a sports journalist from Goff / Steinberg.


Posted by: Terps_United | October 3, 2007 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Seriously. Who is "marc fischer". We could sit around all day in some debate about how soccer bashing reflects a white male middle class anxiety about how globalism affects their ability to support their family.......but who cares? Soccer rules, baseball drools? When is the last time you ever tried to watch a pointy-ball game-its like cough syrup with codeine. The last two minutes of a basketball game are rewlatively interesting. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah

Posted by: who cares? | October 3, 2007 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Off Topic: DC votes count in a national election. Emilio wins GOTW.

Posted by: I-270, Exit 1 | October 3, 2007 4:10 PM | Report abuse

while you are on this subject, why don't you post the Washington Post sports blog rankings and, more impressively, the cable ratings. It's my understanding that DC United beats the Caps and the Wizards in both.

Posted by: diego r. | October 3, 2007 4:49 PM | Report abuse

This all begs another question -- where do you see MLS attendance in 10 years? In 20 years?

The consensus is that DC United draws well, that's it's doing better than other MLS teams, etc. But are you happy with soccer always being too small to fill RFK?

Posted by: Andy | October 3, 2007 5:09 PM | Report abuse


Thanks for moving the blog hits on this subject to the Post's best blog. And doing it with props to Butler in Hinkle Fieldhouse makes it all the better.

As for whether the MF will ever admit that describing an attendance of 20k per game as struggling was wrong, who cares?

Soccer teams can succeed in this country when they don't pay rent on over-sized facilities and keep parking and beer money: Just like the NBA, NHL, and MLB do. I am just waiting for the day the the best organization in MLS can do just that.

Posted by: Mark M | October 3, 2007 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Noteworthy- the Wizards draw less than United but are still in the top half in the NBA's attendance (12th out of 30). I hadn't realized b-ball was doing that bad. At this rate MLS will easily surpass them in 10ish years.

Posted by: laur | October 3, 2007 6:35 PM | Report abuse


Are you and Marc doing this just to get more attention and hits on your blogs?

This whole arguement about which sport is best and the most popular seems kind of silly and very Jim Rome/ESPNish.

Posted by: Southeasterner | October 3, 2007 6:50 PM | Report abuse

United Fans,

Want to shut up Fischer?

Take a sports fan to a United game. If they like the atmosphere, they'll be back.

I've done this twice and each time the individual has gone back without me (with a second/third person) and now is asking me when the next game is . . .

The playoffs are around the corner. PERFECT opportunity.

Posted by: delantero | October 3, 2007 7:00 PM | Report abuse


It's not as though indoor sports teams can feasibly play in 30,000 seat arenas. Regardless, I was shocked by those attendance figures.

Posted by: B.A. | October 3, 2007 7:16 PM | Report abuse

Hey guys,

I don't like soccer.

Posted by: Stereotypical ethnocentric middle-class old white male | October 3, 2007 7:52 PM | Report abuse

Marc Fisher not only contradicts himself in one argument: United fans whine about lack of attendance. United must be struggling since it doesn't use the upper deck. Um, no it's you that's whining about our attendance, and no the upper deck is not relevant.

Anyway, Mr. Fisher is an irresponsible journalist who does damage with his column. He used his space to spread misinformation about my employer. Now we're being baselessly sued thanks to his column. Defense of that lawsuit is costing hundreds of staff hours and counting. And I work for a local government agency so its taxpayers' dollars being wasted.

Posted by: Brendan | October 3, 2007 7:54 PM | Report abuse

I am a fan of all the major sports in varying degrees, and as an outsider looking in on DC; I honestly only think of the Redskins and DC United when I think of DC sports teams. The rest I have to give a brief job to remember. The rest of the teams are just not quite up to snuff.
I was at a friend's house watching a Cubs game. I arrived a bit late and only heard the game when I walked in and thought they were playing at Wrigley after a rain delay. That's how pro-Cubs and tiny the crowd was. I was shocked. Granted, the Cubs have a way of outdrawing the home team in a just about every market they go to, but still.

