A Look at MLS Supporters Section Season Ticket Prices

Money Tifo

BY BILL REESE
Staff Writer

The 2014 Major League Soccer season is about to kick off, and the front offices of all 19 MLS clubs are ramping up efforts to sell as many new season tickets as they can before opening day.

The fans most likely to have bought or renewed their season tickets are the league’s supporters groups, who generally occupy the stadium’s endline sections and typically pay the lowest season ticket prices — a “reward” for their continued loyalty.

Not all MLS clubs are equal, and as a result, not all season tickets are priced equally. A number of factors — fan demand, on-field performance, and both internal and external economics — contribute to the cost of each plan.

Here’s a breakdown of what supporter groups are paying around the league.

Table 1

Observations:

• DC United continues to pay the highest season ticket prices in the league. They had the dubious honor of having the highest number of losses and highest season ticket price last season as well.

There are two reasons for this. As anyone who has seen a DC game on TV or at RFK Stadium knows, the supporters groups are situated on the sideline at RFK stadium — not on the endline as is the case in just about all other MLS parks. Naturally, the premium vantage point comes with a higher ticket price, a league-high $468. However, there is a “cheaper” option for DC fans; a corner flag section where a season seat costs $360 — a price that would be tied for fourth-highest in the league if counted by itself.

One important thing should be noted; while DC’s season tickets are the highest price for any supporters section, their full-year cost is the lowest for lower-bowl midfield seats. Even Chivas fans pay more to sit at midfield. The other factor for DC’s high ticket price is the high rent DC United pays for playing at RFK Stadium. DC loses roughly $2.5 million every year in rent and other fees paid to the District of Columbia, equal to the salary of a quality Designated Player. Those losses need to be made up somewhere.

Graphic 1

  • The cheapest season ticket in MLS is — unsurprisingly — for Chivas USA at $180. Amazingly, a season ticket for reigning Western Conference Champion Real Salt Lake is only $20 more at $200 — a much smaller gap than the gap between the levels of play on the pitch. True, Utah’s standard of living is not nearly as high as Los Angeles or New York, but RSL has been to two MLS Cup finals, a US Open Cup final and a CONCACAF Champions League final in their brief, successful tenure.
  • LA Galaxy are the only other team besides DC United where the designated supporters section is not the cheapest ticket available. Parts of the StubHub Center upper deck are a bit cheaper than the areas behind the goal. Interestingly, LA Galaxy are currently selling a two-year season ticket plan that is cheaper than buying a plan just for 2014 alone. In a potential nod to the rumored 28-game MLS schedule next season, LA Galaxy’s ticket prices are “per-game” rather than a flat cost for the season.
  • The vast majority of season ticket plans across MLS contain at least one extra game. Those extra games include everything from MLS Cup Playoff, U.S. Open Cup, Canadian Championship, CONCACAF Champions League, and international friendly matches. Three clubs, Colorado, New England, and Seattle, only offer the 17-game MLS regular season in their plan, with no bonus games.

Graphic2

  • The average season ticket price (for designated supporters sections) across the league is $310. The average cost per game is $16.71, with the lowest being a tie between Chivas and RSL ($10 per game) and the highest being for DC United ($26 per game).
  • There are other perks with season ticket membership around the league. Most fans get a scarf, access to a pregame pub, parking discounts, access to an autograph session. Those are fairly standard. Some clubs offer some truly unique incentives. Montreal Impact fans who renewed early had an option of a free away ticket to the match against Canadian rivals Toronto FC. Chivas USA fans (yes, they do exist) get not one, but two free Chivas USA jerseys just for renewing. A number of clubs also give out free subscriptions to the MLS Live digital package as well.

What about other sections of the stadium? It’s not as cut and dry. Each MLS team is different, and their stadiums, local market conditions and other factors make it a bit harder to analyze as a whole.

One thing is hard to argue: generally speaking, MLS tickets are a relative bargain compared to the four established major leagues. This is little consolation to the fan on a budget, but the league’s games remain remarkably affordable, especially for the supporters groups.