MLS has broken several attendance records this season. As a result of “The Messi Effect,” Sporting Kansas City and the New England Revolution set single-game attendance records. In Kansas City’s case, over 72,000 fans watched Inter Miami play Sporting KC at Arrowhead Stadium. Not long after, 65,612 people went to Gillette Stadium when Inter Miami defeated the New England Revolution. Those single-game statistics show the popularity of Lionel Messi and his star-studded Inter Miami lineup.

But how does the average attendance in MLS stack up against Europe’s top leagues?

When compared to attendance in the 2023/24 campaign from the top leagues in Europe, MLS fails to compare. The Bundesliga, Premier League, Serie A, LaLiga, and Ligue 1 all average higher attendances than Major League Soccer. On average, MLS pulls in 23,459 people per game. Even the 2. Bundesliga, the second tier in Germany, averages more fans per game. That division pulls 29,124 fans on average.

When listing some of the top divisions in terms of global popularity, Major League Soccer does average a higher attendance than the English Championship. The second tier in England, which features 24 teams, is arguably the most popular second division in the world. That shows strong attendance figures, so MLS beating out that division is noteworthy.

Comparing MLS attendance to European figures

  1. Bundesliga — 39,366
  2. English Premier League — 38,489
  3. Serie A — 30,857
  4. LaLiga — 29,151
  5. 2. Bundesliga — 29,124
  6. Ligue 1 — 26,629
  7. Major League Soccer — 23,459
  8. EFL Championship — 22,860

Granted, this list does not include every league worldwide with greater attendance figures than Major League Soccer. Rather, it focuses on Europe, where there is an ingrained history of soccer within the culture. Even though MLS is over 10,000 people behind compared to the Bundesliga and Premier League, certain factors play a role.

One of those is the size of stadiums used by the leagues. The average stadium capacity in Major League Soccer is 24,341. By comparison, the average in the Premier League is 39,288. Both MLS and the Premier League come up narrowly short of reaching full capacity at their games in the current campaign.

Therefore, MLS can take several things away from its ‘lower’ attendance figures. One of those is the growth potential. MLS has fans who want to go to games. Particularly when you look at some of the younger franchises like Nashville SC or Atlanta United, audiences are not hard to come by. The challenge for MLS is trying to maintain this demand. If the league uses the argument of star power through players like Lionel Messi, the league must constantly re-up on these massive signings. Granted, no one player will compare to Lionel Messi in terms of popularity.

MLS can also flirt with the idea of bigger stadiums. The soccer-specific grounds at GEODIS Park, Field, TQL Stadium, and Q2 Stadium feature some of the best atmospheres. With the future Miami Freedom Park being built adding to the 25,000-seat venues in Major League Soccer, San Diego FC’s upcoming use of the 34,000-seat Snapdragon Stadium could be an example of further growth.