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Attendance

USMNT average attendance for 2018 worst since 2006

World Cup years are typically a boon for US Soccer. Attendance goes up, TV ratings increase, and revenue skyrockets. Of course, for all of that to happen, you have to qualify for the World Cup. The US did not. Predictably, interest in the team from casual and hardcore fans plummeted.

It wasn’t just that the US missed the World Cup, though that was certainly a huge factor. The coaching search that took 14 months to name a milquetoast manager also angered and frustrated many fans. US Soccer and SUM may try to paint a rosy picture, but the reality is that attendance is down and has been going down for several years now because of their incompetent leadership.

Here’s the 2018 USMNT attendance for home matches:

1/28/18 – Friendly – USA vs. Bosnia & Herzegovina – StubHub Center – 11,161
3/27/18 – Friendly – USA vs. Paraguay – WakeMed Soccer Park – 9,825
5/28/18 – Friendly – USA vs. Bolivia – Talen Energy Stadium – 11,882
9/7/18 – Friendly – USA vs. Brazil – MetLife Stadium – 32,489
9/11/18 – Friendly – USA vs. Mexico – Nissan Stadium – 40,194
10/11/18 – Friendly – USA vs. Colombia – Raymond James Stadium – 38,631
10/16/18 – Friendly – USA vs. Peru – Pratt & Whitney Stadium – 24,959

• Total Attendance: 169,141
• Average Attendance: 24,163

The 24,163 average in 2018 represents a 17% drop from 2017 and was the lowest attendance since 2006 when they averaged 20,360 per game. The year 2018 was the third straight year where the US Men’s National Team (USMNT) averaged less than 30,000 fans per game, a feat that was last accomplished from 2004 to 2006. The year 2018 also marked the third consecutive year of attendance decline as the average dropped from 38,763 in 2015 to 29,707 in 2016, then dropped to 29,400 in 2017 and now down to 24,163 in 2018. Since 2015, US attendance has fallen off by 37%. It’s worth noting that in each of the last two World Cup years, we saw solid average attendances: 34,374 in 2014 and 35,677 in 2010. And finally the game against Paraguay was the seventh game since 2015 to draw under 10,000 people.

SEE MORE: Mexico’s average attendance in USA 59% greater than USMNT in 2018

One thing that these numbers don’t account for is the number of fans of opposing teams that show up at games and skew the averages. The final four home games of the year all saw crowds that were substantially in favor of the opposing team especially the Mexico game in Nashville and the Colombia game in Tampa. In those games, it was virtually all away fans, save for the American Outlaws behind the goal.

SEE MORE: USSF continues string of mistakes with Gregg Berhalter hiring

So why the historically bad attendance? Missing the World Cup definitely soured a lot of people on the team. It also meant that there was nothing for fans to get excited about for quite some time (the US doesn’t have a competitive game again until the Gold Cup in June, 2019 so that means 19 months of nothing but friendlies.) The 14-month coaching search also played a part in fans checking out on the team. And US Soccer can be as bullish on the Gregg Berhalter hire all they want, but it’s not a hire that gets a fan base excited enough to buy more tickets and go to more games. And of course, another huge issue is the insanely exorbitant ticket prices that have become the norm since after the 2015 Gold Cup. It’s not quite clear why US Soccer can’t figure out that charging $100 for a weeknight friendly against a minnow isn’t filling up a stadium (or even half a stadium). Logic would suggest that US Soccer could make much more money on a full stadium that they could on one that’s only 30% full, but then again we’re not an Ivy League economics professor like Sunil Gulati.

SEE MORE: USWNT average attendance declines 22% in 2018

US Soccer can try to act like missing the World Cup wasn’t a big deal. They can try to flaunt hip new slogans like Kickoff Series or The Future Is Us, but the reality is that the fans are fed up with the federation and fed up with losing. They are no longer willing to pay astronomical prices for an ever decreasing return on investment. Attendance is the lowest it’s been in twelve years. It’s down for a third straight year. How much lower can it go?

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12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Monsoon Phoenix

    December 13, 2018 at 9:58 pm

    Attendance is down across all professional U.S. sports even NFL.

  2. Roger

    December 13, 2018 at 7:03 pm

    I am not sure what the answer is. Part of the problem is that whole swaths of the country have virtually no soccer presence whatsoever. When I lived in the UK it didn’t matter how tiny the village or how poor the program, if a kid showed an inkling of potential, he would be found and developed. Here, unless a kid lives in an urban area or one of the rare pockets of rural areas with with a strong soccer presence, they will never be found. I live in a small town with the biggest city a good 2 hours away. I have seen LOTS of kids with real, solid potential that were never found and developed. Now maybe they would pan out and maybe they wouldn’t but no one will ever know. Now add to the fact that huge numbers of kids aren’t being found and developed to the fact that there is almost no monetary benefit for a kid to pursue soccer in the USA (I know MLS players who have second jobs at Home Depot,etc. to make ends meet) I really don’t know the solution. I don’t think it is just a matter of pouring money into the program. Look at the absolutely enormous amounts China has dumped into their soccer program and they have only qualified for the world cup once. It comes down, I think, to having a strong development program starting at the earliest levels which reaches all over the country, not just in the pockets of the country with developed programs. Problem with that is there is no money in doing that. I don’t see it happening.

  3. Larry Kern

    December 13, 2018 at 10:45 am

    Boy do we have a situation. Attendances are up for many MLS teams but, like Mexico, a good fan base does not necessarily translate into quality soccer that results into an improved national team. The MLS seems to be good at attracting some fine players from Central America and even the not good enough for Europe South American players but enough money to attract world class players from Europe (whose experience would greatly influence young American players). That’s not going to be happening in the foreseeable future (and no Ibra and Rooney do not count, they are effectively here for retirement and could not get a contract for top teams in Europe at their ages). There does seem to be a trend of more MLS American players moving to better teams (and money!) in Europe. We shall see, but I’m NOT holding my breath.

