MLS Midweek Interest

Thursday, August 12, 2010 | View Comments
HARRISON, NJ - AUGUST 11: Joel Lindpere of the New York Red Bulls is congratulated by his teammates on his goal against the Toronto FC at Red Bull Arena on August 11, 2010 in Harrison, New Jersey. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Midweek soccer is still a tough sell in America. Even in markets where the local side is well-supported, it's often difficult to fill stadiums on a Wednesday or Thursday night; for a myriad of reasons, Americans just don't do weeknights in large numbers (save one or two exceptions).

Which made last night's two league matches heartening, in a way. New York announced 19,035 (not all there in person, but it was still a good crowd) at Red Bull Arena and the Union had 16,000 at PPL Park. Sure, New York now has Henry to go with their shiny new stadium, but Toronto is hardly a big time visiting draw; the Union, meanwhile, have a passionate fan base that gives them a home advantage every time out in year one of the club.

I don't know that last night is indicative of an increase in midweek attendance across the league, and I'm not able to do any research at the moment. But it's just cool to see people out at the park on a Wednesday night, sign of a trend or not.

Alternate competitions, the US Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League, will remain a problem, and the former will likely never get fans excited enough to show up in large numbers. But if the league is considering a 34 game schedule for 2011 and must put more games in midweek slots, there's at least hope that respectable numbers will show up in a handful of cities.

I dig good atmosphere. Both of those games last night had it. It's too bad that neither was nationally televised, but without knowing the specifics of TV contracts, it's hard for me to come down on anyone for that. Production cost money.

Oh, and the games weren't too bad either. That definitely helps. Sellouts on the weekends are flashier, but it's ultimately growing midweek numbers that will reveal the strides MLS is making as a marketable entertainment product.

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