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Soccer Sees Attendance Bounce in 2016

18 Oct, 2016

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
Event Directors Need to Harness the Momentum Now

Call it the World Cup effect, the Copa bounce and the Olympic boost. Professional soccer spectatorship is up, and that spells success for event owners at the local level – provided they know how to harness the momentum.

The numbers are encouraging. First, the National Women’s Soccer League announced that its average attendance for 2016 was up 10 percent to 5,558, breaking the record it set in 2015 when it became the first U.S. women's pro league to enjoy a year-to-year increase in average attendance.

According to an article in Soccer America Daily, the Portland Thorns led the NWSL in average attendance with a record 16,945 fans per game.

Oh, and score another one for women’s soccer: It should be noted that figure exceeds the average of the attendance of five MLS men’s teams: Columbus (16,943), D.C. United (16,490), Colorado (16,229), Chicago (15,358) and FC Dallas (13,994).

Soccer America Daily also noted the following:

On the NWSL side, the three MLS-owned teams -- Portland, Orlando and Houston -- ranked 1-2-3 in attendance. The Pride's average of 8,785 fans a game for its first season accounted for much of the league's increase in average attendance. And in TV spectatorship, the NWSL playoffs gained measurable attendance.

The men were no slackers themselves. The United Soccer League reported that it had closed out its 2016 regular-season schedule over the weekend and reported a total season attendance of almost 1.5 million for its 29 teams, a 33 percent increase from 2015.

The USL drew 1,496,493 fans compared to 1,132,218 last year. The average attendance for the league's top 10 drawing teams was 6,724, a 25 percent increase versus 2015.

"It has been another record-breaking season for the USL and its 29 teams as the attendance numbers reflect the growth and momentum we continue to experience," said Jake Edwards, USL President. "A 30-plus percent jump in league attendance is unprecedented in professional sports and illustrates the exceptional quality of USL and unique soccer environment our passionate fans are creating across North America."

Soccer continues to be one of the most popular youth sports in the U.S. Sports event owners continue to harness the momentum of the sport, holding not only tournaments but skill clinics and camps for boys and girls.

Even as children age, they stay involved in it; the National Federation of State High School Associations Sports Participation Survey has seen soccer ranked in the top 10 sports for boys and girls for more than a decade.

The sport is huge at the college level (where the possibility of a two-semester soccer model is being studied). NCAA participation is strong, and at the club and recreational level, tracked by the National Intramural and Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA), there is an active network of regional tournaments as well as a national championship.

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