With a lot of serious competition from the Soccer Champions Tour and Leagues Cup, the attendance for the inaugural Premier League Summer Series averaged more than 44,000 fans per game. In total, 264,879 soccer fans attended the series throughout the United States.

When you consider that the Premier League Summer Series didn’t include Manchester United and Arsenal (they went on separate tours), the 44,147 average attendance is impressive. Without the Gunners and Red Devils, the majority of the clubs participating in the series had much smaller fanbases.

So, how did the clubs do, in particular?

Premier League Summer Series attendances

This year, the inaugural Premier League Summer Series featured six clubs: Aston Villa, Brentford, Brighton & Hove Albion, Chelsea, Fulham, and Newcastle.

The Premier League is easily the most popular European league in the US, but American fandom is highly concentrated amongst the big clubs. Aside from Chelsea (no offense to new-money Newcastle), none of the other five participating sides can count themselves amongst what most would consider the Premier League’s elite.

Plus while the Premier League Summer Series was taking place, Manchester United was embarking on their own tour across the US. In addition, Chelsea played Wrexham in North Carolina beforehand, and wrap up their US tour in Chicago against Dortmund on August 2. Meanwhile, Arsenal took part in the Soccer Champions Tour, which also included Barcelona, Juventus, and Real Madrid.

So the question is, would fans turn out to watch the Premier League clubs with smaller fanbases?

The slate consisted of nine matches, with each team playing three games. Five different venues were utilized. Two smaller soccer specific stadiums (Red Bull Arena and Exploria Stadium in New Jersey and Orlando respectively), and three larger NFL venues in Philadelphia, Atlanta (full capacity opened), and the suburbs of Washington, D.C were used.

There were three doubleheaders on the same day in the same venue, surely to give a boost to the crowds.

2023 Premier League Summer Series Attendance
Sat 7/22Chelsea vs BrightonLincoln Financial Field – Philadelphia65,12871,896
Sun 7/23Fulham vs BrentfordLincoln Financial Field – Philadelphia40,332*71,896
Sun 7/23Newcastle vs Aston VillaLincoln Financial Field – Philadelphia40,332*71,896
Wed 7/26Brentford vs BrightonMercedes-Benz Stadium – Atlanta70,789*71,000
Wed 7/26Newcastle vs ChelseaMercedes-Benz Stadium – Atlanta70,789*71,000
Wed 7/26Fulham vs Aston VillaExploria Stadium – Orlando16,13425,500
Fri 7/28Brighton vs NewcastleRed Bull Arena – Harrison (NYC Area)26,15025,000
Sun 7/30Aston Villa vs BrentfordFedEx Field – Landover (DC Area)46,346*67,617
Sun 7/30Chelsea vs FulhamFedEx Field – Landover (DC Area)46,346*67,617

Overall, attendance was not bad at all. The lowest crowd came in Orlando, where just over 16,000 showed up to see Fulham-Aston Villa. Next lowest was Brighton against Newcastle at Red Bull Arena – but this was reported as an over-capacity sellout.

An early weeknight start and lower-tier matchup on a Wednesday in Atlanta saw a smaller crowd for Brentford-Brighton. But as the night went on, Chelsea and Newcastle fans completely filled the stadium. The Sunday finale(s) in DC were a bit underwhelming, however. The trick of scheduling Chelsea as part of the twin-bill didn’t lift things as much as Atlanta. As in midweek, the first game was more sparsely attended, with seats filling up as the second game got going.

The verdict

An advantage of the Premier League Summer Series is that it brought some structure to the annual parade of English clubs touring the USA in their offseason.

Unsurprisingly, the biggest crowds were for the Chelsea matches. But while their first two games each filled stadiums to over 90% capacity, the Sunday afternoon finale in DC didn’t come close to matching that feat.

Overall the average for the tournament was 44,147 fans per game (counting each doubleheader as one ticketed event/game). In games/doubleheaders featuring Chelsea, that average moves up to 60,754. The four games on three days without any Chelsea participation at all averaged 27,539 fans (keep in mind that two of those took place at 25,000 seat MLS venues).

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Still, except for the one game in Orlando (an evening which was hit with thunderstorms in the area), it was a decent showing — even if the biggest clubs were not participating.

If the Premier League Summer Series returns next year and beyond, it will be interesting to see if a trend develops with the Premier League-run competition sending the smaller sides. LaLiga ran a similar event in 2023, sending Atléti, Sevilla, Sociedad, and Betis – while the main draws, Barcelona and Real Madrid, participated on a different tour.

The Premier League Summer Series could remain anchored by one big club to fill out the larger venues. But splitting off the smaller teams to more appropriately-sized stadiums, perhaps even in smaller markets, could prove fruitful to keep interest high and the atmospheres exciting. And the pockets of supporters of those clubs surely would appreciate the chance to see their favorite teams in person.

Photo credit: Imago