Seattle Sounders break MLS attendance record, average 44,038 fans per game

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Major League Soccer attendance statistics are in and, once again, the Seattle Sounders are setting records.

For the fifth year running the Sounders set an MLS attendance record by averaging 44,038 fans per game at CenturyLink Field.

For contextual purposes, that’s higher than any team in Major League Baseball, save the Los Angeles Dodgers who averaged 46,216, and more than double the average attendance of the Seattle Mariners.

Comparing that number to the Premier League, Seattle trumps the average attendance of Sunderland A.F.C. by an average of 3,500 fans. The Stadium of Light, which holds 49,000 supporters, recorded an average of 40,544 fans during the 2012-13 season.

The Sounders’ attendance rate was also more than double any other MLS team, with the LA Galaxy’s 21,770 next in line and only three other teams (Portland, Montreal, Vancouver) averaging 20,000 fans or more.

While Seattle’s attendance rate is impressive, the numbers would not be possible but for the NFL-sized capacity of CenturyLink Field. The Link, along with Vancouver’s BC Place (54,320), New England Revolution’s Gillette Stadium (68,756) and D.C. United’s RFK Stadium (47,359), is one of four MLS stadiums that possesses the capability of putting 40,000+ fans into the seats. No other MLS stadium has a capacity above 27,000.

(MORE: Up next for the record-setting Sounders, the Cosmos’ American attendance mark)

For the second year in a row total MLS attendance topped out at 6 million, while the league average took a slight dip (1.1%) from 18,807 in 2012 to 18,594 fans in 2013.

Eleven MLS teams increased their average attendance – Columbus Crew (12%), FC Dallas (8%), New York (6%), New England (6%), Vancouver Whitecaps (3%), Colorado Rapids (2%), Seattle Sounders (2%), Sporting KC (2%), Portland (1%), Real Salt Lake (1%), Toronto FC (.08%) – while eight teams experienced decreases. Notable drops included Montreal, down 10% as the Impact moved from Olympic Stadium to the Stade de Saputo, and LA Galaxy, down 6% following the departure of David Beckham.

It was hardly surprising that the dysfunctional Chivas USA was the team with the most significant decrease in average attendance, plunging 36 percent to 8,366 fans a game. So on behalf of all MLS fans let me just say – muchas gracias, Jorge Vergara.

2013 MLS Attendance:
AVG. TEAM (+/-)
44,038 Seattle (+2%)
21,770 LA Galaxy (-6%)
20,674 Portland (+1%)
20,603 Montreal (-10%)
20,097 Vancouver (+3%)
19,923 Houston (-5%)
19,709 Sporting KC (+2%)
19,461 New York (+6%)
19,218 Real Salt Lake (+1%)
18,131 Toronto FC (+.08%)
17,867 Philadelphia (-4%)
16,080 Columbus (+12%)
15,499 Colorado (+2%)
15,373 FC Dallas (+8%)
15,228 Chicago (-7%)
14,844 New England (+6%)
13,646 D.C. United (-1%)
12,765 San Jose (-4%)
8,366 Chivas USA (-36%)
18,594 LEAGUE (-1.1%)

Highest MLS Attendance:
AVG. TEAM (+/-)
44,038 Seattle (2013)
43,144 Seattle (2012)
38,496 Seattle (2011)
36,173 Seattle (2010)
30,897 Seattle (2009)
28,916 Los Angeles (1996)
26,009 Los Angeles (2008)
24,252 Los Angeles (2007)
24,204 Los Angeles (2005)
23,898 MetroStars (1996)

Lowest MLS Attendance:
AVG. TEAM (+/-)
7,460 Miami (2000)
7,906 Dallas (2003)
8,072 Kansas City (1998)
8,183 Kansas City (1999)
8,336 Chivas USA (2013)
8,689 Miami (1999)
9,058 Kansas City (1997)
9,088 Dallas (2004)
9,112 Kansas City (2000)
9,635 San Jose (2010)

Schweinsteiger waiting on visa, training in Mallorca

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Bastian Schweinsteiger is waiting on a visa to make his trip to Chicago official.

