Atlanta United is helping US soccer attract record crowds despite the national team’s failure to qualify for the 2018 Fifa World Cup.
Bruce Arena’s US team lost to Trinidad and Tobago last night, meaning they will not play in Russia and miss out on the World Cup for the first time since 1986.
However, fans are increasingly attending US club soccer games, and the huge capacity of Atlanta United’s new Mercedes-Benz Stadium enables the Major League Soccer (MLS) club to smash attendance records.
Atlanta has announced that it has already sold 70,426 tickets for its season finale October 22 game against Toronto FC, assuring itself of another MLS attendance record for a standalone game as well as the season average record for a US pro team.
United broke the attendance record for a single US soccer game when 70,425 watched its opener at the 71,000-capacity Mercedes-Benz Stadium against Orlando City last month.
Atlanta also looks certain to break the average attendance record for a full season of 47,856 set by NASL’s New York Cosmos at Giants Stadium in 1978, as well as the MLS record of 45,881 held by the Seattle Sounders.
Meanwhile, the United Soccer League (USL) second tier league has attracted cumulative attendance of two million fans in a season for the first time.
The landmark comes just two years after it reached the one-million milestone, with attendances also up 33 per cent on 2016.
USL president Jake Edwards said: “The remarkable passion shown by our fans has been a wonder to behold throughout this season, and has helped the league make history yet again this weekend.
“The USL’s growth over the past three years, which has seen our average attendance first break the one million-mark two years ago, then quickly surpass the two million-mark this year, is a testament to the raised standards the league has implemented and the outstanding level of competition we see on the field week-in and week-out.”