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Mls Surpasses Nhl In Per-Game Attendance



During it's inaugural season 1996, Major League Soccer's (MLS) average attendance was about 17,406 but dropped off between 1999-2002. This year marked an all-time average high of 17,870 surpassing the NHL and NBA bringing it to the 3rd most attended major league in the United States. MLS's average game attendance numbers still pale in comparison to the country's top two sports -- the National Football League (66,960) and Major League Baseball (30,352).

Observers of the the MLS attribute the growing interest in part to the construction of more fan-friendly soccer stadiums as well as the league's recognition of an established soccer culture in the Pacific Northwest. That region now has three MLS teams: the Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps.

The atmosphere in the newly built soccer specific stadiums, which usually hold 18k-20k fans, helps the fans feel more connected to their team while the average ticket price remains around $25. On the contrary, ticket prices for NHL games only seem to be going up, pricing the die-hard fans right out of their seats. The current league wide average ticket prices to see a NHL game is approximately $48.50 before you factor in parking, food and drinks. That means for a family of four to attend a NHL game, they would need to shell out between $200-$250 for 3 hours of entertainment. That's about $100 more than the same family attending a MLS game.

Not helping the situation for the NHL is the "post-lockout" rules. The clutch and grab ways have since gone by leading to more speed in the game, but that also seemingly turned the NHL into a special teams contest due to the number of penalties called. It's safe to say that a free flowing NHL game is something to behold but when 5 on 5 play is hampered by power plays it changes the game. The lack of consistency in the penalty calls between games, even from one period to the next, frustrates even the casual fans. Add to that the southern expansion teams inability to even draw a half capacity crowd leading to inflated number of teams in the league thus causing the dilution of skill.

What's next for the MLS? It's eyes are locked on the MLB but that might take another decade. As for the NHL, the ability to regain it's ranking at #3 is squarely in it's hands. Realignment, rule changes, lower ticket prices and even league down-sizing should all be in play. As with most situations, time will tell.


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How can you compare a league (MLS) where the team only plays one game a week to a league (NHL), where teams play 3-4 games a week? The NHL has 41 home games (not including the playoffs) and the MLS a mere 15.

Is's an apples to oranges comparison. It would be like comparing hockey attendance to baseball. Baseball plays twice as many games in significantly larger venues and thereby charges significantly less for tickets (making it more reasonable for larger and more frequent attendance).

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You are right that the number of games does play a huge part. However, it is a significant milestone for the MLS.

As for the NHL, maybe the number of games and the length of the season is what is holding the NHL back from growth. It's arguable that's a problem the MLB might start running into.

Approximately October 1 to June 1 for the NHL. That's 9 months. When the 3rd round of the playoffs come around, NY south is building sandcastles on the beach.

Drop the NHL season down November to May and the games to 60-65 games a season and I think you hit the sweet spot. The season is shortened to the fall/winter/spring months and the regular season games mean a lot more. The running joke among avid sports fan that could take or leave the NHL, is "There still playing" when May/June roll around. Followed quickly by "Man, how long is there season."

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