Posted by: papa bear | October 3, 2007 8:34 PM | Report abuse

I think we can admit that DCU doesn't draw as well as we'd like, but it's still impressive given the early stages of the league. All signs are toward growth and I'm optimistic.

Some stadium discussions have mentioned 27,000 people -- to me, that seems too small. That is, unless it's possible to expand it easily to include more. With a nice stadium in a good location in a few years, I'd hope for ~30k with the possibility of more.

Posted by: RB | October 3, 2007 10:17 PM | Report abuse

Marc Fisher is trying really hard to wrestle away Jamie Trekker's strangle hold on the annual "Doucebag of the Year" award. I think he might actually win.

Posted by: Fisher can suck it | October 3, 2007 11:43 PM | Report abuse

College football is the true KING of all sports in the US by any metric you could think of, even with the terrible BCS. Of the top 20 stadiums by capacity in the US, only FexEd is not a college football stadium. Not even the NFL comes anywhere close to college football nationwide in rabitity of fans, attendance, TV exposure, merchandise, etc. It's hard to quantify, since the schools are much moore difficult to report finances on. It's pretty obvious that places like Michigan, Ohio State, Alabama, Auburn, Texas, and Oklahoma literally have extracted multiple Billions from alumni based solely on the opportunity to procure season tickets. The Dan's season ticket prices wouldn't even get you in the seat for one game at some schools, let alone season tickets with bowl game options. DC is one of the few places that it ISN'T top dog, and there are obvious reasons for that as well.

Why no listing of VT football (22nd in country), WVU(27th) or UVA(29th)? When it comes to putting butts in the seats, NoVA residents think nothing of a 2 or 4 hour drive to watch their school's play. There seems to be a general contempt for things Northern Virginia by non-residents. I think NoVA must be the red-headed-step-child-in-a-Bimmer of the DC area.

Finally, the FULL SEAT RANKING for the skins is defninitely not a 5 if you're talking butts in the seat. I love my skins, but the butts have never been in the seats at FexEd when you see the games on TV, unless everyone is wearing yellow shirts that look like bleachers. They're sold out, but definitely not full.

Posted by: LeesburgSoccerFan | October 4, 2007 1:19 AM | Report abuse

What kind of attendance do the Nats expect in the playoffs????

Posted by: Lloyd Heilbrunn | October 4, 2007 1:32 AM | Report abuse

I prefer Michael Wilbon's approach, personally. Why do we need to get caught up with writers who clearly get something out of putting down soccer, be subtly or with a hammer? Let's just grow our sport positively and not worry about the doubters. They are not going to go away and they are not going to be forced into submission. More than likely, they will probably just fester some kind of inferiority complex that leads to resentment as soccer continues to grow. Our sport is doing just fine and will continue to do just fine as it grows over time. Let's leave guys like this alone. He doesn't hate soccer. He just needs to look down on what he doesn't understand. The world is full of people like that and we don't need to defend ourselves to them. If the product is as good as we think it is, it will continue to grow. If it isn't as good as we think it is, it will die a slow, painful death (like the NASL did). I think MLS is growing and on it's way up. The NASL, this is not. Let's focus on enjoying the ride. It's hard to enjoy something when you get sidetracked by some body's negative energy. Isn't this what people who judge or put down kind of want to have happen in the first place? Let's stop giving him attention. We've got a big game against Kansas City coming up. Personally, I'm a lot more excited about that.

Posted by: Why compare? | October 4, 2007 3:38 AM | Report abuse

Just want to say, "thanks, Dan". Usually, we only get to hear the old fogie blowhard soccerbashing columnest's opinion. I've always had a hunch that for everyone of them, there must be some younger (and more talented, I might add) sportwriters/casters/commentators at various sports media institutions around the country.

Example: I have two friends from college who in the early 90s began working for BSPN when we graduated. They were constantly frustrated in their early career that they would put together sweet soccer highlights to add to the packages, and 90% of the time, the final airing would have them left out due to time, or other priorities. Despite ESPN's then almost complete (they did show the Dutch Erdevisie at like 1:30pm once in awhile! :-) ) lack of coverage, I knew there were at least two young employees who loved and played soccer (in addition to other sports as well, I mean).

