As far as sports go, I'm always very interested in attendance figures. I'm a firm believer that a full stadium does improve the on-field product and the opposite for an empty stadium. Of course there are always outliers to this claim, like the Tampa Bay Rays, who reached the 2008 World Series despite only averaging a 51% full stadium for their home games. But, largely, attendance is directly proportional to on-field performance and it's usually the most successful teams that experience the most successful attendance numbers. We have a prime example of that in Dallas, where the Mavericks have sold out an NBA-record 555 straight home games over the past 14 seasons, and the team has gone to playoffs in all but one of those seasons.
So, we can understand how attendance is affected historically for existing teams, but what about those who are brand-new or are slated to begin play in the coming years? Well, as of now, they're doing just fine.
The Orlando Sentinel published an article Tuesday reporting that Orlando City SC had sold-out it's allotment of 14,000 season tickets for the 2015 season. This is rather impressive for a club that just made the jump to MLS this season after previously playing at a facility with just over 5,000 seats. The same could be said for "Atlanta 2017," who despite not playing for another two seasons, reports are that the club already has over 5,000 signees for it's "Founders Club." -- Owner Arthur Blank says that number is actually 17,000. Reports are that NYCFC has around 16,000 season tickets -- which I can believe in a town that boasts two baseball, football, basketball and hockey teams.
So why do these future/new clubs have so much success securing season ticket holders while current MLS teams can't find the same luck? According to several MLS club sites and connected news sites, only five MLS teams have more season ticket holders than Orlando City. We're well aware of the lack of openness FC Dallas has on their season ticket holder amount, which only leads us to believe its too embarrassing to publish.
I think that several reasons point to why these new clubs experience season ticket riches.
Age of Information
Orlando City and New York City FC had the benefits of social media that clubs didn't have when MLS first started, or even during the turn of the decade when the league added several clubs. Back then, unless you followed MLS, you probably would not have known that teams like Seattle or Philadelphia were getting franchises, but now, no matter what sport you follow, if you pay attention to sports, it was hard to be unaware that Kaka and David Villa were coming stateside to start up new clubs. The teams ran massive campaigns filled with parties, press conferences, merchandise, PR events, etc. It's easier to market something that doesn't exist yet when the whole world can access your information at the press of a button.
The demand for soccer is much higher than it was twenty or even five years ago. Both clubs were coming into existence around a world cup that saw the US escape the "group of death" (although I still think we underperformed, but that's beside the point). Soccer is beginning to take hold with some pretty big roots in America and while there are plenty of factors contributing to that, new teams are reaping the biggest benefits.
FC Dallas has proof of this. Now, whenever Seattle, LA or Toronto comes to town, the game is marketed as a chance to see US National Team players in-person. The same goes in New York and Orlando. Every game, fans get the chance to see two of the games' greats play for their hometown team. This touches on the superstar vs. well-rounded roster debate, but what I'm getting at is that soccer simply matters more to Americans now than it ever has and in places like Orlando and Atlanta, where there aren't many ways in which soccer makes a mark, a new team to those areas is an attendance gold mine.
So, I'm most interested in these teams to see what their STH numbers look like in three or four years, maybe even more than their actual on-field success.
What are your thoughts on the matter? What do you think is the biggest reason for STH growth? How many tickets do you think FC Dallas could lock in if it were debuting next season? Comment below!