The Cost of Empty Seats for the Top 5 US Sports

The cost-of-living crisis and expensive tickets means teams across America’s top five sports are losing fans and revenue. Find out which are the most affected here.

The Cost of Empty Seats for the Top 5 US Sports

Inflation in the U.S. is the highest it has been in over four decades and according to TIME’s report on a recent consumer price index, the ‘cost of food, housing, gasoline, utilities, and other goods, rose by 8.6% over the past 12 months’. With this, many Americans are having to tighten the purse strings to help make this cost-of-living crisis a little more manageable. 

One of the first things we tend to cut back on when we’re feeling the pinch is the money we spend on our social and leisure activities. So things like evenings out at the casino,  eating out, wagers with sportsbooks, or splurging on clothes is something many of us will cut back on in order to keep our bank balances looking a little healthier. 

In the States, attending sports events can be a particularly pricey endeavour. So, this mixed with the cost-of-living crisis. is making many fans question whether they really can afford to go see their favourite teams play live. You only need to look at current ticket prices for the NBA and the fact that the average cost to see a game is a whopping $211, to get an idea of why even the seats of even the most dedicated fans may end up being left empty right now. 

All this can cause a vicious cycle as ticket prices can go up even more as teams try to avoid losing out on millions in seat revenue as cash-strapped fans stop attending. After all, they are also being affected by rising consumer prices and need to keep their respective setups afloat and make sure their players get paid. 

However, not all of the top sports in America are equal in this situation, as there’s disparity between everything from how expensive average ticket prices are, average attendance figures and how much revenue is indeed earned from capacity crowds. This led OLBG to speculate on which U.S. sports are suffering the most from empty seats.

The Top Ten

When it comes to big business within sports, North American franchises certainly lead the way. While the do so because of their ability to sell a multitude of tickets to their games, of which there are usually many.

Not perhaps as many in the NFL, then the likes of the NBA or MLB but at the same time the biggest names in Gridiron are capable of commanding a lot more when it comes to the price of the gameday tickets.

However, the costs of tickets is an angle that many websites have dissected in the past and we are not ones to duplicate what has already been done. Instead, we are going to look at where stadium revenue is being lost.


Admittedly this is not a list that any franchise would want to win, but unfortunately, somebody has to come out on top. 

League Franchise Stadium Capacity Average Lost Seats Ticket Price Overall Loss
NFL Los Angeles Rams SoFi Stadium 100,240 72,734 27,506 $484 $13,315,104
NFL Washington Commanders FedExField 82,000 58,106 23,894 $356 $8,506,264
NFL Dallas Cowboys AT&T Stadium 105,000 93,465 11,535 $690 $7,960,765
NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneers Raymond James Stadium 75,000 68,988 6,012 $757 $4,552,647
NFL Green Bay Packers Lambeau Field 81,441 76,180 5,261 $576 $3,028,074
MLS Atlanta United FC Mercedes-Benz Stadium 71,000 47,116 23,884 $116 $2,770,544
NFL Miami Dolphins Hard Rock Stadium 75,000 66,230 8,770 $311 $2,723,699
NFL Las Vegas Raiders Allegiant Stadium 65,000 62,045 2,955 $675 $1,993,354
NFL New York Giants MetLife Stadium 82,500 76,474 6,026 $329 $1,981,951
MLB Arizona Diamondbacks Chase Field 48,519 19,817 28,702 $69 $1,980,438

Unfortunately for the Los Angeles Rams it is they that have the mantle of losing the most in gameday revenue. When accounting for the capacity of the SoFi Stadium and their current average attendance, there are 27.506 empty seats.

Multiply that figure by the average ticket price of $484 dollars and the Rams are currently letting $13.3m slip through their fingers. An eye-watering figure it may be, but there is a caveat that should be attached to that figure.

With the SoFi Stadium being anywhere up to 100,240 in terms of capacity, we have taken the maximum expansion figure in order to make things equal per game – especially as the average attendance previously was more than the standard attendance.

Even with that caveat, that is still an incredible amount of money that the Rams are not collecting. While the same statement and caveat can also be applied to the Dallas Cowboys, as the AT&T Stadium is currently waving goodbye to almost $7.9m per home game.

These are two large figures with caveats, the same cannot be said for the franchise that sits in the middle of the two and with the Washington Commanders giving away almost 24,000 unfilled seats per game, this equates to a revenue loss of $8.5m.

While of the top ten franchises that are losing the most in gameday revenue, eight of those are represented by the NFL. The only outliers in this list are Atlanta United of the MLS and MLB’s Arizona Diamondbacks.

With Atlanta United currently plying their trade at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, there are arguments that the ground is too big for their current fanbase. A capacity of 71.000 is only welcoming an average of 47,116 through the door and this means lost revenue of $2.7m every other week. 

As for the Arizona Diamondbacks that are at the top of our list, their average ticket price may only be $69 – which in itself is 90% of what the Dallas Cowboys are charging but even with such a low barrier to entry through the turnstiles, almost $2m is being lost per gameday.

A figure that in isolation does not sound all that much but when you consider just how many MLB games there are in a regular season, those $2m losses will soon begin to stack up to a much bigger number. 