I've been wondering when the generation gap was going to start to show. By this I mean, most people in my generation (early 30s) played soccer and have nothing against it even if they aren't ardent fans, or even if they are fans of another sport. It seems to be the older sports MSM types that are so virally anti-soccer. Perhaps the worm is starting to turn--- I've never seen a fellow sportwriter take another one on over soccer inaccuracies before, usually they are just allowed to spout the same tired stuff. Well done.

Posted by: mick | October 4, 2007 7:14 AM | Report abuse

My office may sum it all up. Baseball is king with those over 50 (with some talk of football mixed in). They can talk about it all day long. Those people between 40-50 tend to like football the most, but are more open to other sports. Those of us under 40 are very open to all sports, soccer included (I'm not the only one who yaps about United, etc in the office). However, baseball is not discussed much, save a couple people who are Yanks fans (shocker). I'm not knocking baseball, but it seems like its further down the line in terms of sports preferences.

Posted by: Hoost | October 4, 2007 7:59 AM | Report abuse

I don't read Fisher. I won't read Fisher. My dad told me many years ago: "Don't argue with the village idiot!"

Posted by: Randy | October 4, 2007 8:36 AM | Report abuse

Who is Marc Fisher? Never heard of him.


Posted by: TCompton | October 4, 2007 8:41 AM | Report abuse

When we argue with gasbags like Fischer, it exposes a deep and lingering insecurity that we have about our sport, based in the fear that the team may not stay in DC; that the league may not survive in the long run. The NASL is summoned by Fischer (Boswell, DeFord, Rome, etc.) at these times like a chain-rattling ghost, to remind us of what came before, and our continuing folly. And so we argue and fight about how worthy our club, and the very sport they play, is.

As much as I hate to admit it, there is an underlying truth to Fischer's comments, and it has to do with how United is viewed by the general public. He writes that we "struggle" to attract fans. He may be wrong, but when people who don't attend matches see United on TV, and see the boiling snake pit of Black and Red crowned by a wide smear of empty seats, what else are they going to think? The sports landscape in this country is largely about perception, and 25,000 in RFK is simply perceived differently on TV than 25,000 at BMO Field. They look full, we don't. And don't say that it doesn't matter what the uneducated think, because we wouldn't be having this argument with them if it didn't.

So great, we put 25,000 into RFK last Saturday, so what? Our devotion to United is not in question, even by the staunchest of our opponents. If they just left RFK to decompose, I believe there would someday be 30,000 die-hards dancing on a ring of concrete rubble and twisted steel girders around the field, singing our boys to victory. But is that what we want?

RFK has been good to us, but let's face it, something has to change. That the most succesful club in American soccer history doesn't have its own home is a disgrace, plain and simple. The Atlanta Silverbacks have thier own brand new 12,000 seater, for God's sake! We need a new home, we need it now, no more screwing around! If lighting the dynamite under RFK speeds that process up, give me the matches.

Didn't this whole thing start because people were eulogizing RFK? Instead of taking Fischer's bait and getting into an argument about it, why not just add our own verse to the Kaddish? We've made the old lady shake like she was a sophomore on a Saturday night, long after everyone else abandoned her as dowdy and quaint. For the next few months, the next few glorious months, she's ours. All ours. Let's give her one last dance, one last drink, and put her down with one more MLS Cup clutched to her regal, crumbling bosom.

Posted by: grotus | October 4, 2007 9:00 AM | Report abuse

re: "Soccer fans are forever making all manner of excuses."

I don't get it. Excuses for what? For why our soccer team draws better than all others in the league, except an expansion team? For why we want the team to have a soccer specific stadium that allows the team's ownership to make a profit from that attendance? For why we want columnists in the local papers to draw logical conclusions from the facts and not to ignore facts that weaken their conclusions?

Marc Fischer is usually a voice of sanity regarding issues related to Washington and its suburbs. When it comes to DC United, for some reason, he is just brain-dead.

