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MLS Observations

*Party like it's '02 in Daegu: Brian McBride scores twice for Chicago, Josh Wolff answers with two late strikes for Kansas City in a 2-2 tie at Toyota Park.

*After 36 league matches, 13 have ended in ties (36.1 percent). Last year's overall rate was 27.1 percent. More than half the league's clubs (8 of 15) have one or zero victories.

*With a 2-0 victory at Giants Stadium, New York maintained its unbeaten record against Real Salt Lake (4-0-6).

*Both Texas teams won? On the same day? Dallas's Kenny Cooper converts twice to join McBride and Colorado's Conor Casey (all big target forwards) atop the scoring charts with four goals. FCD's first victory came just before a grueling week of travel: To Washington for a U.S. Open Cup match Wednesday at RFK, then to Los Angeles for a league game against unbeaten Chivas USA on Saturday.

*Before we address attendance issues, take a look at Pat Onstad preserving Houston's victory with this penalty kick save on Casey and the ensuing stop on the rebound:

*We commend the 14,441 who battled Friday rush hour to watch the United-New England match at RFK. We were also impressed with the 15,862 in Oakland (the Earthquakes' secondary home field) for the Beckham-less Galaxy visit and the 15,463 at Home Depot Center for the Chivas USA-Seattle encounter. Houston's 12,708 was underwhelming, though we know the Dynamo will be a consistent draw throughout the season.

Now for the trouble spots: 10,782 in Bridgeview for a Fire team that has not lost this season; 8,508 in Jersey; and the usual 6,813 at the House of Pizza. (The WPS's L.A. Sol drew 6,119.) In the past two home matches, Dallas has drawn 13,337 total. We're not expecting much of a turnout this Wednesday at RFK either, but at least DCU has the excuse of staging a U.S. Open Cup preliminary-round match.

MLS is not the only league confronting attendance challenges; look no further than the Washington Nationals, Major League Baseball's most embarrassing franchise on and off the field. On a perfect weekend of weather, the Nats never cracked 20,000 (19,026, 19,864 and 16,974).

If the stubborn city would just agree to build them a $611 million stadium, they could escape RFK, make a commitment to fielding a winning team, and sell tons of tickets! Oh, never mind.

By Steve Goff  |  April 20, 2009; 11:17 AM ET
Categories:  D.C. United , MLS  
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Next: Local Soccer This Week

Comments

The National's stadium is not finished. There is still some touch-up work to do around the baseboards in a couple of the offices. As soon as that is finished, the fans will flood the place.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | April 20, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

I reporting abuse. That Hyatt pop-up ad with the audbile "clicker" is abusive. please make it stop.

Posted by: OWNTF | April 20, 2009 11:33 AM | Report abuse

It appears that the cherished soccer demographic; males 18-34 are staying away in increasing numbers. At kickoff on friday I bet there were well under 10K at RFK. At least it filled in a bit. The numbers for NY/NJ and Chicago have got to have the league concerned. It is discretionary income after all.

Posted by: sbg1 | April 20, 2009 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Things must be tough all over... even the level of snark from I-270 Exit 1 is down.

Posted by: Jacknut | April 20, 2009 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Ha, Ha Steve..., but who the heck is *we*?
Onstad is awfully spry for a kinda old guy! That was awesome.
Guess there is a little love in Oakland, eh?
Not bad numbers down in LA for for Chivas/Sounders. Was that because the desperate housewives heard another underwear model was coming to town?

Posted by: DadRyan | April 20, 2009 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Anyone know if the DCUvsFCD Open Cup match on Wednesday will be on TV or webcast anywhere? Please share.

Posted by: joemybro | April 20, 2009 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Surprisingly - I look at MLS finances with my rose colored glasses. MLS increased corporate sponsorship commitments in the offseason, added expansion income and new investors and will continue that trend for the next two years adding a big media market in Philadelphia and then fill in the Pacific Northwest and reach manifest destiny in Vancouver for Canada.

The NBA took out loans for its teams this year. The Arena League canceled it's season, is on it's 3rd commissioner in 9 months and just shuttered another franchise. NASCAR is having trouble with tickets, television and sponsors - Oh and a little thing called Detroit as well. MLB is an interesting and evolving situation.

MLS doesn't depend on it's day-to-day issues with ticket sales that much. FCD can reportedly turn a profit whether the game is seen by 18,000 or 12,000 red seats.

