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International Champions Cup crowds drop 34% from last year

Another round of the annual summer friendlies in the United States has come and gone. These types of games are usually a smashing success, both in terms of attendance and TV ratings. However, crowds this year were rather disappointing especially for games at the International Champions Cup (which has seen a third straight year of decline).

Usually, the International Champions Cup (ICC) features the biggest clubs and most famous players in the world. We’ve seen Messi, Ronaldo and Neymar play stateside as well as clubs including Manchester United, Liverpool, and Bayern Munich. But as it was pointed out on a recent World Soccer Talk Podcast, the market for these teams has very quickly become oversaturated. ICC attendance in 2016 was 57,072. In 2017, it fell to approximately 56,000, which was still impressive. But in 2018 it saw a sharper drop to 45,746. And this year, it dropped significantly to 29,883. Quite simply, fans are tired of seeing the same four or five teams every single year. It’s also not good that the teams that fans haven’t seen before are teams that don’t really move the needle, mainly teams from Serie A in Italy or Ligue 1 in France.

Games that weren’t part of the ICC are a more mixed bag. For example, Liverpool played three games here in the US and they all drew reasonably well. They sold out Fenway Park, they drew over 40,000 against Borussia Dortmund at Notre Dame Stadium, and they got a bigger crowd at Yankee Stadium than New York City FC has seen in years. On the flip side, the Ligue 1 mini-tournament at Audi Field in Washington DC was a complete disaster with little or no promotion by anybody from France.

READ MORE: See comparison with 2018 summer friendly attendances

Perhaps the most interesting and impressive thing about the summer friendlies this year was the number of teams from the lower leagues of American soccer that turned out to see these games. USL expansion side Memphis 901 FC drew over 8,000 to see a friendly against Pachuca. Cardiff City played a pair of lower league teams, drawing over 7,000 against San Antonio FC and drawing over 6,000 against New Mexico United. NPSL side Chattanooga FC got in on the friendly action with over 4,000 against Real Betis.

And of course, several MLS teams played exhibitions against European clubs. Minnesota United played against Hertha Berlin and Aston Villa in a bid to show off their new digs at Allianz Field. The two soccer teams owned by Stan Kronke squared off as the Colorado Rapids played host to Arsenal. DC United played a pair of friendlies against Real Betis and Marseille.

Here is a brief summary of all of the friendlies played in the US in the summer of 2019, ranked from most attended to least.

1. 60,143 – Bayern Munich 3-1 Real Madrid – NRG Stadium – ICC
2. 60,043 – Barcelona 4-0 Napoli – Michigan Stadium – Friendly
3. 57,714 – Atletico Madrid 7-3 Real Madrid – MetLife Stadium – ICC
4. 57,062 – Barcelona 2-1 Napoli – Hard Rock Stadium – Friendly
5. 52,826 – Real Madrid 2-2 Arsenal (3-2 pens) – FedEx Field – ICC
6. 40,361 – Borussia Dortmund 3-2 – Liverpool – Notre Dame Stadium – Friendly
7. 37,722 – Borussia Dortmund 3-1 Seattle Sounders – CenturyLink Field – Friendly
8. 35,564 – Sevilla 2-1 Liverpool – Fenway Park – Friendly
9. 34,902 – Arsenal 3-0 Fiorentina – Bank of America Stadium – Friendly
10. 31,112 – Liverpool 2-2 Sporting Lisbon – Yankee Stadium – Friendly
11. 27,565 – Benfica 1-0 AC Milan – Gillette Stadium – ICC
12. 27,329 – Chelsea 3-0 New England Revolution – Gillette Stadium – Friendly
13. 26,704 – Arsenal 2-1 Bayern Munich – Dignity Health Sports Park – Friendly
14. 25,527 – Atletico Madrid 3-0 MLS All-Stars – Exploria Stadium – MLS All-Star Game
15. 18,703 – Hertha Berlin 1-0 Minnesota United – Allianz Field – Friendly
16. 18,469 – Bayern Munich 1-0 AC Milan – Children’s Mercy Park – ICC
17. 18,335 – Aston Villa 3-0 – Minnesota United – Allianz Field – Friendly
18. 15,724 – Benfica 3-0 Chivas Guadalajara – Levi’s Stadium – ICC
19. 12,467 – Atletico Madrid 0-0 Chivas Guadalajara (5-4 pens) – Globe Life Park – ICC
20. 12,248 – Sevilla 3-1 FC Dallas – Toyota Stadium – Friendly
21. 12,141 – Benfica 2-1 Fiorentina – Red Bull Arena – ICC
22. 11,201 – Real Betis 5-2 DC United – Audi Field – Friendly
23. 11,112 – River Plate 5-1 Chivas Guadalajara – SDCCU Stadium – Friendly
24. 10,279 – San Jose Earthquakes 1-1 Real Valladolid – Avaya Stadium – Friendly
25. 10,062 – Fiorentina 2-1 Chivas Guadalajara – SeatGeek Stadium – ICC
26. 8,973 – Marseille 8-1 DC United – Audi Field – Friendly
27. 8,351 – Pachuca 6-1 Memphis 901 FC – AutoZone Park – Friendly
28. 7,723 – Cardiff City 1-0 San Antonio FC – Toyota Field – Friendly
29. 6,347 – New Mexico United 1-1 Cardiff City – UNM Soccer Stadium – Friendly
30. 6,115 – Real Betis 4-3 Chattanooga FC – Finley Stadium – Friendly
31. 4,731 – Hertha Berlin 4-0 Forward Madison – Breese Stevens Field – Friendly
32. 3,151 – Club Tijuana 1-0 Orange County SC – Championship Soccer Stadium – Friendly
33. 900 – FC St. Pauli 2-0 Buffalo FC – All High Stadium – Friendly