Posted by: ho | October 4, 2007 9:24 AM | Report abuse

Who's higher than DC? Toronto?

Posted by: Matte | October 4, 2007 9:36 AM | Report abuse


I think you need to weight these sports a bit differently in order to judge attendance value. There are other factors that should be taken into account.

A) Marketing dollars (TV, radio, print, net advertising)
B) FREE TV coverage (local news and print)

How many times have DC U Fans tried to catch a highlight, a score, anything really on local news channels? I can tell you from my experience that a one goal highlight or, more typically, a one liner score at the end of the sports period is all we get.

Compare that to baseball . . which is typically number 2 behind the Skins. Player interviews, endless highlights (of NON AREA teams are my personal favorite), etc.

You get my point? Fischer thinks RFK is dead because there is no reason to think otherwise (save Soccer Insider!).

So analyze dollars spent on advertising plus the free dollars given away to the Nationals and all of a sudden, the Nationals numbers are really pathetic.

Posted by: delantero | October 4, 2007 9:38 AM | Report abuse

I had to look up "Kaddish." Thanks for expanding my knowledge, grotus. Learning about other cultures is a benefit of living in this area and being a soccer fan.

Posted by: I-270, Exit 1 | October 4, 2007 9:38 AM | Report abuse

My dad told me many years ago: "Don't argue with the village idiot!"

Posted by: Randy | October 4, 2007 08:36 AM
Best post in this thread!! F-ing hilarious!!

And don't say that it doesn't matter what the uneducated think, because we wouldn't be having this argument with them if it didn't.

Posted by: grotus | October 4, 2007 09:00 AM
Yeah, just look at who's been running the country for the last 6+ years to validate that what the uneducated, unthinking masses' think is powerful and dangerous.

And the rest of your post was sublime, Grotus!

Posted by: Soy United! | October 4, 2007 10:24 AM | Report abuse

"here's an interesting thought I hadn't considered. How many of the tickets at Nats games are corporate season tickets of one sort or another, that people give away to clients, customers or employees, on days they don't want to be there?..."

Hey, careful there :-) In the early years I used to get to United games courtesy of Washington Post corporate tickets. Even got to an 'exclusive' meet the team event at RFK.

The sad part was that in the beginning there wasn't any competition for them from other Post employees.

That changed, but not for a couple of years.

And Steinberg, you are definitely THE MAN. I was amazed and impressed that one Post journalist would take on another in public.

Of course, that may not be completely correct. It is, after all, insulting to the profession to call Fisher a journalist, isn't it?

Posted by: seahawkdad | October 4, 2007 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Actually I think LA is the team with a higher average than us due to all of the Beckham-related season tickets they sold. While TO sells out most of the time they also have a surprisingly small stadium. They really blew it by only having about 20K seats.

What channel is tomorrow night's game on? The DCU website says "CSN+" but there isn't an explanation about what that means. Is that the CN8 channel because the Caps open tomorrow?

Posted by: Arlington, VA | October 4, 2007 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Anyone notice that the new San Jose Earthquakes will wear black jerseys next season?

Posted by: Soy United! | October 4, 2007 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Hey, Arlington VA, go to and use the box at the top right.

Put in your zip and click on CSN+

Hopefully that will show you how to access it based upon your video provider.

CSN+ is ComcastSportsNet's way of showing competing local team games without having to choose between them. Don't know what they'd do if there were more that two local teams with games at the same time.

Posted by: seahawkdad | October 4, 2007 10:54 AM | Report abuse

a bit of fun for everyone:

A celtic supporter taps AC Milan's Dida who flops in the most hilariously brazilian fashion ever.

Posted by: DCAustinite | October 4, 2007 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of the Earthquake's new jersey design...did anyone notice that they get to wear the two stars above their crest even though those championships were won by the franchise now located in Houston? Was that part of the terms of the relocation - that the club history is left behind?

Guess United will have to pull out the whites when they go to San Jose.

