The USMNT suffered attendance drops in consecutive cycles. From 2010 to 2014, the United States averaged attendance of 36,697. Now, from 2018 to 2022, the average attendance is 23,029.
The reason for the four-year cycles, such as 2010 to 2014 or 2018 to 2022, stems from the World Cup. Of course, the United States failed to qualify for the World Cup in 2018. It starts to make sense in that case. The dip in form and success from the USMNT led to fewer people in attendance. However, it is not so clear-cut.
For years, attendance is one of the key metrics used in gauging the popularity of the United States Men’s National Team. In that regard, this downward trend is a bad thing. In fact, the USMNT failed to average attendance figures above 30,000 fans per game since 2015.
US Soccer itself is among the culprits for the lower attendance numbers.
Prioritizing smaller stadiums
In October 2021, the United States was in the midst of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying. Much of the frustration among fans was that games happened at relatively small, soccer-specific venues. Lower.com Field in Columbus, Q2 Stadium in Austin, Allianz in Minnesota, TQL Stadium in Cincinnati and Orlando City’s Exploria Stadium. Each of these has a maximum capacity less than 26,000.
Yet, this is by design for revenues going towards US Soccer. From 2010 to 2018, average attendance at World Cup Qualifying hovered around 21,500. In the 2018 World Cup Qualifying Cycle, the average ticket cost was $97.06. Eight years earlier, the average ticket was $48.08, less than half of 2018. Despite playing one additional game in the 2010 cycle, total revenue increased by over $8 million in ticket sales.
Compare this to 2002, when the average attendance at games was 31,158, a whole 10,000 more than number of late, ticket prices were just $28.05 on average. Total revenue remained over $10 million less than in 2018’s cycle.
Limits on availability and stringent pricing could force people out.
Regardless, here are the attendance figures for the USMNT from 2018 through the present.
USMNT Attendance: 2018-2022
|Competition||No. of games||Total Attendance||Average attendance|
|2019 Gold Cup||6||177,575||29,596|
|2019/20 Nations League||4||98,986||24,746|
|2021 Gold Cup||6||161,974||16,996|
|World Cup Qualifying||6||173,917||28,987|
|2022 Nations League||1||20,500||20,500|
In total the average attendance for the USMNT over this cycle is 23,029. This figure represents a drop of 29% from 2014 to 2017. Comparing this most recent cycle to 2010 to 2014, attendance numbers are down a staggering 37%. In that time, the USMNT averaged 36,697 at home games.
That steep of a drop may be surprising. The success of the side in winning the Gold Cup and Nations League, both on home soil, combined with World Cup qualification should warrant more people in attendance. Success breeds popularity.
However, there are several factors worth considering when it comes to the drops in attendance. That includes the aforementioned attempts by US Soccer to put significant games in soccer-specific, and lower capacity, stadiums.
Explaining the lower attendance numbers
First and foremost, the USMNT failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Therefore, the games in early 2018 to serve as a send-off series had sparse crowds. All three friendlies before the 2018 World Cup (Jan. 28 vs. BIH, March 27 vs. PAR, May 28 vs. BOL) failed to crack 12,000 fans. Missing the World Cup had an effect on fans. Perhaps many used the power of their wallet to show disapproval towards the USMNT even after the World Cup passed.
Second, the COVID-19 pandemic that began in 2020 had lasting effects through 2021. It shut sports around the world down for months. Even once live attendance returned, stadiums had limits on seating capacity. Limited seating capacity had a small effect on a pair of home friendlies (Dec. 2020 against El Salvador and Jan. 2021 against Trinidad & Tobago). This reared its head more in the Nations League. However, the competition’s semifinals and final in Denver pulled in decent crowds welcoming Honduras and Mexico. Those games pulled 34,000 and 37,000, respectively.
Experience teaches how games against Mexico, particularly cup finals, fill stadiums to the brim. Gold Cup Finals in 2019, 2011, 2009 and 2007 illustrate that much.
Perhaps the 2022 World Cup can have an impact on the attendance in the United States. Or, US Soccer can repeatedly put major US Soccer games in soccer-specific stadiums.
Additional reporting by Kyle Fansler.
PHOTO: IMAGO / Icon Sportswire
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