The 4th week of fixtures in USSF Division 2 have just come to an end, but already there are some alarming signs in terms of attendances for teams in both the NASL and USL.
The Minnesota Stars were only able to attract 753 people to their match against Austin Aztex on Saturday. As shocking as this figure is, it’s an improvement on the 627 people they drew to their match against Rochester Rhinos three days previously.
The interest of around 1700 people obviously having waned since the novelty of the team’s first ever home game just days before that. Or perhaps three games in eight days is too much for the Minnesota public to handle.
Another new club, AC St Louis, have lost nearly 3000 fans from their first home game to their second, but it’s not just the new kids on the block that are feeling the pinch.
The Portland Timbers seem to have a thing for Thursday night games. Two of their three home League games so far this season have been on a Thursday. The other a Saturday. Both the weekday games, including the Caps trip down there last week, attracted crowds of just over 5,800. Their season opener was on a Saturday and drew a crowd of 15,418.
They have four more Thursday night games and two Wednesday night games scheduled for the rest of the season, so it will be interesting to see if this is just a blip due to other attractions being on in the city, namely the Portland Trail Blazers being in the NBA playoffs and having home games clashing with both the Timbers Thursday games.
Now I can take or leave basketball to be honest. I never see the point in watching anything but the last two minutes of games. That would surely have let the Portland fans see both the Timbers and Trail Blazers play on the same night!
The other part of the Timbers problem is that they have to schedule their games in conjunction with the Portland Beavers minor league baseball team. No excuse for having the Caps play on a Thursday night though as they then arranged a friendly on the Saturday instead, depriving more Caps fans making the journey down from Vancouver for the weekend. We also host Portland on a Thursday night, which is equally as farcical.
I have nothing against midweek games personally. In fact, I love the fact that our Voyageurs Cup games are on a Wednesday. There’s few better atmospheres than at nightime, midweek Cup matches in my experience.
The Caps themselves have been hit with lower attendances for their two home league games this season and the pre season game against Seattle. I’m blaming that on the crappy 4pm kick off times. It has been said that it’s because the Vancouver public don’t like the cold April nights. Well they don’t seem to like the early April afternoons either!
With so many other sporting attractions clashing with the football season here, what is seen as minority teams and sports are always going to struggle to gain a foothold. That’s why scheduling and timings are key to maximising attendances.
We’re going to take a hit on Wednesday when our opening Nutrilite match is going to clash with the Canucks in the NHL playoffs. Same problems as Portland and I fear a same result attendancewise.
Midweek matches and early kick off times will not do for us in general going forward. Hopefully the Whitecaps front office will take notice and have some say in the scheduling of their MLS matches next season. I do have a fear that television will dictate early kick offs to allow double headers being shown with TFC matches.
As for this season, if the clubs are struggling to attract the numbers at the start of the season when everything should be all fresh and new, I fear for the future of some of these clubs come the season end. Yes, there was all the uncertainty about the League(s) actually happening this year, but now it’s here, where are the fans? If people really do need more time to decide to come and watch games then that’s frightening.
With the three big supported sides all scheduled to leave for pastures new, the future of division two football in North America could take a big hit.