Posted by: DE | October 4, 2007 11:05 AM | Report abuse

@Arlington, VA:
CSN+ is channel 669 on DirecTV (it's black right now - won't come up until the game). Check the CSN Mid-Atlantic site - there's a place for you to enter your zip code and tv provider and it will tell you what channel CSN+ is for you.

Posted by: EdTheRed | October 4, 2007 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Yes, the team history stayed in San Jose.

Posted by: Soy United! | October 4, 2007 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Yes. San Jose gets to keep the name and the history, while Houston is considered an expansion franchise.

So Houston did not get an expansion draft, but presumably San Jose will?

Posted by: I-270, Exit 1 | October 4, 2007 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Decent kit. Thankfully they didn't splash EARTHQUAKES all over the front like some kind of Arena Football League team

""Anyone notice that the new San Jose Earthquakes will wear black jerseys next season?""

Posted by: d | October 4, 2007 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Ha ha? Was that Ruiz flopping there?

I would have respected Dida more had he started wailing on the guy.

""A celtic supporter taps AC Milan's Dida who flops in the most hilariously brazilian fashion ever.""

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2007 11:25 AM | Report abuse

I guess Dida is trying to get points deducted from Celtic for lack of security. Can't think of any other reason other than the fan having super-strength after eating a can of spinach.

Posted by: I-270, Exit 1 | October 4, 2007 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Fishwrap's comments just confirm what I've always thought: there's a segment of the mainstream sports media that is just scared to death of what soccer might become in this country. Thus, the idiotic anti-soccer statements they make - even veiled ones.

But I don't read Fisher so, as far as I'm concerned, he doesn't exist.


Posted by: Dave | October 4, 2007 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: Juan-John | October 4, 2007 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Dallas had 10,000+ last night at the Big Pie for the US Open Cup Final. Now that team has attendance problems.

Going for the double,
New England Guy

Posted by: New England Guy | October 4, 2007 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone know if Fred will be able to go on Friday night?

Posted by: DE | October 4, 2007 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Logan Circle | October 4, 2007 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Those are some NICE jerseys. So glad we have a team again in my hometown. I'll still pull for DCU more, but it's nice to have one of the richest soccer histories in the US back in operation.

Posted by: LeesburgSoccerFan | October 4, 2007 12:44 PM | Report abuse

Reading the opening too quickly makes,
"Steinberg here. The great Goff is back stateside"

read like -

Steinberg here is the great Goff's backside

Not that I'm disagreeing, just a little different way to start a post! ;)

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2007 12:44 PM | Report abuse

Hey, what's with all the gray bashing? I'm well over 50 (almost 60) and my wife and I have been season ticket holders since the begining. And there are a lot of us over on the quiet side. Maybe the old knees won't let us stand or bounce for 90 minutes, but the support is there.

And speaking of insecurities, I wonder whose are on display here. Sure the NASL failed, but hasn't baseball already failed twice in Washington? What are they going to do with that shiny new stadium when the Nats move on? Is it big enough to get a decent sized pitch in?


Posted by: asitis | October 4, 2007 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Excellent analysis and it is good to finally see total attendance numbers in the figure. Not sure if there is a best way to deal with this but United is perhaps the team with the most games in addition to the regular season, particularly percetnage wise. Aside fromt eh playoffs we had or might expect to have home games for US Open Cup, Superliga, Concacaf, Copa Sudamericana, friendlies. That is probably another 100K in attendance if not more, and at a minimum three games per season ticket package.

The only valid component fisher's argument about struggling is that he would be correct ot say that United would expect an attendance boost in a new stadium, or that RFK may prevent some fans from attending.

You may also want to point out that aside from Skins fans I do not know of any other team that would have 13K+ fans come out, and in pouring freezing rain in February or anytime of the year.

Rather than try and convince a small closed minded twit like fisher perhaps your efforts are better spent provided a complete factual awareness to the larger audience of Post readers so that they can make their own informed decisions.

Curious also to know if fisher has bothered to even come to a United game. At least you actively engage with the range of sprots teams and venues in the greater DC area and have an informed basis for comparison.

