After a COVID-19 hiatus, the biggest soccer crowds in the U.S. in 2021 returned to some normalcy.
Generally speaking, attendance is the principal metric to gauge the popularity of the sport in the country. However, we look beyond national teams to see how well the sport fits in. After all, the diversity and sheer size of the country warrants different crowds for different competitions. For instance, club competitions often happen in lavish and large NFL stadiums, so you will see that trend below.
In 2020, we lost the opportunity to view sporting events at full capacity. That is, of course, with the exception of a handful of games at the beginning of the year. Games in February or March went on before the world essentially shut down. In February, Nissan Stadium hosted 59,069 people in Nashville SC’s home debut against Atlanta United. March had two games exceed 40,000 spectators. The Seattle Sounders and Chicago Fire played in front of 40,126 at CenturyLink Field, now Lumen Field. Then, an immense 69,301 fans packed into Mercedes-Benz Stadium to watch Atlanta United take on FC Cincinnati.
That year is unforgettable, largely for unfortunate and, frankly, frustrating reasons. This past year provided a little more freedom in regards to stadium capacity. Therefore, competitions for club and country could welcome more fans more frequently.
Biggest soccer crowds in the US in 2021
Below is how well the soccer market in the U.S. turned around in 2021. These are all the games that exceeded 40,000 fans in both club and international competitions.
Certain trends exist on surface level, particularly involving a certain MLS team.
50,000 and up
|Jul. 29||Gold Cup||Mexico vs. Canada||NRG Stadium||Houston, TX||70,304|
|June 12||Friendly||Mexico vs. Honduras||Mercedes-Benz Stadium||Atlanta, GA||70,072|
|July 24||MLS||Atlanta United vs. Columbus Crew||Mercedes-Benz Stadium||Atlanta, GA||67,507|
|August 15||MLS||Atlanta United vs. LAFC||Mercedes-Benz Stadium||Atlanta, GA||67,503|
|July 24||Gold Cup||Mexico vs. Honduras||State Farm Stadium||Phoenix, AZ||64,211|
|July 24||Gold Cup||El Salvador vs. Qatar||State Farm Stadium||Phoenix, AZ||64,211|
|August 1||Gold Cup||USA vs. Mexico||Allegiant Stadium||Las Vegas, NV||61,514|
|July 18||Gold Cup||Mexico vs. El Salvador||Cotton Bowl||Dallas, TX||56,742|
|July 3||Friendly||Mexico vs. Nigeria||Los Angeles Coliseum||Los Angeles, CA||53,258|
|July 18||Gold Cup||Mexico vs. El Salvador||Cotton Bowl||Dallas, TX||45,792|
|August 29||MLS||Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers||Lumen Field||Seattle, WA||45,737|
|May 29||Friendly||Mexico vs. Iceland||AT&T Stadium||Dallas, TX||44,892|
|October 30||MLS||Atlanta United vs. Toronto FC||Mercedes-Benz Stadium||Atlanta, GA||43,372|
|September 5||World Cup Qualifying||USA vs. Canada||Nissan Stadium||Nashville, TN||43,028|
|September 18||MLS||Atlanta United vs. DC United||Mercedes-Benz Stadium||Atlanta, GA||42,608|
|June 27||MLS||Atlanta United vs. New York Red Bulls||Mercedes-Benz Stadium||Atlanta, GA||42,575|
|October 27||MLS||Atlanta United vs. Inter Miami||Mercedes-Benz Stadium||Atlanta, GA||42,536|
|June 20||MLS||Atlanta United vs. Philadelphia Union||Mercedes-Benz Stadium||Atlanta, GA||42,523|
|September 29||MLS||Atlanta United vs. Inter Miami||Mercedes-Benz Stadium||Atlanta, GA||42,519|
|July 17||MLS||Atlanta United vs. New England Revolution||Mercedes-Benz Stadium||Atlanta, GA||42,517|
|October 20||MLS||Atlanta United vs. New York City FC||Mercedes-Benz Stadium||Atlanta, GA||42,511|
|September 10||MLS||Atlanta United vs. Orlando City||Mercedes-Benz Stadium||Atlanta, GA||42,507|
|August 28||MLS||Atlanta United vs. Nashville SC||Mercedes-Benz Stadium||Atlanta, GA||42,506|
|August 18||MLS||Atlanta United vs. Toronto FC||Mercedes-Benz Stadium||Atlanta, GA||42,502|
|September 16||MLS||Atlanta United vs. FC Cincinnati||Mercedes-Benz Stadium||Atlanta, GA||42,501|
|July 25||Gold Cup||USA vs. Jamaica||AT&T Stadium||Dallas, TX||41,318|
|July 25||Gold Cup||Costa Rica vs. Canada||AT&T Stadium||Dallas, TX||41,318|
|July 10||Gold Cup||Trinidad and Tobago||AT&T Stadium||Dallas, TX||41,229|
|May 29||MLS||Atlanta United vs. Nashville SC||Mercedes-Benz Stadium||Atlanta, GA||40,748|
|May 15||MLS||Atlanta United vs. CF Montreal||Mercedes-Benz Stadium||Atlanta, GA||40,116|
Breaking it Down
Immediately, one of the more recognizable trends is the frequency in which Mexico appears on this list. The fact that the U.S. hosts the Gold Cup every two years surely helps that trend. Yet, it also speaks volumes for the popularity of the neighbors to the south in the United States. That being said, it is nice to see the USMNT crack the biggest crowds in the U.S. in 2021.
We expect the Americans to make the list against Mexico. But, the World Cup qualifier against Canada is the first time the USMNT attracted more than 40,000 since 2017. That game was the Gold Cup opener against Panama. Interestingly, that game also came in Nashville.
On the down-side, COVID travel restrictions did cause fans to miss out on some opportunities. The usual International Champions Cup frequently welcomes the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool, Real Madrid or Barcelona. That tournament did not take place. Thus, restrictions reduced the possibility for even more games with massive crowds.
However, plenty of MLS made the biggest soccer crowds in the U.S. in 2021. Once again, Atlanta United led that particular charge. In conclusion, Atlanta comfortably surpassed Seattle as the league’s biggest crowd draw.
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