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Soccer Pulling in the Crowds in the U.S.

11 Aug, 2015

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
Top Crowds, Values, Fan Experiences Fold into Lists for Soccer Cities

The FIFA scandal continues to fester and the U.S. has a front-row seat. After all, even if the locations for the 2018 or 2022 World Cups are still held in the previously awarded locations of Russia and Qatar, the 2026 question is hanging in the air.

In the meantime, it’s good to know that the U.S. is doing well on the soccer front. And although much of the interest in the game is bolstered by the U.S. WNT’s recent World Cup win, the crowds the sport is bringing in are remarkable by anyone’s standard.

According to Soccer America Daily, the top crowds attending soccer matches in the U.S. in 2015 ranged from 93,226 (the L.A. Galaxy/Barcelona match for the International Champions Cup, held in Pasadena, California) to 41,108 (Seattle Sounders/FC Dallas at CenturyLink Field in Seattle).

There were, added the news outlet, some surprises. A recent Barcelona-Chelsea game at Fedex Field in Landover, Maryland, drew 78,914 fans, making it the sixth crowd in the one week to draw 60,000 or more fans on U.S. soil; others included the Gold Cup semifinals and final and four International Champions Cup matches. Another unexpected crowd was 61,224 for Paris St. Germain-Chelsea in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was the second crowd of more than 55,000 at Bank of America Stadium in 10 days.

Play was mixed, from regularly scheduled MLS games to Gold Cup matches to international friendlies.

But let’s face it – things are about to get louder and – most likely – bigger. The U.S. WNT is embarking on its victory tour, and it’s a sure thing that ticket sales will be brisk, with the potential for audiences to see the likes of Carli Lloyd, Abby Wambach and Hope Solo play in person.

And, according to WalletHub, both MLS attendance and TV viewership figures — even World Cup viewership ratings, which were the highest ever in 2014 on ESPN alone — suggest that the sport is on an upward trajectory. WalletHub created a list of the best – and worst – cities for soccer fans in the U.S. (This was based on the 172 most populated U.S. cities with at least one college or professional soccer team.)

According to the group, the top 10 best cities for soccer fans are as follows:

1              Salt Lake City, Utah

2              Mansfield, Connecticut

3              Conway, South Carolina

4              Clemson, South Carolina

5              College Park, Maryland

6              Seattle, Washington

7              Kansas City, Missouri

8              Notre Dame, Indiana

9              Washington, DC

10           Dallas, Texas

The list took into consideration factors such as the average ticket price for an MLS game to stadium accessibility to the number of championship wins.

Among some of the more interesting findings:

  • The Seattle Sounders FC’s performance level is two times better than the Philadelphia Union’s. 

  • The Coastal Carolina Chanticleers’ performance level is seven times better than the Virginia Military Institute Keydets’. 

  • The average ticket price for an MLS game is four times more expensive in Seattle than in Chicago. 

  • There are 35 times as many sports bars per 100,000 residents in Morgantown, West Virginia, than in Davis, California. 

  • The attendance rate for MLS games is two times higher in San Jose, California, than in Orlando, Florida.

The full results can be found here.

Those within the soccer community are optimistic about the long-term effects of the World Cup win.

"I think people just totally got attached to this World Cup in a different way than they have and it was so close to home,” said Megan Rapinoe after her Seattle Reign FC beat Portland Thorns FC, 1-0, before an NWSL record sellout crowd of 21,144 fans at Providence Park. That was such a huge thing to have American fans know they can go watch these players in their own cities for the rest of the season. Hopefully, the bounce isn’t coming down, it’s just continuing to go up.”

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