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If we build it, will they come? Examining the effect of expansion teams and soccer-specific stadiums on Major League Soccer attendance

Timothy D. DeSchriver (Department of Business Administration, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware, USA)
Daniel A. Rascher (Sport Management Program, University of San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA)
Stephen L. Shapiro (Department of Human Movement Sciences, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia, USA)

Sport, Business and Management

ISSN: 2042-678X

Article publication date: 9 May 2016




Two of the primary growth strategies for Major League Soccer (MLS) have been team expansion and the construction of soccer-specific stadiums. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to determine the relationship between these factors and game-specific MLS spectator attendance.


Two multiple regression models, one using multi-level mixed effects linear regression and another using interval regression, were developed to explain the variation in attendance utilizing the two factors of interest along with other control factors that have been identified as attendance determinants in previous literature. Game-specific data were collected for five MLS seasons, 2007-2011.


The two regression models explained approximately 40 percent of the variation in spectator attendance and the results showed that expansion teams and soccer-specific stadiums were significantly related to attendance. However, the effect of soccer-specific stadiums was minimized due to the extreme success of the Seattle Sounders in drawing about twice as many fans as the next highest drawing franchise, yet playing in an American football stadium.

Research limitations/implications

While many of the standard factors such as the presence of holidays and novelty players, competition from other professional teams, and day of week, competition from other professional teams; team quality failed to show significance. Expansion teams drew better than incumbent teams and the impact from soccer-specific stadia is weak given the success of the Seattle franchise (and possibly negative when excluding Seattle). Censoring of the dependent variable had a discernible impact on many of the attendance factors.

Practical implications

These findings may be useful to managers of MLS and their teams along with other professional teams and/or leagues that are investigating the use of either team expansion or the construction of new facilities to increase spectator attendance.


This is the first study to investigate the relationship between expansion and new stadium construction in MLS over multiple years. The results indicate that MLS’s decision to use team expansion and the construction of soccer-specific stadiums has been beneficial with respect to spectator attendance.



DeSchriver, T.D., Rascher, D.A. and Shapiro, S.L. (2016), "If we build it, will they come? Examining the effect of expansion teams and soccer-specific stadiums on Major League Soccer attendance", Sport, Business and Management, Vol. 6 No. 2, pp. 205-227.



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