Mexico Exposes An Attendance Problem For U.S. Soccer
USMNT attendance falls flat as they try to build bonds with future fans.
Attendance at international friendly matches has made USMNT headlines recently, especially after Christian Pulisic called out fans, or a lack thereof, after a recent friendly against Morocco.
But support isn’t a problem for one national soccer team playing games in the United States.
Mexico have been drawing in massive crowds for friendlies in NFL stadiums for their “Mex Tour”, at the same time the U.S. men attempt to fill smaller capacity soccer specific stadiums.
Other outlets have pointed out this disparity in the past. But the fact remains that U.S. soccer has yet to address the fan gap. They market “One nation. One team”, but recent figures make the case that Mexico is actually America’s team.
A May 28 match between Mexico and Nigeria at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas drew 56,872 fans.
A June 2 match between Mexico and Uruguay at State Farm Stadium in Glendale garnered a crowd of 57,735.
And Mexico’s most recent match against Ecuador on June 5 at Soldier Field in Chicago reportedly drew a near capacity crowd of 61,000 fans.
The USMNT haven’t had as many recent friendlies as Mexico. So we included their last home World Cup qualifier against Panama on March 27 at Exploria Stadium in Orlando.
The 25,222 strong crowd was described as loud and adoring. But the attendance at Orlando SC’s home field is less than half of Mexico’s recent friendlies on U.S. soil.
A June 1 match against Morocco at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati featured an official attendance of 24,002. That number falls short of the MLS venue’s capacity of 26,000 fans.
Though the USMNT went on to win 3-0, Christian Pulisic made his feelings clear saying, “For whatever reason, I’m not super happy with the amount of Americans here, however that works out, if I’m being completely honest.”
Perhaps it had to do with the fact kickoff on a Wednesday night was at 7:30pm ET. Tickets were also at least $60.
And remember when Mexico had more than 57-thousand fans in a match against Uruguay? Well, the USMNT played them three days later at Mercy Park in Kansas City and drew a sellout crowd of 19,569. A 66% difference.
What makes this more interesting is the fact that Soccer United Marketing (SUM), which oversees the commercialization, marketing, promotion and operational execution for the Mexican National Team in the U.S. market, organizes the Mex Tour. SUM is also the marketing arm of Major League Soccer, and exclusive marketing partner of the United States Soccer Federation. So, essentially U.S. soccer is marketing it’s chief rival. And doing a great job of it.
According to Sports Business Journal, their 20-year relationship will however end when their current deal expires at the end of the year.
For the 2002 World Cup qualifying cycle the average crowd at U.S. home games was 31,158. Twenty years later, with soccer now far more popular, it was 24,845. That’s also lower than Canada’s average attendance in the 2021-22 Concacaf octagonal, though the US population is nearly nine times greater.
That’s a massive issue. And one that USSF needs to address quickly. With a young, dynamic and improving side, and a return to the World Cup this year for the first time since 2014, every empty seat is a missed opportunity to begin or cement a fans relationship with the team.