New York Red Bulls CONCACAF Champions League Attendance Highlights Problems

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For all the international games played in New York this summer, it was nice to have one that actually counted toward something larger. All those World Cup preparation games, those friendlies that were meant to prepare teams for Brazil, or the pre-season competitions that ended in a trophy ceremony, all those victories and cups held aloft were rather empty in a way. It was great to see some of the world’s top teams, to see the arena packed for Red Bulls against Arsenal or Bayern Munich versus Chivas. Yet after each game the teams left with lessons learned, an injury or two, and little else.

Last night the New York Red Bulls faced CD FAS in a game that matters. With the Red Bulls practically out of the race to repeat their Supporters Shield win and dancing on the edge of post-season qualification, this competition could be their chance at a prestigious feather in their cap.

To have guessed at the importance of this game would have been impossible looking at the crowd. During the team warm-ups it was possible to actually count the fans in the upper bowl of the arena (126). Whole sections were empty. The lower bowl was more crowded, ranging from 25 to 50 in each section, many wearing the shirts of CD FAS or carrying the flag of El Salvador.

The CONCACAF Champions League is set up like the European competition, teams facing one another twice, with goal accumulation rather than three points for a win and two for a draw, something that it seems like many fans were familiar with but didn’t realize applied to the CONCACAF series. It is something that coach Mike Petke lamented at the press conference when he said that the team could have had, actually should have had, more goals. But he was happy with a two goal, clean sheet win when it came down to it.

Petke is a coach that talks like a fan, or at least the points he makes sound like the ones made from the stands. Last night he brought on new striker Saer Sene as a starter, choosing to rest star Bradley Wright-Phillips, although he was named as a possible substitute, and keep Thierry Henry off the roster. It was a decision that paid off early with a goal, but became more doubtful as the game progressed. Sene comes to the Red Bulls from New England Revolution and played a few minutes to get his feet wet on Saturday against Montreal, but last night he and Tim Cahill led the team from the front in a mixed performance. Sene seemed to have a hard time keeping on his feet during play, just off from a pass and whipping his tall body around to catch up, falling instead.

It is understandable that the star strikers would be rested as coach Petke prioritizes their MLS League play. However, the fact that it was lamented by the CD FAS assistant coach in the post-match press conference when he spoke of not only his, but the team’s desire, not just as players but as fans of the game, to see someone like Thierry Henry on the pitch.

Defensively, the Red Bulls put out a few players who are fighting for a spot on the team. Regular starter Roy Miller put in a strong performance, never a doubt, and Damien Perrinelle seemed solid for a new starter on the team, but other performances were lacking. As coach Petke said afterward, choosing his comments very carefully, they cleaned up their mistakes much better than they have been doing. Armando continues to be lackluster, his actual role versus his imagined role on the team is causing himself conflict and hindering the play.

What was most disappointing about last night’s game however, was not the defensive play or the goals that should have been. It had nothing to do actually with the play on the field which was, but for those faults, very good. It had to do with the fans. The count I made at the beginning of the game did increase, but just a little more than 11,000 showed up for the match. The game was included in the season ticket holders plan and not at an additional cost, but even that fact couldn’t even lure people out of their lives on a Tuesday night to come out to the arena. While everyone continues to say that soccer is growing in the United States, and perhaps in other places it is, from where I watch it, I cannot see it.

The fans certainly wear shirts in support of the Red Bulls, and the USMNT, and there was a solid representation of CD FAS jerseys, but most came out showing their support of Real Madrid or Barcelona, Tottenham or Liverpool. It is not a bad thing, but it is that greener grass sight of the game overseas. The product here is getting stronger, but is till undervalued.

This is an important competition. It deserves to be treated as such.

20 thoughts on “New York Red Bulls CONCACAF Champions League Attendance Highlights Problems”

  1. You have to correct a section of this piece. CONCACAF Champions League at this current point is in the group stage not the knockout stage. Tuesday’s game CD Fas vs. New York Red Bulls was for 3 points actually. You should really get your facts straight if you are going to talk about the competition.

    1. Indeed. Though perhaps it supports the central point of the piece?

      The competition doesn’t get great attendance, and even its defenders don’t always have a full understanding of its structure.

      All in good time, no doubt.