PS Goff great to have you back but can we get continued occaisional guest blogs from Steinberg in the future

Posted by: WC | October 4, 2007 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Black shirts in the summer... bet those will be comfortable for the players on a sunny, 100 degree day. What corporate fool would give a team black shirts to wear in the heat??? (Oh, right... strike that...)

Posted by: hacksaw | October 4, 2007 12:59 PM | Report abuse

"Thankfully they didn't splash EARTHQUAKES all over the front"

They're trying to pull in money from jersey sales in the Costa Rican capital and from every Tico in the US.

Posted by: I-270, Exit 1 | October 4, 2007 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Hey, is this thing on? Is anyone getting updates from Kansas? (thank you Ray Hudson! ;-p)


Posted by: SEKim | October 4, 2007 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Did not see this posted anywhere else in the Post:

Luciano Emilio wins MLS Player of the Month for September.

Posted by: ho | October 4, 2007 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Most of us fans are happy with what United draws. Sadly, there is a small subset that must create new names to deride other sports (boreball, gridball) in order to make themselves feel better about being an outsider. They have such a myopic point-of-view, it skews any real dialogue.

The other thing is that people like Fisher fail to look deeply into the conversation and use soccer and MLS interchangeably.

Yes, MLS has lots of room to go popularity wise. But soccer doesn't in this country. It's just that the millions upon millions of soccer fans in this country have such diverse interests that their real mass is hard to gauge at times. Soccer does not equal MLS.

Posted by: Brian | October 4, 2007 2:09 PM | Report abuse

I didn't even notice that the US Open Cup final was last night...

Posted by: RK | October 4, 2007 2:12 PM | Report abuse

"Black shirts in the summer... bet those will be comfortable for the players on a sunny, 100 degree day."

San Jose doesn't really get that hot in the summer except for an occasionally freakish hot spell. It's still fairly common to find houses without AC there. The low humidity really helps alot too. The black & blue are the home colors right?

Posted by: LeesburgSoccerFan | October 4, 2007 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Steinberg, great job brining soccer/football blogs. While I appreciate you arguing with Fischer on behalf of united fans at the same time I would ignore complatetly because you dig the trash it smells even worst. Clearly marketing is needed. No highlights on the local tv. Even when United wins usally there is second talk. MLS should commercialise not just the local teams in the area but all matches in the country. I wish I like the other sports but I just can't inspire myself to go because they are just so boring. I have attended pretty much all types of games but soccer/football is the only game that has the beauty to watch. And everyone need to understand how to cheer and sing unlike any other sports. United will play for the final this season!!

Posted by: TD | October 4, 2007 2:35 PM | Report abuse

MLS news ticker.... Columbus will have Glidden as its jersey sponsor:

Any uniform sponsor rumors for DCU?

Posted by: G | October 4, 2007 3:21 PM | Report abuse

The sensitivity of a good portion of soccer fans is what keeps the spectator component of the sport from growing.

It pains me to see people foolishly compare DCU's popularity with the Nats. The us against them mentality is what hurts the sport. The market cap on DCU for the next 10 years is about 30k tops. That is all you need people so stop acting like soccer will take over America because it won't any time soon. It doesnt have to and you drive potential fans away from the game with the inscent domination crap.

I love DCU but I also love Mountaineers football and Mountaineer basketball. There is PLENTY of room for me to love 3 teams. These either or types that think you can only love soccer are what keeps people outside the game from opening up to the sport.

Just STFU about the other sports and let soccer breath.

Posted by: Mountaineer Pride | October 4, 2007 3:28 PM | Report abuse

I especially

Posted by: Vic | October 4, 2007 3:30 PM | Report abuse

With Glidden as their sponsor, the sCrew's colors will now be called "sunny day" and "midnight sky"

DC United will be sponsored by Fisher (electronics). No?

Posted by: I-270, Exit 1 | October 4, 2007 3:32 PM | Report abuse

24 hours and no new SI post?

Hurry back, Goff! :-)

Posted by: Juan-John | October 4, 2007 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Has Rico Clark been suspended yet?

