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Breaking down the biggest soccer crowds in the US in 2021

biggest soccer crowds in the US in 2021

Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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. 29Gold CupMexico vs. CanadaNRG StadiumHouston, TX70,304
June 12FriendlyMexico vs. HondurasMercedes-Benz StadiumAtlanta, GA70,072
July 24MLSAtlanta United vs. Columbus CrewMercedes-Benz StadiumAtlanta, GA67,507
August 15MLSAtlanta United vs. LAFCMercedes-Benz StadiumAtlanta, GA67,503
July 24Gold CupMexico vs. HondurasState Farm StadiumPhoenix, AZ64,211
July 24Gold CupEl Salvador vs. QatarState Farm StadiumPhoenix, AZ64,211
August 1Gold CupUSA vs. MexicoAllegiant StadiumLas Vegas, NV61,514
July 18Gold CupMexico vs. El SalvadorCotton BowlDallas, TX56,742
July 3FriendlyMexico vs. NigeriaLos Angeles ColiseumLos Angeles, CA53,258
40,000-50,000 fans
July 18Gold CupMexico vs. El SalvadorCotton BowlDallas, TX45,792
August 29MLSSeattle Sounders vs. Portland TimbersLumen FieldSeattle, WA45,737
May 29FriendlyMexico vs. IcelandAT&T StadiumDallas, TX44,892
October 30MLSAtlanta United vs. Toronto FCMercedes-Benz StadiumAtlanta, GA43,372
September 5World Cup QualifyingUSA vs. CanadaNissan StadiumNashville, TN43,028
September 18MLSAtlanta United vs. DC UnitedMercedes-Benz StadiumAtlanta, GA42,608
June 27MLSAtlanta United vs. New York Red BullsMercedes-Benz StadiumAtlanta, GA42,575
October 27MLSAtlanta United vs. Inter MiamiMercedes-Benz StadiumAtlanta, GA42,536
June 20MLSAtlanta United vs. Philadelphia UnionMercedes-Benz StadiumAtlanta, GA42,523
September 29MLSAtlanta United vs. Inter MiamiMercedes-Benz StadiumAtlanta, GA42,519
July 17MLSAtlanta United vs. New England RevolutionMercedes-Benz StadiumAtlanta, GA42,517
October 20MLSAtlanta United vs. New York City FCMercedes-Benz StadiumAtlanta, GA42,511
September 10MLSAtlanta United vs. Orlando CityMercedes-Benz StadiumAtlanta, GA42,507
August 28MLSAtlanta United vs. Nashville SCMercedes-Benz StadiumAtlanta, GA42,506
August 18MLSAtlanta United vs. Toronto FCMercedes-Benz StadiumAtlanta, GA42,502
September 16MLSAtlanta United vs. FC CincinnatiMercedes-Benz StadiumAtlanta, GA42,501
July 25Gold CupUSA vs. JamaicaAT&T StadiumDallas, TX41,318
July 25Gold CupCosta Rica vs. CanadaAT&T StadiumDallas, TX41,318
July 10Gold CupTrinidad and TobagoAT&T StadiumDallas, TX41,229
May 29MLSAtlanta United vs. Nashville SCMercedes-Benz StadiumAtlanta, GA40,748
May 15MLSAtlanta United vs. CF MontrealMercedes-Benz StadiumAtlanta, GA40,116
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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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. locofooty

    January 6, 2022 at 9:49 am

    Just based on the capacity of the Benz, Atl Utd. probably still won the attendance figures, but those numbers are misleading as tickets distributed is the counting measure and not actual “butts on seats”. They rarely announce attendance towards the end of the match anymore. Saw a lot of empty seats this past season.

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