Rivalries in U.S. Professional Soccer

Jadrian Wooten

This paper investigates factors that contribute to attendance in Major League Soccer with a primary focus on the effect of repeat rivalry matches during a season. Using ordinary least squares, a panel of 2,193 matches (6 seasons) finds significant effects of a variety of match determinants, including how rivalries are defined in the estimation. With an increased focus on creating rivalries, the data supports potential diminishing returns from overscheduling of rivalry matches. Fans and leagues appear to place a high value on scheduling rivalry matches, however it appears these impacts are relatively short-sighted and are not consistent across each rivalry match during the season. Numerous other factors at the club and league’s discretion may provide larger impacts for leagues with a primary goal of increasing attendance.

JEL classification: L83, Z21, L21