With MLS attendance hitting an all-time high in 2011, it is evident that Don Garber and company have found some terrific new expansion areas that are obsessed with the global sport. While these vibrant and terrific new fan bases have helped bring some fantastic attention to the MLS, they have also highlighted the struggling teams who can't seem to keep up with the rest of the league.
Just this past week rumors circulated throughout the MLS world about a possible DC United move to Baltimore, as Don Garber looks to get rid of the weaker franchises in favor of more attractive ones. What weak franchises am I talking about? Click through to see the teams on the hot seat.
Stadium: Gillette Stadium (22,385)
Problems: Distance from City, Poor Attendance, Turf Surface
I realize it would be hard to change the brand of yet another Original 10 team, but something must be altered for the Revolution to regain the respect of MLS fans around the league.
The Revolution’s average attendance in 2011 was a mere 13,222, good for fourth-worst in the league and dead last for teams playing in non-soccer specific stadiums. Gillette Stadium’s significant distance from the city has always been a complaint by fans and is most likely the reason why the team can’t compete with other MLS teams in terms of support.
Although stadium plans have been considered, the Revolution are one of the last teams who still are without even plans for a respectable, new stadium. A move to Somerville, Mass., has been a rumor for as long as I can remember, but Bob Kraft is going to need to turn rumors into reality if he wants to keep his hometown club in New England.
Stadium: Columbus Crew Stadium (20,455)
Problems: Lack of Support, Poor Promotion
The Crew have never been one of the big boys when it comes to fan support, but the fact that the team could barely break 12,000 over the summer when the team was atop the East hints that a move might be necessary.
The thrill of having an MLS team in town has died down over the last few years and the city has apparently forgotten it is a privilege to have such a good franchise in the area. However, it is not the lack of facilities or a soccer-specific stadium that is preventing fans from going to the games. It is sadly something much less simple.
Stadium: Home Depot Center (27,000)
Problems: Lack of Support, Shared Fan Base with Galaxy
It probably sounded better in the heads of MLS officials seven years ago to have a second team in Los Angeles. Chivas has adopted the “little brother” role to that of the Galaxy and just can’t seem to draw the crowds that their crosstown rivals consistently receive in Hollywood.
While Chivas USA did not post the worst average attendance in the league for 2011, they did have the worst capacity percentage of any team for the second year in a row. Unless Chivas can find a way to start getting support like the MLS expected them to, San Diego and Phoenix continue to look like appealing alternative options.
Stadium: RFK Stadium (23, 865)
Problems: Poor Facilities, Lack of Consistent Support
With all the speculation about where DC will host their opponents in the near future, they are obviously the franchise with which the word “relocation” is most relevant to on this list.
Clearly annoyed with the prestigious club’s lack of plans for a new home, MLS commissioned a survey this past week that asked fans questions of whether or not they would support the team’s relocation to neighboring city Baltimore in the near future.
The survey was somewhat of a silent ultimatum for the United front office, suggesting that something must be done in order for the Men in Black to stay in the nation’s capital. In response to the survey, DCU team president Kevin Payne said “This isn’t a game. This is serious.”
Let’s see if DC United can figure out a serious solution in time.