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The Effect of Marquee Players on Sports Demand: The Case of U.S. Major League Soccer

In 2007, Major League Soccer (MLS) changed its salary rules to allow teams to pay over the salary cap to sign high-priced talent. The first Designated Player was David Beckham. This study presents estimates of the influence of marquee players on MLS attendance using data from 2007 to 2012. The results indicate that few of the marquee signings drove higher attendance. Furthermore, these attendance effects tend to diminish over time. Specifically, only Beckham, Blanco, and Márquez generated excess fans in the games they played, with the largest effect in their first year. The results also give evidence of a superstar externality.