One of the myriad of issues US Soccer has faced in recent times is the perception by the fan base that the federation only plays USMNT home games in a select few cities. USMNT attendance in 2022 seems to suggest a level of frustration and burnout of the same venues. But does the perception match the reality? Where has the US actually been playing all their games?
Top 10 cities visited by the USMNT since 2010
Note: Each city listed is the greater metropolitan area of each city rather than just the city itself. For example, MetLife Stadium is in East Rutherford, NJ. Then, Dignity Health Sports Park is in Carson, CA, just outside of Los Angeles.
1. Los Angeles (12 games)
|1/23/10||Friendly||USA vs. Honduras||Dignity Health Sports Park||18,626|
|1/22/11||Friendly||USA vs. Chile||Dignity Health Sports Park||18,580|
|6/25/11||Gold Cup||USA vs. Mexico||Rose Bowl||93,420|
|9/2/11||Friendly||USA vs. Costa Rica||Dignity Health Sports Park||15,798|
|2/1/14||Friendly||USA vs. South Korea||Dignity Health Sports Park||27,000|
|2/8/15||Friendly||USA vs. Panama||Dignity Health Sports Park||20,271|
|10/10/15||CONCACAF Cup||USA vs. Mexico||Rose Bowl||93,723|
|1/31/16||Friendly||USA vs. Iceland||Dignity Health Sports Park||8,803|
|2/5/16||Friendly||USA vs. Canada||Dignity Health Sports Park||9,274|
|1/28/18||Friendly||USA vs. Bosnia & Herzegovina||Dignity Health Sports Park||11,161|
|2/1/20||Friendly||USA vs. Costa Rica||Dignity Health Sports Park||9,172|
|12/18/21||Friendly||USA vs. Bosnia & Herzegovina||Dignity Health Sports Park||11,044|
The greater Los Angeles area leads the way on the list of top 10 cities visited by the USMNT. But fans in LA might have a justifiable complaint that ten of the twelve games played in their area have been friendlies (and January Camp friendlies to boot). It’s understandable but US Soccer has proven time and time again they are unwilling to put competitive games in locations with large Spanish speaking populations.
They’ve scheduled two more upcoming January Camp games for the area: January 25 against Serbia at the shiny, new BMO Stadium in downtown LA and then against Colombia back at Dignity Health Sports Park on January 28.
2. Kansas City (10 games)
|6/14/11||Gold Cup||USA vs. Guadeloupe||Children’s Mercy Park||20,109|
|10/16/12||World Cup Qualifying||USA vs. Guatemala||Children’s Mercy Park||16,947|
|10/11/13||World Cup Qualifying||USA vs. Jamaica||Children’s Mercy Park||18,467|
|7/13/15||Gold Cup||USA vs. Panama||Children’s Mercy Park||18,467|
|5/28/16||Friendly||USA vs. Bolivia||Children’s Mercy Park||8,894|
|6/26/19||Gold Cup||USA vs. Panama||Children’s Mercy Park||17,037|
|7/11/21||Gold Cup||USA vs. Haiti||Children’s Mercy Park||12,664|
|7/15/21||Gold Cup||USA vs. Martinique||Children’s Mercy Park||7,511|
|7/18/21||Gold Cup||USA vs. Canada||Children’s Mercy Park||18,467|
|6/5/22||Friendly||USA vs. Uruguay||Children’s Mercy Park||19,569|
While it may not be a surprise to hear that Kansas City gets national team games, given they have one of the better fan-bases in MLS, it might be surprising to some for them to come in 2nd on this list. KC has been fortunate to see the full spectrum of national team games: friendlies against South American opposition, numerous Gold Cup games, and a pair of World Cup Qualifiers.
The consistent support of both their club and the national team has paid off and been rewarded with World Cup hosting duties in 2026 (though games will be played at the much larger Arrowhead Stadium)
T-3. New York City area (8 games)
|8/10/10||Friendly||USA vs. Brazil||MetLife Stadium||77,223|
|3/26/11||Friendly||USA vs. Argentina||MetLife Stadium||78,936|
|10/11/11||Friendly||USA vs. Ecuador||Red Bull Arena||20,707|
|6/1/14||Friendly||USA vs. Turkey||Red Bull Arena||26,762|
|10/13/15||Friendly||USA vs. Costa Rica||Red Bull Arena||9,214|
|9/1/17||World Cup Qualifying||USA vs. Costa Rica||Red Bull Arena||26,500|
|9/7/18||Friendly||USA vs. Brazil||MetLife Stadium||32,489|
|9/6/19||Friendly||USA vs. Mexico||MetLife Stadium||47,960|
America’s largest metropolis being the third most popular destination for it’s national team typically wouldn’t raise any eyebrows. But much like Los Angeles the vast majority of the games here are friendlies. In fact, the lone competitive game in New York since 2010 was a disastrous 2-0 loss to Costa Rica, in part because of the number of Ticos fans in the building. US Soccer probably won’t put themselves in that situation again any time soon.
