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MLS Kickoff: Soccer Seeing Incredible Growth In The United States

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MLS Kickoff: Soccer Seeing Incredible Growth In The United States

The 2017 MLS season officially kicked off this weekend, and the numbers seem to be lining up well for the league, which will field 22 clubs for the league’s 22nd year of existence.

Kicking Soccer Into Gear

New to this season are the additions of Atlanta United and Minnesota United, the latest expansion efforts in a league poised for another big year following a very successful 2016.

Business is booming across MLS, and the league’s target for 28 teams over the next decade has become more of a reality with prospective owners lining up to pay the $150 million required for an expansion club.

Related Link: Dan Gilbert, Tom Gores Want To Bring MLS To Detroit

Growth has been evident in nearly every piece of the league over the last six seasons, from average club worth, attendance and TV ratings and deals. In 2017, the league has a roster of blue-chip sponsors, including Home Depot Inc (NYSE: HD) and AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) in addition to team jersey deals with the likes of Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT).

Tickets, Secondary Market

According to data from TicketIQ, the overall secondary market for MLS tickets has grown 300 percent since 2011, more than any major sport, as measured by annual gross sales across the league. In an overall sports secondary ticket marketplace that is growing in single digits each year, it is staggering growth.

"This the only sport we track, where west coast demand is higher than East coast, which is an interesting realization and says a lot of changing demographics of the sport," said Jesse Lawrence of TicketIQ.

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In 2011, the league consisted of 18 clubs and the average listing price of the secondary market was $54. Six years and four additional clubs later, the league average on TicketIQ is now $66, which marks a 22 percent jump over that time. The majority of the growth, however, has come not from price but increases in quantity.

Over the last six years, the amount of tickets available on the secondary market has grown from an average of 5,758 seats for the season in 2011 to 22,961 in 2017. For a 15-game home season, that’s equates to about 1,500 tickets each game, up from under 500 in 2011. While the Western Conference has grown more as a measure of average listing price, the Eastern conference has far outpaced the West in terms of tickets for sale, another key measure of demand.

Affordability

Despite the increases in price, MLS still remains the most affordable ticket for secondary market ticket buyers. With a league-wide average of $66, that’s $120 less than the league-wide average for the NFL. After nearly shuttering its doors in 2001, the interest in new markets like Atlanta and Orlando attest to the growing value chain that MLS is creating not just for tickets, but across all sides of the business. The inclusion of six more teams in the near future means that it’s likely to keep growing at an impressive rate for years to come.

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