Here’s the current team average home attendance as of Monday, April 28.
Sacramento Republic FC (1): 20231
Rochester Rhinos (1): 6358
Orlando City SC (3): 4777
OKC Energy FC (1): 4230
Richmond Kickers (1+): 3507
Charleston Battery (3): 3234
Pittsburgh Riverhounds (2): 3078
Wilmington Hammerheads (2): 2945
Arizona United SC (3): 2907
Harrisburg City Islanders (1): 1711
Charlotte Eagles (3): 855
Orange County Blues FC (4): 847
LA Galaxy II (5): 779
Dayton Dutch Lions (2): 775
Let’s start at the top with the three highest “drawing” clubs in USL Pro. If you’ve been paying attention you’ll know that the number posted for the announced attendance may not equal the actual persons in seats and that the actual figure may not resemble what you saw on the livestream because there are also seats under the camera.
But back to the top three clubs:
Sacramento Republic FC; 20,231 = Holy wow!
The Republic are the toast of the town in American soccer after selling out Hughes Stadium for Saturday’s night home opening loss to Harrisburg. Get this: Sacramento has a higher 2014 season average than all of USL Pro (clearly, more than 3x), all of NASL (3x more than all but Indy Eleven), and 12 of the 19 MLS clubs. Sacramento outdrew the overall MLS average attendance for 2013 and for the first 8 weeks of 2014. The question for Sacramento is whether the team can replicate that figure for the next two home games before moving to the 8,000 capacity venue at Cal Expo for the remainder of the season.
Rochester Rhinos; 6358 = Is it for real?
I ask this question not only for the attendance figures but also for the results the club has grabbed so far. Rochester has been for a number of years the primary target of cynical internet users’ ire over bloated attendance numbers based on a range of evidence and delusions. This year’s home opener is better than 2013’s gate (Harrisburg City Islanders, 5963) but not quite as impressive as 2012’s first match Sahlen’s Stadium (Charlotte Eagles, 7953). As with that opening number, the results appear to be sandwiched between 2013 and 2012, which is fine by me.
Orlando City SC; 4777 = Coasting, or…
Orlando City received some (undue, in my opinion) criticism for the perceived notion that the club had nothing left to prove for the 2014 season. The Lions’ prowess over the previous three season in USL Pro had garnered the attention of MLS and, having been awarded an expansion franchise for 2015, Orlando had made it. While the team may be playing at a cramped venue in the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World. While the numbers just shy of 5,000 may not approach 2013’s 8,053 or even 2012’s 6606, Orlando is in no danger of losing too many of the 20,886 fans that turned up to the USL Pro Playoff Final last year against Charlotte ahead of its debut in MLS returning to the Citrus Bowl.
As for notable figures from the remaining 11 clubs:
OKC Energy FC; 4230 = Promising for a shiny new thing
You wouldn’t be wrong to accuse me of being cynical about lower division soccer. In USL Pro we’ve seen teams come and go (6 teams, to be precise) but potential organizational support from Sporting KC may provide the foundation for success for the 2014 expansion side. OKC Energy FC sold out the game and then sold “obstructed view” walk-up tickets for more than most teams charge for general admission. Good on them but similar to Sacramento (and as we’ve seen with the NASL’s Indy Eleven this year and to the opposite effect NY Cosmos last year) the second game is much more indicative of the strength of a team’s penetration in its market than the home opener. Will OKC’s next match at Pribil Stadium against OC Blues on May 10 bring a similar crowd of high-3000 or low-4000?
Orange County Blues FC; 847 = Has rebranding had an effect?
Through 4 games last season, the (then LA) Blues averaged 659 and finished the year between 542 and 718 [my number, missing three games, and Kenn‘s which includes super secret special detective numbers]. I’d like to say that the rebrand to the Orange County moniker and the move to UC Irvine from Cal State Fullerton and a myriad other venues, a stabilization I begged for over the past two years, has been successful but hte jury is still out.
Dayton Dutch Lions; 775 = The little locomotief that could?
I gosh-darn hope so.
I apologize for the expletive language above but I want this club to succeed so badly. Now with VSI Tampa Bay FC Flames rightly extricated from the league, Dayton holds the unwanted tag of “Lowest Drawing Club in USL Pro.” I know a certain leader of the
rechterhand van de leeuwen who deserves larger numbers not only in the Oranje Legion but overall in the Dutch Lion’s home, and maybe that’ll happen at DOC.
A lot of the other numbers are what has come to be expected. Pittsburgh (in the still shiny Highmark Stadium), Wilmington, Richmond, and Charleston will form the solid middle of USL Pro. Arizona United SC has started out well but so did Phoenix FC last year; hopefully this club can maintain its current position in the middle of the pack. LA Galaxy II isn’t trying to win attendance awards but the Eagles will want to leave a lasting mark before it sells its market franchise rights.