It's not the greatest - but given everyone's focus on their wallet and the direction of discretionary money, I'm not that worried right now.

Posted by: VirginiaBlueBlood | April 20, 2009 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Steve -
Is MLS Observations replacing G,B,CU from last year?

Coz I loved that feature!!! No better way to while away a slow Monday morning than with lots of soccer links and SG's (in)famous commentary!

Any chance it'll return?

Posted by: dcbird | April 20, 2009 11:52 AM | Report abuse

sbg1, many of those who were late have jobs.

Posted by: sitruc | April 20, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

There were 5 sporting events competing for your wallet this weekend. 1 futol match, 1 Hockey game, and 3 baseball. That's a lot.

Posted by: JkR- | April 20, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

I've heard nothing of the Open Cup game being webcast, although it should.

Anyone with season tix out there who's got an extra one holler at me! These play in games really should be cheaper than league matches regardless of the venue. I'd love to go but it's already a punch in the stomach United has to play in to this tournament after winning the darn thing last year, and I just can't afford it.

FYI- All the USL teams involved last year were doing webcasts when they were playing at home... It's too bad MLS clubs seem to have a hard time doing the same.

Posted by: DadRyan | April 20, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

@Jacknut: I'm waiting for my bailout check, then I'll unleash the snark. Or maybe I've jumped the snark?

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | April 20, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

I just saw both people go Over in the Showcase Showdown. I can't remember ever seeing that. Nice to have a few days off :)

Dallas's attendance is inexplicable. What is going on?

Posted by: Reignking | April 20, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Goff how is WPS doing league-wide after 3 weeks? They were looking for avg 5000.

Posted by: OWNTF | April 20, 2009 12:03 PM | Report abuse

I know the game is not on television, I'm sure you could find it illegally online.

DadRyan-
Come up to the Screaming Eagles tailgate, they usually have good seats for $22. I'm sure the Barra Brava does the same thing. Just come on over the Lot 8 in the back corner by the exit to Penn. Ave.

The tickets are still too much in my opinion. I'd be willing to pay full price for the knockout stages, but not these preliminary games.

I'll be there otherwise, it's on my season plan. Unfortuantely it will be a small crowd. Anything over 10k will be impressive.

Posted by: adamsunited | April 20, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse

MLS doesn't depend on it's day-to-day issues with ticket sales that much. FCD can reportedly turn a profit whether the game is seen by 18,000 or 12,000 red seats.

It's not the greatest - but given everyone's focus on their wallet and the direction of discretionary money, I'm not that worried right now.

Posted by: VirginiaBlueBlood | April 20, 2009 11:51 AM

Well, if MLS clubs are not depending on ticket sales than much, then they MUST lower prices. United definitely need to keep ticket revenues high with so little ancillary income. But that deal with DCSEC is a bit better now - ticket prices have to come down. Other struggling teams in the area are not too proud to slash prices (Nationals/Wizards) - United must do so as well. Where are the individual game specials? Nats doing two-for-one deals and lots of kid focused specials. Can almost always get a Wizards ticket for $10/$11. I think you should be encouraged in to RFK with tickets under $15. I know I would go more. Then they'd make (a bit of) money on me from parking and beer.

I think MLS clubs are determined to make as much money from their dedicated fans. That's been a trademark for soccer in this niche market of a country - whether its PPV fees, subscriptions (non-American competitions) or ticket prices. As part of that niche market, it pisses me off after a while.

Posted by: Kev29 | April 20, 2009 12:05 PM | Report abuse

FWIW, I don't think the NBA getting loans is a bad thing. The NFL did it years ago and now is as good a time as any.

Posted by: sitruc | April 20, 2009 12:12 PM | Report abuse

MLS doesn't depend on it's day-to-day issues with ticket sales that much. FCD can reportedly turn a profit whether the game is seen by 18,000 or 12,000 red seats.
Exactly. PHP was packed this weekend... for Jimmy Buffet

Posted by: sitruc | April 20, 2009 12:16 PM | Report abuse

The NBA is too big to fail. If they do, just think of how many beer commercial models would be unemployed. Then, when plastic surgeons go out of business, the AMA would lobby Congress to bail out the NBAon the ground that all those large, unused stocks of Botox will be a big target for the terrorists.

Think this through man!

