The year 2022 was a smashing success for the USMNT’s TV ratings. After all, they qualified for the World Cup and advanced to the Round of 16. But their attendance did not benefit the same way. In fact, the 2022 USMNT attendance was their lowest since 2006.
Here’s how the crowds break down.
|January 27||World Cup Qualifying||USA vs. El Salvador||Lower.com Field||20,000|
|February 2||World Cup Qualifying||USA vs. Honduras||Allianz Field||19,202|
|March 27||World Cup Qualifying||USA vs. Panama||Exploria Stadium||25,022|
|June 1||Friendly||USA vs. Morocco||TQL Stadium||24,002|
|June 5||Friendly||USA vs. Uruguay||Children’s Mercy Park||19,569|
|June 10||Nations League||USA vs. Grenada||Q2 Stadium||20,500|
Worst attendance since 2006
In 2022, the USMNT totaled 128,295 fans over the course of six games. That averages out to 21,383 fans per game. No average attendance for the USMNT has been that low since 2006 when they totaled 162,876 over the course of eight home games for an average of 20,360.
This does exclude the COVID year of 2020, when they averaged 5,836 per game. The US played a total of four games that year, only two of which were at home: Costa Rica in February and then El Salvador in December (which was played with capacity restrictions in place).
Declining attendance not a new trend
2022’s average of 21,383 per game is a drop of 15% from 2021. That year, over the course of 15 home games, the United States averaged 25,155 fans per game. It was also the seventh-straight year with an average attendance of under 30,000. And it is the eleventh-straight year with an average attendance of under 40,000.
But, low attendance is not surprising when considering that US Soccer has bragged about playing games in smaller stadiums. This artificially increases demand. Thus, it allowed US Soccer to charge outrageous prices for tickets to games.
This was especially true in 2022. All six games played occurred in soccer-specific stadiums with a capacity of under 27,000 people. And while playing in small stadiums is a surefire way to limit attendance, that number gets even lower when some of those stadiums fail to sell out. Such was the case with the Panama game in Orlando and the Morocco game in Cincinnati.
How to boost attendance
Now, it is worth noting that the US typically sees an attendance bump the year after the World Cup. Attendance in 2007 jumped 59% from the year before of 20,360 up to 32,282. Then, there was a 13% increase from 2010’s 35,676 to 40,314 in 2011. And, in 2015 the average was 38,764, an increase of 13% over 34,374 in 2014.
For that jump to happen in 2023, however, US Soccer must stop playing in the same few venues over and over again. For example, the game in January against El Salvador was played a Lower.com Field in Columbus just three months after the last appearance there. The friendly against Morocco at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati was played in June 2022. That stadium hosted a US-Mexico World Cup Qualifier the previous November. To top it off, Q2 Stadium in Austin hosted its third competitive USMNT fixture in the stretch of eleven months when they played Grenada in the Nations League.
They aren’t off to a great start with that in 2023 as the two January camp games are both being played in the Los Angeles area: first against Serbia on January 25 at Banc of California Stadium, and then against Colombia at Dignity Health Sports Park on January 28.
With the World Cup coming to the US in 2026 the best way to boost the USMNT attendance and profile of the team would be for US Soccer to adopt a traveling roadshow mentality and take the team to as many new and different places as possible. There’s no better way to grow the attendance for the team than to bring tons of new fans on board who haven’t ever been able to see them play in-person before.
PHOTO: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire
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