Starting with the most popular sport in the States, football, but specifically the teams within the NFL, our research shows millions of dollars are being lost from empty seats. 

As mentioned above, eight of the overall top ten come from the NFL and with us already referencing the trio at the very top, all is left is to reference the two franchises that find themselves fourth and fifth in the standings.

By comparison the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may only be losing $4.5m per gameday at the Raymond James Stadium but with average tickets costing $757, it does seem as if it can be easily absorbed at the same time.

While the Green Bay Packers are not all that far behind either and with Lambeau Field having the ability to host 81,441 paying fans, an average of 5,261 seats are not being filled. With an average ticket price of $576, this means a loss of just over $3m.

League Franchise Stadium Capacity Average Lost Seats Ticket Price Overall Loss
NFL Los Angeles Rams SoFi Stadium 100,240 72,734 27,506 $484 $13,315,104
NFL Washington Commanders FedExField 82,000 58,106 23,894 $356 $8,506,264
NFL Dallas Cowboys AT&T Stadium 105,000 93,465 11,535 $690 $7,960,765
NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneers Raymond James Stadium 75,000 68,988 6,012 $757 $4,552,647
NFL Green Bay Packers Lambeau Field 81,441 76,180 5,261 $576 $3,028,074


While soccer in America isn’t yet as popular as it is in the rest of the world, many of the teams across the Eastern and Western Conferences still have stadiums with large capacities as well as thousands of loyal fans. However, our research suggests the majority of the clubs playing in the MLS are failing to get enough fans in the stands and are subsequently losing out on ticket revenue.

For soccer fans, it's welcome news that the US will co host the 2026 World Cup, that attention for the sport should help push those attendances higher. 

League Franchise Stadium Capacity Average Lost Seats Ticket Price Overall Loss
MLS Atlanta United FC Mercedes-Benz Stadium 71,000 47,116 23,884 $116 $2,770,544
MLS New York City FC Yankee Stadium 30,321 17,180 13,141 $108 $1,419,228
MLS Orlando City SC Exploria Stadium 25,500 17,261 8,239 $97 $799,183
MLS Inter Miami CF DRV PNK Stadium 18,000 12,637 5,363 $136 $729,368
MLS New York Red Bulls Red Bull Arena 25,000 17,002 7,998 $90 $719,820

If the MLS Cup was awarded to the team that is losing the most per gameday, then Atlanta United would be the winners of such a prize. As referenced before, they are currently failing to recoup $2.7m, would a smaller stadium make more sense?

Then again, the fact that the franchises’ average attendance is 47,116 is certainly something that should be lauded and with the footprint of the MLS getting larger with every year that passes, that figure could well come down over time.

However, that $2.7m is still almost 100% more than that of the second soccer franchise and with Yankee Stadium being perhaps better known for the ballpark, New York City FC are losing $1.4m per gameday.

Just an average of 17,180 at the time of data capture and when an average ticket costs $108, those 13,141 unfilled seats are soon starting to add up to the point where they are losing more money than the New York counterparts the Red Bulls.

The New York Red Bulls are fifth in our MLS table but in fairness, there is very little difference between themselves and the Florida duo of Orlando City and Inter Miami that sit in third and fourth respectively.

Each of these three franchises are losing nearly $800k per gameday – Orlando City are literally leaving $817 out of that statement, as Inter Miami and the New York Red Bulls have just $10k difference between them.


As mentioned earlier, NBA tickets are some of the most expensive in America so it’s no surprise that the majority of the competing basketball teams are losing out on empty seat revenues. 

What’s more, the ‘lowest’ average ticket price from the Minnesota Timberwolves was $91, which is again the most expensive compared to other major sports. However, even with this and the smaller capacity stadiums and venues, the losses aren’t as sizeable as other professional league sports in America. 

There must be something about Washington sporting franchises, as the Wizards of the NBA have topped the standings. In fairness to the Capital One Arena outfit, their loss is not in the same magnitude as their Commanders counterparts, but it is still turning a hoop dream into a nightmare. 

They may only be failing to fill 3,196 seats on average but a cost of $163 tickets on average, this still means a loss of $520k per home game and just like MLB, there will be plenty of these in any given regular season.

If the Wizards could shave $28k off their current gameday loss, it would mean the Los Angeles Clippers would be top of the standings. On closer inspection, it is not necessarily the seats which is the issue, it is the cost of the ticket.

At an average price of $262, the 1,883 empty seats are creating a financial black hole of $493k and in doing so, they are losing more money than the trio of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Oklahoma City Thunder and Indiana Pacers who sit from third to fifth respectively. 

League Franchise Stadium Capacity Average Lost Seats Ticket Price Overall Loss
NBA Washington Wizards Capital One Arena 20,356 17,160 3,196 $163 $520,948
NBA Los Angeles Clippers Arena 19,079 17,196 1,883 $262 $493,346
NBA Minnesota Timberwolves Target Center 18,798 16,492 2,306 $201 $463,506
NBA Oklahoma City Thunder Paycom Center 18,203 15,318 2,885 $148 $426,980
NBA Indiana Pacers Gainbridge Fieldhouse 17,923 15,400 2,523 $138 $348,174


With Major League Baseball we found that the losses are overall even greater than those in the NFL. In addition to this, all 30 teams across MLB’s six divisions are seeing lost revenue against their respective potential earnings due to dwindling crowds.