Posted by: Todd H. | October 4, 2007 3:41 PM | Report abuse

"With Glidden as their sponsor, the sCrew's colors will now be called "sunny day" and "midnight sky""

Posted by: I-270, Exit 1 | October 4, 2007 03:32 PM

Actually 270, I work in the Marketing Department of Glidden, and I know the actual color names. We chose the first in honor of one of the Crew's all-time greats, Brian McBride. The second in recognition of the teams usual league standing. They names are "Blood Clot Black" and "Fourth Place Yellow". Available at your local Memco and Hechinger's soon!

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2007 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Two teams with paint sponsors...that's kinda strange, no?

United have long had a shirt sponsor - three stripes across the chest. That screams adidas.

Posted by: DE | October 4, 2007 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Not trying to be an a-hole, but isn't the "two paint sponsors" thing because of the working class fan base of MLS? IE, I don't see many NHL/NBA/NFL games with Makita power tool giveaways.

Posted by: Logan Circle | October 4, 2007 4:22 PM | Report abuse

"It's still fairly common to find houses without AC there."

Commies. Freaks.

Posted by: Michael Crichton | October 4, 2007 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Two paint sponsors? Maybe I've been sniffing paint fumes but I can't think of the other.

Xango and RedBull are both energy drinks. So MLS doesn't seem to mind mixed messages. Maybe they'll add Amway so that there will be two pyramid scheme sponsors (Herbalife).

Posted by: I-270, Exit 1 | October 4, 2007 5:10 PM | Report abuse

Comex, Mexico's leading paint company.

Also, Xango is a pyramid scheme, so we've already got a brace of those as well. If we all work hard and get a third, that's when we'll start seeing the money roll in.

Posted by: Logan Circle | October 4, 2007 5:13 PM | Report abuse

"It's still fairly common to find houses without AC there."
Commies. Freaks.

Dude, you have San Jose confused with San Fran. San Jose is startups, entrepeneurs, and high tech people getting as rich as humanly possible. The commies, military haters, freaks, and eco-radicals are 60 miles north up the bay (San Fran, oakland, Berkley). The farther up the penisula you go, the weirder it gets. The difference is like Loudoun and the Peoples Republic or Montgomery County. My family didn't have air conditioning growing up, but when the weather is always perfect, we didn't miss it. Here, we NEVER open the windows cuz the weather sucks so bad here. It was never to hot to play soccer, just so dry that your sweat evaporated immediately, and you had to drink a ton of water to keep hydrated. Will be great to have the Quakes back. I wonder if Crazy George is still alive?

Posted by: LeesburgSoccerFan | October 4, 2007 9:02 PM | Report abuse

""The commies, military haters, freaks, and eco-radicals are 60 miles north up the bay (San Fran, oakland, Berkley)""

Sounds like MLS needs a second team in the Bay Area to me . . . a derby maybe to match Chivas/Galaxy?

You can call them CommieMilitaryHatinFreaks

Oh, and I'll buy their jersey

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2007 11:48 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and I'll buy their jersey

Posted by: | October 4, 2007 11:48 PM

Tie-dyed, of course. The badge will be a peace symbol.

Posted by: I-270, Exit 1 | October 5, 2007 8:52 AM | Report abuse

Krazy was still working as of last year.

Posted by: Doug | October 5, 2007 11:22 PM | Report abuse

I'm a late arrival to this topic but i had to respond to this:

Mountaineer Pride quote: "The sensitivity of a good portion of soccer fans is what keeps the spectator component of the sport from growing."

To seriously claim that overly "sensitve" soccer fans are a reason why soccer isn't more popular raises the bar on nonsense. I'd love to hear some evidence to back this up. Maybe you can cite someone's research? I've spoken with literally hundreds of people who don't follow soccer as a spectator sport, and when asked why, not one, NOT EVEN ONE, has said, "I don't follow soccer because soccer fans are overly sensitive."

I've heard this said on Bigsoccer, where bashing the whiny soccer fan is an elitest poster fetish, and I must say that how anyone can consider this theory seriously boggles the mind.

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