  2. It also doesn’t help exposure too when most of the games are shown on the near-unknown FS2 that compared to FS1, not many people get

    1. In reality, games not being on FS1 (vs FS2) isn’t a factor in people not attending the CCL games. It’s not about exposure of the CCL, especially in the group stages.

      It’s about the teams. People just aren’t interested in seeing teams from El Salvador, Honduras, Belize, Jamaica, etc. If it were against Mexican League Team Chivas or America, attendance would be good.

      CD FAS while a famous team, is still a 2nd or 3rd division type team when compared to most teams in the UEFA CL. You could give tics away for free to CCL games in the US and it still would be a full house. Has nothing to do with TV.

  3. First of all, the public needs to be educated a bit more on competitions such as this. I don’t know how we go about it.

    Second of all, SUM et al have totally saturated the market for the last 5 weeks with international friendlies. I do not for a moment imagine that many thousands of people who attended the meaningless friendlies over the last month would have otherwise shown up for CONCACAF Champions League. However, as someone who would like to see the soccer future of the US be more than a summer money making destination for European teams, I am seriously concerned. There are more than a handful of MLS markets that are not packing fans in either. It would be nice to see the footballing powers that be in this country do something (anything!) to focus a little more on domestic competitions.

    1. Agreed. New York, Columbus, DC, Chicago, Dallas, Colorado, and Chivas are not pulling their weight or contributing to the league in any way.

  4. 11,000 for an MLS club in the Champions League? You should be dancing in the streets.

    Last year LA Galaxy couldn’t that until the Quarterfinals.

    Heck, San Jose didn’t that for their quarterfinal.

    When I saw the title I thought you’d tell me you did get 5,000. But 11k? I’m blown away by that since NY hasn’t been in this competition before.

  5. Some points:

    1. Even in the European CL in group stage, some teams from non top 4 leagues don’t draw a full house either.

    2. The Concacaf CL really isn’t a top class CL or tournament, especially in the group stage.

    3. As one post stated above, 11K fans isn’t bad, but I can see the point of the author of this article that its disappointing as RB Arena holds 25K.

    4. If the NYRB team played Mex League Team Chivas or America, the attendance would be closer to 25K, but against CD FAS, 11k is darn good.

    In the US, the avg fan doesn’t care about Jamaican or El Salvadorian or Honduran teams. Those leagues are worse (below) than MLS. The teams in those leagues are really 2nd or even 3rd division type teams. I would say even some USL or NASL teams could beat them. So tt’s not surprising that fans don’t go to see them play MLS teams in CL.

    The reason the Friendlies drew big, US fans like Big name clubs, friendlies or not. And most people in the US will never be able to go to England or Spain to see ManU, ManCty, Liverpool, Chelsea, RM, Barcelona, etc (or even Bayern Munich – blaaaa – lol). So those friendlies will draw big attendances here in the USA.

    If Concacaf teams starting winning the world club cup multiple times by beating the European CL winner, you may see a rise in attendance in Concacaf CL group games here in the US.

  6. They need to go back to several playoffs before an actual group stage. So it can filter out a lot of the poor teams sooner and make it most interesting with MLS, Liga MX, and Costa Rican teams when they come in together. As much as I love watching games, 3 Caribbean teams is too much. Besides that, it cost alot of money for those clubs to travel and such.

  7. The anonymous author wrote:
    “The CONCACAF Champions League is set up like the European competition, teams facing one another twice, with goal accumulation rather than three points for a win and two for a draw, something that it seems like many fans were familiar with but didn’t realize applied to the CONCACAF series.”

    Wrong. This is the group phase, and like the European competition, it’s 3 points for a win, 1 for a draw and 0 for a loss.

    1. Actually I see the author’s name – Todd Simmons. He doesn’t have a clue about this tournament, and also doesn’t seem to understand the group stage of the UEFA Champions’ League

  8. Folks, weeknight matches usually do poorly in NY. Case in point: Midweek matches this season have averaged 14,023. Weekend matches: 19,355.

    The match was on a Tuesday night after a Saturday night home match, against an unfamiliar opponent in an unfamiliar competition.

    No surprises.

  9. I was at this game and while the attendance was lackluster, the Supporters Section was rather full. However, I agree with you that there are serious issues with midweek games. Red Bull Arena is out of the way if you live in the city (even if super easy/cheap to get there from Manhattan), so there was to be some incentive from the Red Bulls to encourage a larger turnout for Montreal in October.

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