The USL holds dual roles as a developmental league (for the MLS2s) and a competitive soccer league for fans in cities without higher quality. Reported USL attendance from the regular season echoes that.
In case you're curious, "Independent" USL teams (those that aren't primarily constructed to be developmental squads for MLS clubs) averaged 4,154 and those "MLS2" teams were at 1,779 (led, not surprisingly, by Portland and Seattle, who tend to lead most things).
More people are interested in competitive soccer than in developmental soccer. It's why more people show up to watch high school soccer than Academy games, and it puts Seattle Sounders FC 2 in an interesting place heading to their second season.
Can they use S2 to expand their brand? Can it reach out to fans of the team that cannot afford tickets to CenturyLink?
The evidence from year one is mild. No momentum was developed. As the experience was more familiar to the fanbase, fewer people showed at Starfire.
There were missteps in the beginning. After saying that smoke would be permitted in the ECS section, that was eliminated just two games into the season. Promised food truck appearances were intermittent. The shuttle from downtown Seattle did not last through the year.
But people still showed, the ability to connect to players is stronger at this level than at the MLS level. Only Salt Lake and Portland supported their 2s more than the Seattle area did. The Sounders have a huge soccer brand. That brand moved hundreds of season tickets.
That brand carries expectations, maybe unreal expectations, about attendance and marketing. The Sounders, at any level, are expected to outsell places like Sacramento, Louisville, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, St. Louis, Charlotte, etc.
One of the things that could help that is to get a TV partner. The only team that out-gated S2 that does not have a local TV contract is Portland. Another thing to help grab attention of locals is to attract more local talent, that's a goal, but many other year-one USL clubs actually did it. Listening to away games there was a steady stream of "so-and-so went to [blank] local high school." Further integrating the Academy should payoff with both development and with attendance.
Re-activating the passion that launched the Sounders Community Trust by pointing out the exact progress made towards its incorporation as a non-profit entity and the work done towards the promised building expansion is necessary. Increasing connections to South King County by expanding partnerships with local restaurants and youth soccer clubs is necessary. Throughout minor league sports the local community is more important than creating connections to the cultural center of the metro area. Most minor league sports fans will not drive a dozen miles to see lower quality play.
The USL is adding at least three teams (Cincinnati, Dynamo2, Philly2) and losing one (Austin). As a league it is more stable than ever. Locally, the opportunity to expand interest in the organization and develop more players is still there.