Louisville’s professional soccer club will make the playoffs for the second straight year, and it stands a good chance of hosting at least one playoff game.
Louisville City FC officials said the athletic prowess builds upon the second-year club’s business success, which has included greater revenues from ticket sales, corporate sponsorships and merchandise sales than last year.
With three matches remaining, including two more at Slugger Field, LouCity, which plays in the third division United Soccer League, sits in second place in the Eastern Conference table. Conference leader New York Red Bulls II is probably out of reach, being six points ahead and having played one game less. But the local club also is seven points ahead of third-place Cincinnati and is unlikely to relinquish that spot.
A second-place finish would allow LouCity to host a playoff match against the seventh seed. A victory in that game would mean another home game, possibly against River City Cup rival Cincinnati, in what could be a boon for the local club’s coffers: When LouCity hosted Cinci at Slugger Field on June 25, the match drew 10,062 fans, a record for the local club.
Club President Amanda Duffy said qualifying for the playoffs again speaks to the team’s quality and will help the team gain new fans.
“Playoff games give the club additional opportunities and exposure to engage with new and existing fans, which is important as we continue to elevate our presence in the community,” Duffy told IL via email.
“The postseason and an additional regular-season home game in 2017 are both valuable for our business and positively impact our overall revenue potential as we continue to drive ticket sales and attendance,” she said.
Thus far in the season, the local club ranks third, out of 29 teams, in total attendance, with 85,818, after Sacramento Republic FC (126,435) and FC Cincinnati (217,646). The Louisville club also ranks third in average attendance, 7,151, again trailing Sacramento (11,494) and Cincinnati (16,742). It is also among only three teams to break 10,000 in attendance. And the team’s lowest attendance, 5,298, is still better than the average attendance of 25 of the teams.
On-field success doesn’t necessarily translate into good attendance: The Eastern Division’s top team, the New York Red Bulls II, has the league’s lowest average attendance, with 380. The Western Division’s top teams are Sacramento, which ranks second in average attendance, and Rio Grande Valley FC, which ranks 17th in average attendance, with 1,964.
Compared to last year, LouCity’s attendance has improved — and more than many of its rivals.
While LouCity’s average attendance this year is up nearly 6 percent, last year’s attendance leader Sacramento has seen a gain of just 1.5 percent. The number of spectators who are heading to home games of St. Louis FC this year is essentially unchanged from last year. The team ranked fourth in attendance last year. And teams that last year ranked third, fifth and sixth have seen double-digit attendance declines, including a whopping 55 percent plunge for the Salt Lake City-based Real Monarchs.
“Our objective was to increase our season ticket sales as well as our game day average attendance in season two,” Duffy said. “I’m pleased we’ve achieved both.”
Club officials have said that Louisville City FC’s long-term prospects are tied to a soccer-specific stadium, especially if it hopes to fulfill its goal of playing in the first division, Major League Soccer. A recent study indicated the stadium could cost between $30 million and $50 million.
Duffy said this week that ticket sales remain the club’s primary revenue source.
“But revenue from corporate sponsorship as well as merchandise have both increased from season one to season two,” she said.
She declined to say anything about the club’s profitability.
“It will be important for us to show another (attendance) increase in season three,” Duffy said, “and with the new competition calendar in 2017, I believe we’ll have more favorable home dates on weekends and fewer midweek games that are less predictable.”
LouCity hosts the Richmond Kickers at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Richmond still has something to fight for: It is one of five teams battling to finish the regular season in third place.