T-3. Philadelphia (8 games)
|5/29/10||Friendly||USA vs. Turkey||Lincoln Financial Field||55,407|
|10/12/10||Friendly||USA vs. Colombia||Subaru Park||8,823|
|8/10/11||Friendly||USA vs. Jamaica||Lincoln Financial Field||30,138|
|7/25/15||Gold Cup||USA vs. Panama||Subaru Park||12,598|
|6/11/16||Copa America Centenario||USA vs. Paraguay||Lincoln Financial Field||51,041|
|7/19/17||Gold Cup||USA vs. El Salvador||Lincoln Financial Field||31,615|
|5/28/18||Friendly||USA vs. Bolivia||Subaru Park||11,882|
|6/30/19||Gold Cup||USA vs. Curacao||Lincoln Financial Field||26,233|
Looking at Philly’s appearance on this list there seems to be a bit of an oddity. It’s worth noting that the USMNT games played at the MLS home venue tend to draw far worse than the games played at the NFL venue. On the surface this makes sense (NFL stadiums are obviously bigger than MLS stadiums). But the none of the games at Subaru Park have come close to selling out while all but one of the games at Lincoln Financial Field has cracked the 30,000 mark.
5. Washington DC (7 games)
|6/19/11||Gold Cup||USA vs. Jamaica||RFK Stadium||45,423|
|5/30/12||Friendly||USA vs. Brazil||FedEx Field||67,619|
|6/2/13||Friendly||USA vs. Germany||RFK Stadium||47,359|
|9/4/15||Friendly||USA vs. Peru||RFK Stadium||28,896|
|10/11/16||Friendly||USA vs. New Zealand||RFK Stadium||9,012|
|6/5/19||Friendly||USA vs. Jamaica||Audi Field||17,719|
|10/11/19||Nations League||USA vs. Cuba||Audi Field||13,784|
National teams playing a lot of their home games in their nation’s capital makes all the sense in the world but for some reason it feels just a little bit weird for the US playing in Washington DC. Perhaps because the country is so geographically large, perhaps it’s because the match-ups in DC haven’t been all that important, or perhaps it’s because RFK Stadium was in such bad shape for so long. But hosting the 5th most MNT games since 2010 feels about right.
T-6. Columbus (6 games)
|9/11/12||World Cup Qualifying||USA vs. Jamaica||Historic Crew Stadium||23,881|
|9/10/13||World Cup Qualifying||USA vs. Mexico||Historic Crew Stadium||24,584|
|3/29/16||World Cup Qualifying||USA vs. Guatemala||Historic Crew Stadium||20,624|
|11/11/16||World Cup Qualifying||USA vs. Mexico||Historic Crew Stadium||24,650|
|10/13/21||World Cup Qualifying||USA vs. Costa Rica||Lower.com Field||20,165|
|1/27/22||World Cup Qualifying||USA vs. El Salvador||Lower.com Field||20,000|
At one end of the spectrum there’s Los Angeles and New York with all the games but none that matter. And at the other end of the spectrum is Columbus, OH with far fewer games but only ones that matter. Columbus (and Ohio in general) is a favorite of US Soccer’s as they’ve hosted two World Cup Qualifiers in each of the last three cycles. They’ve been putting games in Columbus for so long that the Columbus Crew is on their second soccer-specific stadium.
T-6. Nashville (6 games)
|3/29/11||Friendly||USA vs. Paraguay||Nissan Stadium||29,059|
|7/3/15||Friendly||USA vs. Guatemala||Nissan Stadium||44,835|
|7/8/17||Gold Cup||USA vs. Panama||Nissan Stadium||47,622|
|9/11/18||Friendly||USA vs. Mexico||Nissan Stadium||40,194|
|7/3/19||Gold Cup||USA vs. Jamaica||Nissan Stadium||28,473|
|9/5/21||World Cup Qualifying||USA vs. Canada||Nissan Stadium||43,028|
Nashville cracking the top 10 cities visited by the USMNT is probably the biggest surprise on the list. But the crowds they have drawn justify their continued appearances in the Music City. Unfortunately, FIFA did not feel that those crowds were enough to deserve World Cup hosting duties (opting instead to give the last spot to Gianni Infantino’s buddy Robert Kraft in Foxborough, Massachusetts).
But with the opening of Geodis Park last year, Nashville is home to the largest soccer-specific stadium in the country. Because of this, Nashville figures to stay in the rotation with US Soccer for quite some time. However, a new soccer-specific stadium possibly opening down I-40 in Memphis by 2026 could draw events away.
