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Putting Seattle Sounders' Record Attendance In Perspective

In the weekly notes that the team sends the Sounders called out their fourth straight attendance record - now at an average of 43,144. That beats 2011 and 2010 and 2009 records, all held by Seattle.

Just some people watching a little local soccer match
Just some people watching a little local soccer match
Otto Greule Jr

It is an impressive record. It is often put into perspective compared to other soccer leagues or sports leagues in the United States. Here's the way the team presented in their weekly release;

Attendance Records Broken

The Sounders FC faithful further cemented themselves atop the Major League Soccer supporters ranks with another impressive showing throughout the 2012 regular season. Seattle's average attendance of 43,144 set a league record for the fourth consecutive year, breaking last season's record of 38,948. The total attendance was 733,441, nearly 80,000 more than the 2011 total.

Sounders FC hosted the second-largest crowd for a standalone game in league history when 66,452 packed CenturyLink Field for the 3-nil win over the Portland Timbers on October 7. Seattle hosted over 60,000 fans for two matches this season, which were the two top single-game crowds in 2012. Over 38,000 people attended each of the 17 home matches as the consecutive sellout streak reached 67 games.

Among the World Ranks

The lore of Seattle supporters reaches far beyond the Pacific Northwest. The attendance average of 43,144 would rank near the top of all the professional leagues worldwide. In Major League Baseball, Seattle's average attendance would ranks third. The average would be sixth in the English Premier League, fourth in Spain's La Liga and Italy's Serie A, and 11th in the German Bundesliga.

It's really impressive. But one of the things we in Seattle forget at times is how much MLS struggled in the past. The league's history is such that the Pacific Northwest was disconnected from American soccer at the top flight so the odd rules of the 90s, the contraction of Miami and Tampa and the slow crawl to relevance are not part of a Sounders fan's psyche.

Here's some other perspective about the extraordinary attendance numbers we have here in Seattle.

  • The increase in average attendance from 2009 to 2012 (~13,000) essentially matches four MLS teams average attendance this season.
  • From founding to 2012 only three separate MLS teams hold average annual attendance that was not doubled by Seattle this year - Los Angeles, New York and Montreal. New York and Montreal only did that in a single team-season. Eleven of LA's team-seasons were strong enough to not be doubled by this year's 43,000+ in CenturyLink Field.
  • From founding to the present a total of 58 team-season of average attendance were tripled by this year's Seattle number. LA and San Jose are the only "originals" to not be in that group. No Garber era expansion team is in the list.
  • Seattle beat its old record by increasing attendance by 13.55% over last season. Only two teams managed to increase at a higher rate from 2011 to 2012 - Columbus and Houston.
  • It would take any two of the next five largest stadiums to fit Seattle's average attendance. Or to put it the opposite way take any two of the thirteen smallest stadiums and you can't fit 43,000+.
  • Total attendance in Seattle will end the year at around 890 thousand for all Sounders matches with only a single home playoff match. It would seem 1 Million is a decent target for 2013.
  • While the Sounders had huge attendance numbers, they also have the highest local TV rating of any current MLS market.

MLS has come a long way. Seattle is a large part of that. At the same time, it had a long way to come and has a long way to go to be meet its stated goal of being a "top league in the world" by 2022. Seattle can't be such a huge exception for that to be true.

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