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5 Major League Soccer Teams That Outdraw Baseball

PORTLAND, Ore. ( TheStreet) -- When comparing the two professional summer sports in the U.S., it helps to keep Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer's scale in mind.

Last season, Major League Baseball's 30 teams drew 74.9 million fans to their ballparks and pulled in more than 30,000 per game. Major League Soccer's 19 clubs had 6 million fans come through the turnstiles and 18,800 show up on average for each match. Baseball has its own network that it built with DirecTV (DTV) and still has Fox (NWS), TBS (TWX) and ESPN (DIS) paying for game rights, while MLS makes do with its deals with ESPN, NBC SPORTS (CMCSA) and Univision and a fan base that's growing in all the right demographics.

As baseball gears up for its All-Star Game at the Mets' Citi (C) Field in New York, MLS' biggest recent announcement was that it would be holding its 2014 All-Star Game in Portland, Ore. So why should the MLS feel good about next year's summer classic in what's not even the biggest city in the Pacific Northwest as baseball prepares to show off its best players in one of the biggest cities in the world? Again, it's all a matter of perspective.

When it comes to average attendance pro baseball and soccer rank No. 2 and 3, respectively, behind the National Football League. In some cases, MLS teams even draw more fans per game than big-league ballclubs -- including teams that happen to share the same city. The Portland Timbers are one of the MLS organizations putting MLB teams to shame, and they've been around in their current MLS incarnation for only three years.

In all, 11 MLS teams are putting together a better average attendance than the least popular big-league baseball team -- the Miami Marlins (17,718 per game). True, the soccer teams play fewer games, but only four MLS teams play in a stadium with capacity of 27,000 or greater (New England, Seattle, Vancouver and Washington, D.C., all play in facilities built for American and Canadian football).

Also, baseball has an enormous head start on Major League Soccer, adding its last expansion teams in 1998 just as MLS was entering its third season of play. As recently as 2001, MLS had contracted its counterparts to baseball's Marlins and Rays -- the Miami Fusion and Tampa Bay Mutiny -- had no television contract and shrunk to 10 teams playing mostly in outsized football stadiums. Now, it has a growing fan base of millennials who've never known U.S. sports without MLS.

While there are certainly more teams than can make similar claims, we're just going to point out the Top 5 teams in MLS that not only outdraw baseball's bottom-dwellers, but in some cases do so in MLB's own backyard. All attendance figures are through June, the last full month available, and may have fluctuated since:

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