The United Soccer Leagues – operators of the United States’ only men’s second division (USL Championship) and one of its three third division leagues (USL League One) – are on pace for record-breaking crowd numbers in 2023. Attendance is up in both USL circuits as the season winds down.

Coming off COVID which dramatically affected sports across the board, things are looking up for the two leagues. Compared to the 2021 season, average crowds in the Championship are up 42%, while League One has seen a 33% bump.

Average attendance figures stand at 5,552 for the Championship, and 2,313 for League One. These might not seem that impressive on the surface. But this bests the average attendance numbers of many clubs in notable second tiers such as Spain, Italy, and France. And USL outfits have to do it without the potential of promotion that lower division clubs in other countries enjoy.

The USL Championship crossed the 2 million fan threshold in Detroit this week. This is the earliest point in a season the league has ever reached that total turnout number.

“We’re extremely proud to have hosted over two million fans at USL Championship matches so far this season,” said USL Championship President Jeremy Alumbaugh. “Credit goes to the fans, of course, and to our clubs for developing relationships within their communities and creating authentic soccer experiences at their venues. With the race to the playoffs heating up, we look forward to welcoming more fans and supporters to experience the exciting games remaining in the regular season.” 

On pace for a record-setting season of USL attendance

The league projects that over 2.2 million fans will eventually come through the gates this year in the Championship. This would be a record figure. Similarly, a total of over 400,000 fans is expected to be the final number in League One. This would also be a high mark for that division.

Any time things are on an upward trend, it’s a positive moment for the game in America. As much of the hype in the domestic competition this year has focused on MLS expansion and Lionel Messi, perhaps even more vital is the continued growth and stabilization of the lower divisions. And the turnstile reports from USL are no doubt encouraging news.

Photo: Imago