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | April 20, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

What's with the royal "We"? Are we amused?

@Dad -- bring some baby essentials for the United Drive -- get 2 tix for price of 1.


As for the baseball team -- watching them is the equivalent of watching a U.S. Open Cup match. You feel really cheated, paying major league prices to see a Reserve-quality team play. When the nimrods who run that team decide to field major-league quality talent (instead of releasing their best starting pitcher during Spring Training), they might actually draw decent crowds.

And, if United wants to put fannies in RFK for the Open Cup, they ought to lower prices... I've got my season's ticket, but it's hard to imagine many one day sales for that game. Really, it's too bad that it's not at the Soccerplex. Maybe later rounds will be, if DCU advances (I'm not counting my chickens, yet -- but the few DCU starters that will have to play should be a little fresher than Dallas' players.

Posted by: fischy | April 20, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse

For those complaining about ticket prices - I paid $15 bucks for midfield seats to Friday's game, did so online at dcunited.com. You can't beat that with a bat. I thought the Screaming Eagles side of RFK was filled - it was the family side that was lacking.

Posted by: ddd001 | April 20, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse

@ddd001 -- You have a point. I bought season's tickets because I wanted on the gravy train...to get in line for seats at the new stadium. In retrospect, that was unduly optimistic. On the other hand, if there were enough suckers like me, then DCU's flirtation with a PG site probably paid off for the team.

Posted by: fischy | April 20, 2009 12:55 PM | Report abuse

ddd0001 - Is that deal normally available? What was the special/occasion? Sounds great!

Posted by: Kev29 | April 20, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Couple of comments:

What rush hour traffic? My son and I left early for the game went over the Wilson Bridge, up 295 to Minnesota Ave and "U turned" back to the stadium. There was less traffic than a Saturday night. We got to the stadium about 45 minutes early and my 18 year old son said "what are we going to do?" I said, "I'm getting a beer, don't know what you're going to do."

Ticket pricing: Kev, I believe you can get seats behind the goal for about $22. If you would go for $15, just drink your beer before you enter the stadium. I'm really not sure that offering scads of discounted tickets does much for the bottom line. I'm sure some pricing nerd has developed an algorithm that proves or disproves my uninformed guess.

Posted by: griffin1108 | April 20, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

I believe the $15 was for the College Night special. At the stadium it was $18.

Posted by: sitruc | April 20, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

griffin - I agree, $7 isn't a huge difference. Though it adds up if you're bringing family members.

I think there are more reasons for ticket reductions now than against. I'm surely not an economist - and I know there are reasons to keep prices high if people are willing to pay them. But this is a time that the club really needs to have butts in seats - or even better, butts jumping up and down supporting the team.

Remember when we, the club, and the Maryland Stadium Authority where justifying United's importance and viability with those 20k average numbers? Numbers speak volumes - the front office should be doing everything they can to keep them up. This isn't just about this season's bottom line - I'm thinking long-term. Keep fans in the fold during a bad economy. Keep the club strong for future negotiations. That's not happening right now. I'm inclined to think that the current investor/operators aren't thinking clearly about the long-term.

Ticket prices, for all professional sports in all countries have to be lowered. They went up astronomically during the idiotic market economy escalations between '95 and '06. Now, like house and stock prices, they have to come back down to earth.

Posted by: Kev29 | April 20, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse

I have no problem paying $20-25 for a soccer game, of which there are 20-25. Saving money means less stadium beer, and mybe metro instead of parking (never actually done that).

The Nats currently have 36(!) ticketing options for tonight's game, with a low of $10 for truly horrid seats, and most in the $20-50 range. That's absurd for baseball, with 81 home games.

Posted by: JkR- | April 20, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

The Nats currently have 36(!) ticketing options for tonight's game, with a low of $10 for truly horrid seats, and most in the $20-50 range. That's absurd for baseball, with 81 home games.

Posted by: JkR-

There are $5 walk-up seats every night, only available at the stadium. The $10 seats are nowhere near "truly horrid". In fact they are perfectly fine, with nice sight lines in the upper deck over first base (you can see the Capitol Rotunda from there too, albeit obscured by the dumb red parking tent now).

Sorry if it seems like I am defending the Nats - but they have better prices. Saving money to me = more beer. And I like more beer.