N/A* – Arsenal 3-0 Colorado Rapids – Dick’s Sporting Goods Park – Friendly
N/A – FC Dallas 0-0 Club Tijuana – Toyota Stadium – Friendly
N/A – New York Cosmos 2-1 FC St. Pauli – Rocco Commisso Stadium – Friendly

*While an official number was not announced, the Denver Post described the crowd as “a near-sellout.”

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  1. Yespage

    August 19, 2019 at 9:13 am

    I think it is as simple as people can be willing to spend high prices to see their squad (or a top European team)… once or twice. When it comes to friendlies, the gloss does wear off and the prices are much harder to swallow.

  2. Charles Ulmer Farley

    August 15, 2019 at 8:14 pm

    I attended the Madrid derby (#3 above) and it was pretty fun, but for what it is ICC is severely over priced. They’d sell a hell of a lot more tickets if they were 50%-70% cheaper. They are pre-season friendlies, folks, and should be priced accordingly!

  3. Fsquid

    August 14, 2019 at 4:24 pm

    I went to Bayern – Inter in Charlotte a few years ago. It was the Green kid and Ribery. The rest was just filler. Way too overpriced for that.

  4. Ivan

    August 14, 2019 at 11:26 am

    So, that ICC is a shameless money grab, nothing more nothing less.

    They parade those footballers to meaningless friendlies overseas to “expand the brand”, and make money.

    I did go to a ICC game out of town a few years back(Liverpool – AC Milan), and I don’t plan on doing it again, unless they come to my backyard, RayJay in Tampa, which won’t happen.

    Now, there’s also something else. Norwegian and other low budget airlines started flying obscenely cheap direct flights overseas over the past few years.

    As such, back in April I went with my dad to London to see 2 PL games (Fulham-Everton and C. Palace -Man City) and a Europa League 1/4 final, Arsenal-Napoli. All planned months in advance, tickets to games bought at face value from club websites, Airbnb accommodation. It was a fairly inexpensive way to watch live quality MEANINGFUL games. And more people are wising up to those opportunities and not getting fleeced by the joke that is ICC.

    If you want to watch your favorite team in meaningful games, it’s doable, and with a little bit of planning, not at all expensive.

    That’s all I got.

    PS: Craven Cottage is an awesome stadium, probably the best game day experience of them all!

  5. Azer

    August 14, 2019 at 10:08 am

    ESPN also choose not to show some ICC games on TV involving bigger clubs like FC Bayern Munchen or Arsenal even though the games were played in American Cities/stadiums. Think about that for a second. I guess High School sports is more important for the ”world wide leader in sports”. Shame on them.

  6. Marc

    August 14, 2019 at 8:51 am

    If I knew St Pauli was going to Buffalo there would of been 904 in attendance. Man. I for one am tired of the same old pre season friendlies. Pre season is about fitness not $.

  7. Anthony

    August 14, 2019 at 8:49 am

    A few years ago, it was kind of a novelty to see top European clubs in America. Now there are 30-40 hours of European football on TV every Saturday. This summer there was Nations League, AFCON, Copa America, Women’s World Cup all before these friendlies. This isn’t really special anymore except for fans of the particular clubs

  8. DC

    August 13, 2019 at 11:49 pm

    FC Dallas didn’t announce an attendance vs Xolos but the second part of the double header with their USL League One team recorded a 958 attendance. That looked about right.

  9. Frank C

    August 13, 2019 at 10:51 pm

    Fans have gotten smarter and are not willing to pay over the top prices for friendlies with nothing to play for. no intensity and 1/2 the first team not on the bench or not scheduled to play, particularly on some of the fields here.

  10. Drew

    August 13, 2019 at 7:29 pm

    What about the friendlies (round robin tournament, played at Red Bull Arena and Seattle) involving Club America, River Plate and Boca Juniors? Where do they rank?

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