It’s a formality, albeit a bit trickier now given the political climate in the United States. The former Manchester United midfielder is training at Real Mallorca ahead of the move.

The transfer was announced one week ago, and Schweinsteiger is anxious to get back on the pitch. Set for a 1-year, $4.5 million deal, the midfielder has not missed any Chicago matches yet.

[ MORE: Under-the-radar Premier League XI ]

The Fire is 1-1-1 to start the new season under Veljko Paunovic, and has three home matches next: Montreal (Saturday), Columbus (Apr. 8), and New England (Apr. 15)

Report: Arsenal interested in Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel

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According to a report by The Sun, Arsenal is monitoring the progress of Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

The rumor does make sense. With Petr Cech at 34 years old and having a poor season in front of net and backup David Ospina failing to challenge him for the starting job, the Gunners are looking elsewhere to bring in a potential future starter.

Schmeichel has been one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League the past two seasons. Last season he led the Foxes to the Premier League title, organizing a stunningly good defensive line of patchwork players. This season, the defense has largely regressed and let Schmeichel down, but he has still performed well and has the metrics to remain one of the league’s top shot-stoppers.

The Danish keeper is 30 years old himself, but that puts him in his prime for a goalkeeper. He has been with Leicester City since 2011, and he will tick 250 appearances for the club with his next match. Schmeichel was rumored to be a member of the secret player delegation that worked hard to see Claudio Ranieri pushed out of the club, a sentiment which he and the other players have strongly denied.

Still, with an improbable Premier League title in hand and an appearance in the Champions League quarterfinals now on the cards, there probably isn’t much else for him at Leicester City. It’s possible Schmeichel could look to bank on his past performances and secure a move to a bigger club this summer.

Should Arsene Wenger stay with Arsenal past this season, a possibility that looks more and more likely, he could look to move on from Cech despite signing the former Chelsea goalkeeper just two summers ago.

Diego Costa injured, but will stay with Spain squad for friendly

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Chelsea striker Diego Costa pulled up in Spain training on Sunday, and with the Blues in first in the Premier League and Costa in great form, there were obvious concerns.

With Costa struggling with leg and ankle injuries, the RFEF informed Chelsea that there was an issue, and Costa was pulled from training and sent for tests. X-Rays at the local hospital in Madrid were negative, and he’s rejoined the squad.

According to the RFEF, doctors will continue to monitor the 28-year-old and he will continue with the national team for the rest of the international break. With a World Cup qualification win over Israel already in the books and just a friendly against France to go on Tuesday, it’s odd that Spain would risk Costa moving forward, but they will continue to keep him around.

Costa has scored 18 goals this season to lead the Blues, and he scored in the win over Israel. Spain takes on France in Saint-Denis on Tuesday, with both teams leading their World Cup qualification groups. Spain has a goal-differential lead on Italy with both teams miles above the rest of the Group G, and France is ahead of Sweden by three points in Group A, with the Netherlands back in fourth.

Foul or flop? Player “headbutts” referee, is sent off

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Well, there must be something in the water down in Brasilia, because things got a little weird this evening.

Flamengo drew with Vasco da Gama 2-2, but that was just the start.

In the 54th minute, with Vasco da Gama leading 1-0 at Estadio Nacional Mané Garrincha, 36-year-old Luis Fabiano was sent off for “headbutting” the referee. Headbutting is in quotes because looking at the video, it certainly appears there was little to no contact, and the referee flops.

Yes, the referee flopped. Take a look:

To be fair, Fabiano was already on a yellow, so getting in the referee’s face even without the headbutt/pelvic thrust would likely still have seen him sent to an early shower.

So the former Porto and Sevilla man was sent off, and Vasco da Gama was down to 10 men. Immediately after the red card, Flamengo took advantage, powering in a pair of goals via Willian Arao and Orlando Berrio to take the lead 2-1. But Vasco wouldn’t quit, and they earned a penalty five minutes into stoppage time, which Nene buried for the 2-2 draw.

To top things off, a player named Yago Pikachu scored the opener for Vasco da Gama, which was followed by a delay in the game seven minutes later after a power surge in the stadium. Go figure.