  4. Brooks

    December 13, 2018 at 7:57 am

    Wake Med Soccer Park only holds 10,000. So for it to be nearly sold out in the small intimate Venue that was chosen isn’t a sign of “Low attendance” if they had more tickets available it surely would have been much higher.

    • Lawrence Dockery

      December 13, 2018 at 10:28 am

      But if demand was higher, they wouldn’t be playing in a 10,000 stadium to begin with. They’d be playing in a 20k SSS or an NFL stadium.

  5. Reza Garajedaghi

    December 13, 2018 at 12:29 am

    Flex – well said! This is the worse US soccer has been since 1990. At least then we made the W cup with a bunch of kids who played their heart out .

    I try every year they get excited about the MLS and I watch games here and there but boy it just seems to be missing something I can’t really put my finger on it! Sure there are some great stories with Portland and Atlanta but overall the level is just not exciting especially when I am watching EPL every weekend or champions league – it’s so hard to get into . So many of my US soccer die hard fans refuse to watch the MLS – it’s quite sad!

    I want to get excited about the new kids seem to have some talent somewhere in the pit of my heart I feel like we’re in for a long long few years .

    Hope I am wrong but boy it feels like The buz is gone. What are US women’s team getting all the headlines next summer it seems the men’s soccer team is becoming more and more of a joke .

    I wish the new coach all the best but if we are really – honest with yourself you realize we are going on the wrong direction.

    After the 2002 WC – we thought by now 2020 around the corner we would be top 10 in the world – ALegitimate soccer power in the world stage.

  6. Felix

    December 12, 2018 at 9:49 pm

    I am a long time fan of the USMNT and I can sum it up for you why MY interest has wained in the national program as well as MLS. It has become painfully obvious that the only important factor for both programs is only to make money. The fat cats may talk wanting to win for “club” and country but it feels ingenuine. I believeed in project 2020 when I was younger and it pains me to see the progress we had made simply fizzle out like this. When your national team loses to a TnT B team in a must win game to reaxh the world cup you know your going down in a laughing heap. MLS used to peak my interest because it would colpete with Mexican and Brazilian teams but now event that feels lackluster as we simply can’t get our stuff together to actually win it. Then there is the unbareable amounts of “friendlies” which have completely lost their appeal because it is a cash grab and when MLS tries to create trophies for participating it makes me want to hide my head in shame. The amount of teams making the “playoffs” completely defeats the purpose of the regular season. Teams can coast in MLS and then try to turn it on at the end of the season. MLS owners only want new investors, new stadiums, more advertisers, tv exposure, etc. but lose all focus on the actual game at hand. MLS should be developing players and selling them to the highest bidder. Academies should be popping up across the nation and it should be a youth driven league akin to Dutch league in Holland. We should definitely have a more natural system of promotion and relegation (don’t roll your eyes, I understand the blockade to this but MLS owners torpedoed any chance of it ever happening when they killed off their competitions like the USL and A-League).
    Sadly our sport is losing its spirit, its bite, its pride, and its ability to produce the next big thing. Everythjng is commercialized, everything feels unnatural even down to team names, logos, and fandom. It has become more Red Bull and Mickey Mouse and lost any grit it once had. This effects the energy for the sport up and down the leagues and all the way up to its national team program.

    One last thing, it is dificult to be a proud American when we have a President hell bent on desteoying our moral fabric as a nation of immigrants. When people no longer feel welcomed to this country and walls, corruption, greed, and gluttony are all on display the stars and stripes feel awfully hard to swallow.

  7. Roger

    December 12, 2018 at 9:08 pm

    We were seriously thinking of going to the Nashville game to support USA. Good tickets were over $300!! I thought, “Am I missing something? We didn’t even make it to the cup and they are charging that kind of money?” Why would they even imagine anyone would pay that?? Absolutely crazy. We obviously didn’t go so I don’t know the ratio but I bet it was close to 10:1 Mexico to USA fans. Perhaps if I was a Mexico fan I would have been willing to pay that just to see poor USA take yet another beating. Just seems like the team is in a leadership black hole both on the field and in the office.

  8. JP

    December 12, 2018 at 1:40 pm

    Not a surprise attendance was down. All meaningless exhibition matches and many of those dates weren’t even on a weekend, so have to also factor in the hassle to makes plans to make it to the venue after work. Not a very enticing option to fork over your money.

    Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia were the only matches that would draw in casual fans to see some superstars potentially play like Neymar and James, and those drew reasonable well.

    • Lawrence Dockery

      December 12, 2018 at 2:23 pm

      Those drew well because the opposing teams had all the fans.

      • JP

        December 12, 2018 at 2:33 pm

        True, we still have a long way to go in catching up to the rest of the world with our soccer ‘culture’. Same dynamic with the ICC matches over the summer. It does draw in some pure soccer fans, but many buying the tickets are people with ties to the countries of the club team playing, which was partly why Juve/Roma in Foxboro a couple years ago had somewhat disappointing attendance (only lower two sections), it only drew the people with Italian ties.

        • Monte

          December 12, 2018 at 2:49 pm

          We have a long long way to go and when we spend over a year to hire a manager for the National team, that’s is not the way to catch up. And when we do hire one, he lack in experience as a manager and has won nothing. Maybe he will surprise us, but that does not happen very often.

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