As we mentioned earlier, the Arizona Diamondbacks are sitting not so pretty in our overall top 10 but it must also be said that the battle to be baseball’s unwanted number one is a highly competitive one at the same time.

If the Diamondbacks are currently chalking up gameday lost revenue of $1.9, then the Oakland Athletics are only $150k behind them. The tickets may be cheap at both franchises - $69 for first and $73 for second but each are giving up at least 25,000 seats per gameday.

Once again, there is seemingly little love for the sports scene in Washington, as the Nationals find themselves lying third in the table. There may be only 16,296 unfilled seats at the Nationals Park, but the average ticket cost is $102. 

That gameday loss of $1.662m is just $27,000 more than that of the Cleveland Guardians in fourth and although they will not be happy of the fact, that Kansas City Royals are subsequently breathing down the necks of them both. 

Of course, with so many MLB games taking place, the revenue that is made per gameday should not be overlooked either and this will be a big reason as to why tickets are so cheap in the first place. With so much baseball to be played, the franchises cannot afford to make tickets unaffordable. 

League Franchise Stadium Capacity Average Lost Seats Ticket Price Overall Loss
MLB Arizona Diamondbacks Chase Field 48,519 19,817 28,702 $69 $1,980,438
MLB Oakland Athletics RingCentral Coliseum 35,067 9,973 25,094 $73 $1,831,862
MLB Washington Nationals Nationals Park 41,313 25,017 16,296 $102 $1,662,192
MLB Cleveland Guardians Progressive Field 34,830 17,050 17,780 $92 $1,635,760
MLB Kansas City Royals Kauffman Stadium 37,903 15,974 21,929 $72 $1,578,888


The NHL is hugely popular in some states and across Canada, with of course the best hockey league in the world. A real positive from our data is NHL has the lowest average game day losses out of America’s five major sports. However, this does come alongside the fact all but one team has seen lost revenue in recent years. 

The common trend for each of the NHL franchises, is not necessarily the number of lost seats but more the cost of the tickets. While because the percentage of attendance to capacity is a lot higher, this has at least minimised the gameday losses.

With that said, there still has to be the biggest loser in all of this and in this instance, it is the Buffalo Sabres. The KeyBank Center has a capacity of 19,070 and the latest average data has an attendance of 14,753.

Multiply those 4,317 lost seats by $161 and the total gameday loss for the Sabres is $695k – some $75k more than that of the Chicago Blackhawks in second. There may be less unfilled seats at the United Center but each seat costs an average of $220. 

While the San Jose Sharks are the third of three NHL franchises to be losing more than $500k per gameday. There may be cheaper average ticket at the SAP Center, but 3,718 unfilled seats is costing the franchise $550k per game day.

Some $118k more than that of the Florida Panthers in fourth, who themselves just pip the Ottawa Senators. Not that they Canadian Tire Centre outfit will mind all that much, but we have just $3k difference between the two, it would only take a small difference to change these two positions. 

League Franchise Stadium Capacity Average Lost Seats Ticket Price Overall Loss
NHL Buffalo Sabres KeyBank Center 19,070 14,753 4,317 $161 $695,037
NHL Chicago Blackhawks United Center 19,717 16,895 2,822 $220 $620,840
NHL San Jose Sharks SAP Center 17,562 13,844 3,718 $148 $550,264
NHL Florida Panthers FLA Live Arena 19,250 16,368 2,882 $150 $432,300
NHL Ottawa Senators Canadian Tire Centre 18,652 16,211 2,441 $176 $429,616

The capacities across NHL stadiums are on a similar scale to the NBA, but again with tickets in this sport being typically lower than those in basketball, we don’t get losses in the millions. This is perhaps best shown by the fact that the collective figure in the top 10 for empty seat revenue in ice hockey comes to around $5m. 

Final Thoughts

What all of the above shows is that fans really do matter, and that the situation seems to be getting increasingly challenging as the years go on for the majority of the teams across these five major sports. 

However, it is quite clear that ticket prices have also been creeping up pretty much across the board and that couldn’t really come at a worse time for spectators with the overall cost-of-living going the same way. 

What we need to see is a big boost in fan engagement – and indeed reengagement – or it may end up that some teams become financially unsustainable. Equally, should the current societal financial issues be addressed and hopefully made more manageable, fans will have more money in their pockets to use at their leisure. 

If – and at the moment it seems a big if – we start to see the above happening, those empty seats may well become filled once again.


While the way to generate such a measure is to look at each of the franchises that currently compete in North America’s big five sporting leagues and from here, we are going to serve up this methodology:

  1. Log stadium capacity of each franchise

  2. Log average attendance of each franchise

  3. Subtract step two from step one

  4. Log average ticket price of each franchise

  5. Multiply step three by step four

  6. Overall lost revenue per game

Now that the methodology is in place, here are our findings when it comes to lost stadium revenue


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