With just over a month to go in the regular season, there’s not much movement in the Major Arena Soccer League attendance chart from the last time we took a look at their crowds. The MASL is still puttering along, drawing around 2,500 a game or so, with none of the 17 teams offering real optimism for the future of the indoor game at the gate.
After this weekend’s games, which included the return leg of the top-of-the-tables series between Milwaukee and Florida, the MASL attendance numbers look like this:
|Utica City FC||7||25,403||3,629||3,711||3,752||3,459|
|St. Louis Ambush||8||24,270||3,034||2,801||4,821||1,389|
|Kansas City Comets||8||23,524||2,941||2,457||5,126||1,677|
|Soles de Sonora||*7||20,000||2,857||3,000||4,500||2,000|
|San Diego Sockers||8||20,966||2,621||2,578||3,259||2,003|
|Turlock Cal Express||9||3,601||400||398||580||298|
|*One game not reported. Rest assured it was an even number, like 3,000 or 4,000 or something.|
- Milwaukee is leading the league again, as they did in 2017-2018 for the first time in 16 years. But where the Wave’s league-leading 2001-2002 average was 6,670, they’re announcing a little more than half that these days. And their possible finals preview showdown with the Florida Tropics Sunday enticed just under 3,000 to turn out.
- But no one has fallen farther than the Baltimore Blast, who were the attendance leaders in whatever league they were playing in every year from 2004-2012 (and again from 2015 to 2017). Yes, they moved from their ancestral home in downtown Baltimore to a much smaller arena in Towson three years ago, but even there they are seeing diminishing crowds. The Blast has lost about 1,000 fans per game on average from their first year in Towson and recorded a crowd of 1,503 for their Dec. 14 game against Utica – the smallest in the 40-year history of indoor soccer in Baltimore. Okay, eleven days before Christmas and all that. But since then, they’ve announced gatherings of 2,013, 1,833 and 2,121, meaning four of the six smallest crowds in Baltimore history have come in the last couple of months.
- The San Diego Sockers saw a big short-term boost from stunt-casting Landon Donvan last year, as they led the league in attendance (at 4,181) for the first time in their history1Histories, properly. This is the third iteration of the Sockers.. This year, sans Donovan, they’re right back where they were before, averaging an announced 2,621 for eight home games. (They’d averaged 2,640 for six home games last year before signing LD.) But they’re basically killing time in San Diego before they hope to move to a new arena in Oceanside in the near future.
- Other teams seeing significantly fewer people at games include Dallas, Ontario (both down 17 percent from their final averages of a year ago), and Orlando (down 40 percent from last year’s already abysmal record), whose owner/GM/coach disappeared in December and who’s being carried by the league, presumably until their final game on March 22 against Rochester.
- That game should be fun, as it’s possible the Lancers will be 0-23 at that point, while Orlando, whose patchwork team has been competitive early in games only to have their lack of depth and experience betray them, might be 1-22. I’ll check before we get to that point, but that might be the regular-season indoor game with the worst combined record of the two teams in the history of the sport.
- Rochester, despite its 0-16 record, is averaging an announced 3,048 a game2In an arena that was touted as only holding 2,164 folks., third-best in the league. The Lancers have given up double-digit goals in 11 of their 16 games, including seven of their last eight. (That’s not a league record – the 2016-2017 El Paso Coyotes gave up 10 or more goals on 15 occasions in their 0-20 debut season, but it’s something to shoot for!)
- Yes, bizarrely, San Diego and Monterrey have announced the exact same totals through the exact same number of home games.
- Other notable positives include Kansas City (up 48 percent over last year’s final numbers), Harrisburg (up 26 percent), St. Louis (up 19 percent) and Florida (up 16 percent). The league overall is about 9 percent ahead of last year’s final average, which was the lowest in an indoor league of consequence in more than 30 years.
If every team holds their current average for the last 34 days of the season, the MASL will finish with a final average announced attendance of 2,524, a couple hundred a game better than a year ago, but around where they’ve been since launch. With no announced expansion teams for next season yet, and with Orlando surely toast and the ever-present specter of other teams folding, I would not be overly optimistic about the future of the indoor game.
What’s the problem? Several things, it says here: these teams aren’t relevant in their local markets because most of them have barely had time to get any traction. Outdoor soccer has siphoned off the vast majority of the skill players, who can make somewhat of a living outdoors and not risk their knees to the artificial surfaces and aggressive defenders of the indoor game. And, primarily, because there’s no money to be made in the game and very little to invest. The last indoor soccer team owners with any real money were probably Jeff Vanderbeek and Michael Gilfillan, who owned the New Jersey Ironmen. That lasted all of two years. People with enough funding to make a go of it are too smart to lose it trying to pump up this moribund sport.