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Original Issue

Booting Up?

MLS might be joining the big leagues of popularity

In the early days of its 2010 season Major League Soccer's average crowd (17,092) was up and on par with NHL (17,069) and NBA (17,150) numbers in '09--10. And this spring four MLB stadiums have seen their smallest gatherings ever. So ... at long last, is soccer about to crash the major North American sports-popularity party? Pick a side and play on.


MLS simply gets it.

Right-sized stadiums are the new paradigm. Most of the MLS teams that are thriving play in cozy, soccer-specific venues that shrewdly cater to crowds of 18,000 to 27,000.

Sports wax and wane.

Primacy is not a given. (Think boxing and horse racing.) NHL attendance dipped for the first time since '04, and the NBA played to fewer fans per game than it drew in 1995--96.

Soccer fever goes beyond MLS.

The D2 Pro League Portland Timbers, which are set to join MLS in 2011, sold all 15,418 of their seats to open their 2010 season on April 17.


We're in a recession, and MLS is cheap.

At $21.76 the average soccer ticket costs less than half that of a seat for the NBA ($48.90) or the NHL ($51.41). Give the economy time to bounce back, then judge.

Infatuations wear off.

The two teams averaging more than 25,000 fans per game, Philadelphia and Seattle, are riding high on first- and second-year excitement. How many nil--nil draws before those fans disappear? And the Union plays its first two home games in 69,000-seat Lincoln Financial Field, which it half-filled for its opener. Surely the Mavs could inflate NBA numbers by playing in Cowboys Stadium.

We dare ya.

Take the top three teams and name at least two players on each. Exaaaactly....



KICK START Union players gave 34,870 plenty to cheer in their first home game by beating DC United.