A bit behind on this, but the new MLS team in Seattle (The Sounders) have sold more season tickets (per game) than the Mariners. Here the writeup in the Puget Sound Business Journal:
Seattle’s Major League Soccer expansion team has already landed more than 30 sponsors with only a few weeks to go before the season opener in March. That includes deals with Virginia Mason, QFC and a blockbuster deal with Microsoft worth a reported $20 million that will have the Sounders’ green jerseys emblazoned with the Xbox 360 logo.
The Sounders have sold about 20,000 season tickets, which eclipses the number sold by the 32-year-old Mariners team, which estimates it will sell about 14,000 by the start of the season.
Of course, the Mariners play more than four times as many games as the Sounders, and an M’s season ticket therefore costs much more. Plus, the recently announced return of future Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. could give Mariners marketing a big bump.
So far the Sounders have drawn 28,000 to 32,000 for their games. By comparison, the LA Galaxy led reported MLS attendance last year (from Soccernet) at 26,000 per game with about half of the 14-team league drawing over 15,000 per game. As the excerpt mentions, the total expenditure for 81 regular season baseball games exceeds that for 18 soccer matches. The total is about a 3:1 difference according to the article.
I'm not so concerned with whether soccer has "passed" baseball in Seattle, but the fact that it has pulled up into the same neighborhood says something positive about soccer's growth but negative about baseball's long, slow decline from its former position as king of U.S. sports. Baseball has been both the beneficiary and victim of television. TV has raised salaries in baseball as in all sports but it has also boosted other sports, football in particular, relative to baseball and may have created incentive problems.
Has baseball hitched its wagon too closely to TV over the years? Certainly, baseball does not want to go into TV purgatory like the NHL. However, TV's contractual horizon and MLB's long term horizon do not necessarily dovetail. Boosting short-run TV ratings and revenues over the last 30 years with World Series games going into the early morning hours in the east may not boost long term interest in the game. One writer noted that the trend has been longstanding now -- even Carlton Fisk's famous homer in the 75 series came after midnight ET. Here's a Ron Fimrite piece from SI.com in the wake of last season's Phillies-Rays closer-to-dawn-than-sunset finish.