Posted by: Kev29 | April 20, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

@griffin1108: Be careful. Your son might wander around the concourse and run into DadRyan.
:-)

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | April 20, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Declining DCU attendance also gives the club another reason to crawl back to MLS for approval/help in moving the team. MLS won't move the team if it has strong attendance numbers. But, if DCU keeps ticket prices high and sees attendance decline, maybe MLS steps in and helps move the team to a more business friendly city.

Just my little conspiracy theory for now!

Posted by: therealfootball | April 20, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse

It was an off-week for rivalries and decent matchups (DC/NE and LA/SJ aside).

Next week with Seattle, TO and FC Caffeine home to DCU, CHI at CLB, attendances will tic up again.

Posted by: IamAM | April 20, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

@Posted by: Kev29 | April 20, 2009 1:32 PM |

I wasn't aware of the $5 tix. I went to one game and was up in the $10 seats. The site line was fine, the atmosphere truly horrid. No one else even in the section. Zero excitement. We tried to move and were just hassled and sent back.

Your point is well taken though.

Posted by: JkR- | April 20, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

@fischy: United Drives doesn't collect on non league game days. They also don't honor the buy one/get one vouchers for non league games, and although I have gotten the box office to hook us up with 3 half priced tickets for 2 vouchers at a game last year, I wouldn't count on the box office selling me a single $15 ticket.
I'd be very hard pressed to find any friends to spend even that for a play in match.

If they can play into the group stage I'll be a lot more likely to bite the bullet, search the couch cushions and head to the game. Then again, if they bidding for those and playing in Germantown, I'll probably miss those too, unless I can befriend some fellow Arlingtonians who want to carpool.

Posted by: DadRyan | April 20, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

@I-270: Duuuude! Come on man, I'm discrete with that. No kids allowed. I keep my eyes wide open for the groms, man.

Posted by: DadRyan | April 20, 2009 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Just noticed it said he was 18... Shoot, he's probably doing more of that than me.;-)

Posted by: DadRyan | April 20, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Just kidding DadRyan.
What's a grom?

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | April 20, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Chicago's attendance is indeed troubling. I expected as much from Dallas and New York, and was perhaps hoping for a bit more from the Chivas-Seattle matchup. Is the league marketing Ljungberg at all like they did with Beckham?

Overall, attendance is off 6.63%, which is troubling considering the packed houses in Seattle and Toronto. There's a full breakdown over at MLS Daily: http://www.mls-daily.com/2009/04/2009-mls-attendance-figures.html

Posted by: eubh223 | April 20, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Groms/Gremmies=young surfer/skater dudes/dudettes.

http://www.kingofthegroms.net/

Posted by: DadRyan | April 20, 2009 2:26 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure there are any areas of excitement in the ballpark, JkR-. If you try to create some, you may be kicked out.

Posted by: sitruc | April 20, 2009 2:30 PM | Report abuse

BTW -- I was using my gf's Powerbook on Sat -- went to channelsurfing.net to watch the Chelsea-Arsenal tilt. Some virus tried to get into her computer -- thankfully it's a Windows virus -- force-quitting got rid of it. And, for all that, I couldn't get the link to take me to the game -- kept sending me to some VIP Boxing window.

Anyone else encounter similar issues with that site?

Posted by: fischy | April 20, 2009 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Questions about Open Cup streaming video/TV:

These things won't exist, if the past is any indicator. To see any Open Cup game, you pretty much have to go (unless the opponent is a USL-1 team and the game is at their place, in which case they have streaming video). If DC can't even get Comcast to show their league games for 3 straight weeks, getting an Open Cup qualifier on TV is impossible.

Posted by: Chest_Rockwell | April 20, 2009 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Yet teams like Chicago and Toronto stream lesser matches...

Posted by: sitruc | April 20, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

There were 5 sporting events competing for your wallet this weekend. 1 futol match, 1 Hockey game, and 3 baseball. That's a lot.

Posted by: JkR- | April 20, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Correction... *2* futbol matches. You forgot the Freedom. That IS a lot.

Posted by: WorldCup | April 20, 2009 5:11 PM | Report abuse

i paid 5 euros to watch second division salamanca in spain and 44 euros for front row seats for real madrid...i would pay a maximum of $10 for a DCU game, sorry but i could see iron maiden for $22 and that's def better than watching DCU

Posted by: joelrosado | April 21, 2009 10:57 PM | Report abuse

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