20 games into their 2016 MLS season, FC Dallas find themselves top of both the Western Conference and the Supporters’ Shield standings with an impressive 37 points.
Conversely, the club goes from the top of the league to the bottom of it when it comes to fan attendance at home matches. Website Soccer Stadium Digest routinely updates the 2016 MLS Attendance rankings following each match week, and as of July 10th, FC Dallas is last in MLS when it comes to average attendance per home match.
Ranked 20th out of the 20 MLS clubs, FC Dallas averages 13,932 spectators per home match according to the Soccer Stadium Digest rankings. Over the course of their 10 home matches in MLS play in 2016, FC Dallas has hosted a total of 139,316 fans, resulting in their 13,932 average per match.
That leaves a difference of 649 fans per match between FC Dallas in 20th and the Chicago Fire in 19th, and means that FC Dallas is the only MLS team in 2016 to average under 14,000 spectators at home games.
Toyota Stadium’s usual capacity of 20,500 has been reduced to about 16,500 for both this season and the 2017 season due to construction work for the National Soccer Hall of Fame in the South End of the stadium. However, Dallas’ current average attendance of just under 14,000 isn’t close to the current capacity of Toyota Stadium, something that is quite noticeable from both television coverage of home matches and attending them in person.
There is tremendous irony in the fact that the team widely regarded as being one of the youngest and most entertaining to watch in MLS struggles so mightily to generate support for home matches, but it is not all doom-and-gloom for FC Dallas.
The annual Fourth of July home match versus Orlando City produced an announced sellout crowd of 16,195 for FC Dallas, their first home crowd of over 16,000 since an April match against Sporting Kansas City (which is relevant because SKC always brings a decent traveling fan base to Frisco).
The emphatic 4-0 victory over Orlando City that night by FC Dallas was perhaps most important not for the three points it awarded them in the standings, but for the impression that the performance left on the over 16,000 people who attended the match.
Considering the combination of the suburban location of Toyota Stadium and the elevated price point for tickets in 2016 with the bleacher seats removed as part of the construction, it has become significantly harder for FC Dallas to attract home fans this season.
FC Dallas ranked 18th in MLS in 2015 when it came to attendance with an average crowd of 15,981, but their current average crowd of 13,932 leaves them over 2,000 fans behind last season’s pace.
With the struggles that FC Dallas has faced regarding ticket sales in 2016, that dominant showing against Orlando could go a long way in helping fill the seats more, however so slightly, in Frisco.
FC Dallas’ core group of fans that has consistently shown up in Frisco since the team’s recent resurgence will not be driven away from games, barring a collapse in the team’s on-field performance.
But where FC Dallas can make real strides to improve their attendance numbers is with the casual fan who would have gone to ONLY the annual Fourth of July home match (many fans attend this match specifically for the post-game fireworks).
Performances like the win over Orlando City can easily sway more fans to make a return trip to Frisco further along in the season, and FC Dallas’ current 15-match home unbeaten run won’t hurt prospects either.