What Are MLS Tickets Really Worth?

A few years ago I ended up with a handful of tickets to an MISL game (that's Professional indoor soccer, for those of you who never paid attention and, to paraphrase the great Bob Uecker as Harry Doyle: "Judging by the attendance, you didn't").

There were about 30 tickets in all but I could only find three other people willing to go. For free, which should have been a warning.

When we got there, I quickly discovered that the seats we had were so far back the game itself would have been nothing more than a rumor. So I did what every red-blooded American sports fan does: I went out to the street to engage in some naked capitalist free enterprise.

I quickly located an Urban Yoot who had four good seats and made him what I thought was a pretty shrewd offer: I would give him my 30 tickets in exchange for the four I wanted. He turned me down flat. He wanted cash.

So we worked out a deal, and after it was completed to everyone's satisfaction I really was more interested in joining my group than I was in wandering around the parking lot yelling "who needs tickets?" so I told the kid I was just going to give them to him free of charge. Call it a contribution to his college fund. Or his weed fund. Same difference.

He declined. Said he didn't want them. In fact, he explained, the tickets I had just bought from him had been given to him for free from some other guy on his way into the building.

Turns out I was probably the only idiot in the whole place who had actually paid money for tickets, and I had paid it not to the team - who obviously needed it, badly - but rather to some apprentice grifter leaning on a three-tone '89 Lesabre.

Which example of course helps to illustrate why the MISL is no longer with us, but it also begs a question, namely: how much are soccer tickets really worth on the open market?

This is particularly relevant in light of the recent expansion teams who - having demonstrated a high local demand for tickets - have seen dramatic price increases every season to the point that some seats now sell for double what they did just a couple years ago.

Nowhere is this situation more evident as it was in Toronto last week where, in the lead-up to their home opener there were, as they say in the ads, "plenty of good seats available", a previously unthinkable situation.

Likewise in Seattle, while they're still selling out the stadium (which will no longer be called Qwest but which will still have a plastic pitch), dramatic increases in ticket prices have dinged their season ticket renewal numbers and caused the club to dig deeply into their vaunted waiting list.

The fans in both cities are getting a bit grumpy about what they view as naked gouging, but of course we all learned long ago that goods and services are not priced in Wonderland by Rebeca of Sunnybrook Farm but rather by cold-eyed business people whose credo is "What the traffic will bear", and so far at least it appears that the traffic will indeed bear a lot more than they started out bearing.

Of course it's impossible to say how much of the softness in the Toronto ticket market has to do with the chronic underperformance of the organization on the field; certainly the suspicion is that putting a winner into BMO would make TFC a hot ticket again in a heartbeat, but that remains to be proven.

While I'm the farthest thing from an expert on MLS attendance, I can look at the raw numbers as well as anyone else can and otherwise I bow to "edwardgr" who is the current proprietor of the excellent MLS ATTENDANCE ANALYSIS franchise here at BigSoccer.

But for most of us poor shlubs the issue isn't how long the lines will be at the beer stand but rather whether we can score some tickets to a game and how much we have to pay, and for that I would humbly direct you to this RIDICULOUSLY AWESOME TICKET LINK

(Be advised that I'm not getting a dime for pointing this out; it's not that I'm above whoring myself out like a bus station hooker; in fact, my ass has "This Space for Rent" tattooed across both cheeks; it's just that nobody ever offers.)

So for example next Saturdays' CHIVAS AT TFC MATCH PAGE has up information on available tickets from a variety of resellers. Now of course I myself am not permitted into BMO (in fact they have my picture posted at the border crossings - "Peace Bridge" my foot) but if I were this thing would make it much less painful to try and score the tix.

Which in turn is probably a better barometer of the true value of a given seat than the face value printed on the ticket and by hitting the "IQ" symbol on each offering you can get a sense of whether prices for that match are headed up or down.

Thus the graphic above, which shows not who charges the most for tickets but whose tickets are actually selling for the most.

And one has to admit that he fact that Whitecaps tickets are selling on the secondary market for an average of $107 is pretty impressive, and TFC, for whatever "softness" the market may be experiencing up there, isn't far behind.

If only this had been around a few years ago then I would have known that the street value of Cleveland Crunch tickets was roughly the same as what you'd have to pay for yesterdays' newspaper.

And boy would I have gotten the better of that kid.