T-8. Dallas (5 games)
|7/24/13||Gold Cup||USA vs. Honduras||AT&T Stadium||81,410|
|7/7/15||Gold Cup||USA vs. Honduras||Toyota Stadium||22,357|
|5/25/16||Friendly||USA vs. Ecuador||Toyota Stadium||9,893|
|7/22/17||Gold Cup||USA vs. Costa Rica||AT&T Stadium||45,516|
|7/25/21||Gold Cup||USA vs. Jamaica||AT&T Stadium||41,318|
The US having only played in the Dallas area five times in the last 13 years is a bit strange considering US Soccer spent gobs and gobs of money to put the National Soccer Hall of Fame in the same stadium as FC Dallas. Even more bizarre that of the five trips to Dallas only two of those games were played in the aforementioned MLS stadium.
T-8. Hartford (5 games)
|5/25/10||Friendly||USA vs. Czech Republic||Pratt & Whitney Stadium||36,218|
|7/16/13||Gold Cup||USA vs. Costa Rica||Pratt & Whitney Stadium||25,432|
|10/10/14||Friendly||USA vs. Ecuador||Pratt & Whitney Stadium||36,265|
|7/1/17||Friendly||USA vs. Ghana||Pratt & Whitney Stadium||28,754|
|10/16/18||Friendly||USA vs. Peru||Pratt & Whitney Stadium||24,959|
There is a case, albeit a somewhat uncompelling one, that Pratt & Whitney Stadium is a better home to the USMNT and USWNT that it is to it’s main tenant, the UConn Huskies college football team. The crowds aren’t ever going to shatter any records (it’s only a 40,000 seat stadium) but in the last five appearances, none of them have stunk either.
T-8. Orlando (5 games)
|10/6/17||World Cup Qualifying||USA vs. Panama||Exploria Stadium||25,303|
|3/21/19||Friendly||USA vs. Ecuador||Exploria Stadium||17,422|
|11/15/19||Nations League||USA vs. Canada||Exploria Stadium||13,103|
|1/31/21||Friendly||USA vs. Trinidad & Tobago||Exploria Stadium||3,503|
|3/27/22||World Cup Qualifying||USA vs. Panama||Exploria Stadium||25,022|
Orlando is one of the venues continually chosen by US Soccer that has started to irritate US fans around the rest of the country lately. Considering that in the stretch of four and a half years, Exploria Stadium has already hosted five USMNT games (two of which were do or die World Cup Qualifiers) it’s not an unreasonable gripe.
T-8. San Francisco (5 games)
|5/27/14||Friendly||USA vs. Azerbaijan||Candlestick Park||24,688|
|6/3/16||Copa America Centenario||USA vs. Colombia||Levi’s Stadium||67,439|
|3/24/17||World Cup Qualifying||USA vs. Honduras||PayPal Park||17,729|
|7/26/17||Gold Cup||USA vs. Jamaica||Levi’s Stadium||63,032|
|2/2/19||Friendly||USA vs. Costa Rica||PayPal Park||13,656|
The Bay Area is massive and as such it’s fitting that the US has played at three different venues in town. They played one of the very last events ever at the famed Candlestick Park, they’ve played two big tournament games at the 49ers new home and made two appearances at the soccer-specific home of the San Jose Earthquakes.
T-8. Tampa (5 games)
|2/24/10||Friendly||USA vs. El Salvador||Raymond James Stadium||21,737|
|6/11/11||Gold Cup||USA vs. Panama||Raymond James Stadium||27,731|
|6/8/12||World Cup Qualifying||USA vs. Antigua & Barbuda||Raymond James Stadium||23,971|
|7/12/17||Gold Cup||USA vs. Martinique||Raymond James Stadium||23,368|
|10/11/18||Friendly||USA vs. Colombia||Raymond James Stadium||38,631|
It seems just a bit odd that Tampa got to host US games three straight years despite not having an MLS team (though the Tampa Bay Rowdies do very well in the USL Championship). They were then gone for five years before coming back in consecutive years. And it’s no surprise that the largest crowd at Raymond James Stadium in that time, by a wide margin, was against a Colombia team coming off their second straight World Cup knockout round appearance.
Since 2010, the USMNT has played a total of 137 home games. Of those 137 games, 82 of them have been played in the cities on this list. That means that, in the last 13 years, the USMNT has played 60% of its games in just 13 metropolitan areas. For a country the size of the United States, that’s not acceptable.
It has already been proven that playing in the same few locations over and over and over again hurts attendance. US Soccer isn’t off to a great start at varying the venues for the current cycle, with the two upcoming January Camp games against Serbia and Colombia both in LA. The next home game for them to decide on is a Nations League game on March 27 against El Salvador.
With the hosting duties for the 2026 World Cup growing ever closer, it bears repeating that the best thing US Soccer can do (both to boost the profile of the national team and to build excitement for the World Cup) is to take the team to as many new and different places as possible. Play in places like Albuquerque, Atlanta, Birmingham, Boise, Honolulu, Little Rock, Louisville, Memphis or Milwaukee. This boosts the profile of the national team and builds excitement for the World Cup.
If they do that, there’s no reason the profile of soccer in the US doesn’t explode.
PHOTO: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire
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