Taking Attendance 3/16/2020: MASL finishes up 11 percent in truncated season

Crowd at a Milwaukee Wave home game 12/31/2019

Like virtually every other professional sports entity in America, the Major Arena Soccer League called a halt to its season as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. As only 10 days remained in the season1The final standings – as well as those from every season – are here., the MASL just called off everything, and there’s little chance there will be any playoffs. (In case you’re wondering, there aren’t a ton of MASL players who have outdoor soccer jobs to go to this time of year – not that there are any outdoor games that will be played anytime soon, either – but losing its workforce doesn’t seem to be a consideration when it comes to the question of picking up with playoffs in a few weeks’ time.)

The 25 cancelled games likely wouldn’t have had much of an impact on the league’s final attendance average, as it’s been hovering around 2,500 a game for some time now. By finishing at 2,554 per game, the MASL recorded a 10.7 percent increase over last season (which was the lowest in the league’s short history and worst by a “major2Tee-hee.” league in decades), but the season was not without its problems.

Team G Total Average Median High Low
Milwaukee Wave1142,3153,8474,0245,8162,285
Utica City FC932,3623,5963,5203,7523,457
St. Louis Ambush1030,9623,0963,2904,8211,389
Rochester Lancers1236,1143,0103,1703,8222,118
Florida Tropics1029,8532,9852,8504,3181,938
Soles de Sonora1028,9042,8903,0004,5002,000
Kansas City Comets1131,5762,8712,5665,1261,677
San Diego Sockers1027,4612,7462,5784,0812,003
Baltimore Blast1231,6972,6412,5353,7451,503
Mesquite Outlaws1231,1622,5972,7424,5361,169
Tacoma Stars922,6712,5192,5343,1911,957
Monterrey Flash1127,4832,4982,1475,6151,970
Harrisburg Heat922,2162,4682,6383,6811,004
Dallas Sidekicks1226,4642,2052,2092,6681,777
Ontario Fury1123,1712,1061,9223,5981,309
Orlando Seawolves86,1147647391,356325
Turlock Cal Express114,145377395580230
MASL TOTAL178454,6702,5542,5105,816230

NOTES:

  • Milwaukee returned to league leadership after being usurped by the Sockers a year ago. The Wave were down about four percent year-over-year and had one home game remaining, a Sunday afternoon tilt against Baltimore that, years ago, could have been counted on to turn out fans. With the current state of the indoor game, though, that wasn’t a guarantee. Milwaukee had the biggest crowd of the season, an announced 5,816 on New Year’s Eve against Mesquite (pictured at top).
  • San Diego made a good case for the idea that last year’s league-leading figure of 4,181 per game3The first time a San Diego club had ever led its league in average announced attendance. was almost completely about Landon Donovan. In six games prior to Donovan’s signing in 2018-2019, the Sockers averaged 2,640 a game. This year, sans Donovan, they averaged 2,746, about four percent better than the pre-Donovan slate, but a season-high crowd of 4,081 for a game against Milwaukee on Feb. 29 helped boost that figure a bit. Overall, the Sockers were down 34 percent, year-over-year, the second-biggest drop in the league.
  • The biggest drop belonged to the Orlando SeaWolves, who may be pushing up the daisies by the time you read this. The ‘Wolves, who averaged an announced 1,230 a year ago in their first season after relocating from Cedar Rapids4The league never said it, but it was basically a relocation, as the ownership and some players left one city for another and nothing was ever said about the Rampage again. fell 38 percent in announced average this season. The real numbers were likely worse, as the team became wards of the league when ownership skipped town in December. Somehow, they managed to win a game, likely their last, as I would not expect to see Orlando return next season.
  • Other significant drops were in Baltimore (down 20 percent5More on this in a moment.), Dallas (down 16 percent), Turlock (down 12 percent) and Ontario (down 11 percent). Tacoma (six percent), Milwaukee (four percent) and Monterrey (four percent) were the others showing lower final averages this season than last.
  • So how did the league finish up 11 percent? Well, first they lost the poorly drawing El Paso, Rio Grande Valley and Mississauga teams, but a handful of clubs also saw significant gains to make the math turn out like it did. Kansas City (which was dismal a year ago while going through a late ownership transition) was up 44 percent to lead everybody. Florida (up 22 percent with a first-place team) and St. Louis (up 21 percent with a promising side that still wouldn’t have made the playoffs6The Ambush have played more indoor games – 147 – without ever qualifying for the playoffs than any team ever.) led the way. Harrisburg was up 13 percent and Utica five percent. Rochester somehow averaged 3,010 per game in an arena that isn’t supposed to seat nearly that many to finish fourth in the attendance standings and pull that average up a bit.
  • Now, back to Baltimore. Yes, the Blast probably had little choice but to find a new place to play three seasons ago, and SECU Arena in Towson is certainly more modern and cleaner than their ancestral home downtown7Most buildings are, though I loved the vantage point for broadcasters at the old arena., but the Blast have seen their crowds drop by 24 percent since the move – from 3,941 the first season to 2,641 this season. As referenced in our previous look at MASL attendance, some of the smallest crowds in Baltimore indoor soccer history have come this season. With a fourth-place finish this season following a tiebreaker-second place showing a year ago, the Blast have failed to finish first in back-to-back years after eight straight division or league regular-season championships.
  • As you probably know if you’ve been following along, indoor soccer attendance generally appears to pick up after New Year’s Day8Though last year there was a drop after the ball dropped., though it’s largely an effect caused by December being historically a terrible month for selling tickets. This season, the pre-Jan. 1 average was 2,545, while rest of the season drew a nearly identical average of 2,558. (December was the worst month again this season, with 41 games averaging 2,378.)
  • Saturdays were the best days for drawing a crowd (no surprise), with 56 games averaging just under 3k at 2,944. Sundays were second-best9Though three Tuesday games averaged 3,590. at 2,704. If the league would just stop playing games on any other day, they might have something, as Saturdays and Sundays combined averaged 2,836 – nearly 700 a game ahead of the Monday-through-Friday average of 2,176.
  • Seven games in the second week averaged 3,426, but only two other weeks even cracked 3k per game, and then just barely.

Now it’s time to play the annual “how many teams does the league lose before next season?” game. The answer was “three” last year after the MetroStars went belly-up right at the start of the season. My sense is that Orlando is certainly toast, Dallas could be and we could see at least one more club breathe its last. With no expansion teams announced yet for next season, we could see the smallest MASL ever if and when the 2020-2021 season kicks off.

Kenn Tomasch

Kenn Tomasch

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