As I'm sure you can tell by the title and subject of this article, it's a slow work day. That and I've been reading an interesting book about baseball that also explains how modern day American Sports came about. I'ts called 'The Outlaw League and the Battle That Forged Modern Baseball.' It contains some strikingly similar things to what's happening in American Soccer today, and some really interesting population breakdowns.
These population breakdowns got me thinking. 'What if I counted the combined populations of the cities with MLS, NASL and USL teams individually to see who has the largest potential supporter base?' But then I decided to dig a little deeper, and actually narrow things down. Rather than use Metro Areas, what if I only counted the community the teams stadium is located in?
I did this for a couple of reasons. 1 - I was curious to see where these stadiums are really located. 2 - I believe the larger the immediate surrounding area, (10 to 15 minute radius) the better equipped you are for sustained support. 3 - I'd find out which league has the most teams in actual major city limits. I also applied one rule: no counting of USL cities that also contain an MLS franchise. 4 - I did count cities containing confirmed expansion teams and stadiums.
Behold, the total population of cities that are home to stadiums hosting MLS, NASL and USL teams!
Thanks to Excel's handy color coding, you'll notice what cities are largest and smallest in each league. I'll break it down for you anyway to be nice and recap.
One thing really stood out to me after doing this. Even though they have the fewest teams, NASL has the most stadiums located within actual major city limits, even more so than MLS. And in spite of having the fewest teams, NASL is only trailing USL by about 1.3 Million people, despite having 16 fewer teams.
Part of the reason NASL has such a presence within legitimate city limits, such as Miami and Jacksonville, is thanks to their lack of requiring teams to have soccer specific stadiums. This allowed them access to the urban core that MLS would love to have. Could that urban core acces be a potential selling point for the NASL to expansion groups, and to the USSF for continued Division 2 sanctioning?
MLS, were it not for LAFC's stadium within LA City Limits, would not have had near as high a population as I thought. And the boroughs of Brooklyn and the Bronx are HUGE.
USL surprised me with the size of some of the cities that their teams stadiums are located in. San Antonio is way bigger than I thought, and Cincinnati much smaller. Overall, USL seems to have found a niche in terms of the size of their cities.
After looking at these numbers, each league, to me, has one big advantage in it's favor for new teams. MLS gives teams the prestige of being 'Major League.' NASL gives you the ability to locate a team anywhere in the urban core. USL gives smaller big cities a chance to have professional soccer.
What do you think of all this? Anything interesting that you noticed that I missed? Let me know in the comments below!