Where Soccer Ranks In The Most Attended U.S. Sporting Events

The most recent MLS Cup had more fans than the Super Bowl, but where does soccer really rank?

In his pre-Super Bowl interview with CBS this past week, Donald Trump said he would prefer his 12-year-old son Barron to not play American football, despite the NFL and college football’s status as a leader in highest sports attendance in the United States. 

It’s too dangerous, the U.S. president said, referring to the concussion rate as well as the prevalence of other types of injuries. 

Instead, Trump said he’s happy with Barron continuing to play soccer (he’s currently on a D.C. United youth team).

“A lot of people including me thought soccer would probably never make it in this country but it really is moving forward rapidly,” Trump told CBS’s Margaret Brennan of “Face the Nation.”

In fact, the Trumps set up a full-size soccer goal in the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden outside the White House. 

With soccer replacing basketball in the White House since 2016, maybe we shouldn’t be too surprised the 2018 MLS Cup in December, won 2-0 by Atlanta United, had more fans in attendance (and a greater atmosphere) than the Super Bowl, played in the same Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta a couple months later.

But, when you look at the most attended sports in the U.S. on average, soccer still has a long way to go to catch American football, and even soccer in the rest of the world. 

The 2018 MLS Cup final was the highest attended soccer match of all time, drawing 73,019 fans into MBS on Dec. 8. In comparison, Sunday’s Super Bowl drew 70,081 in Atlanta. While much of that is down to fewer tickets being available because of stadium configuration to accommodate different needs, it is an impressive statistic for MLS to flout.

While the match was an MLS record for a non-doubleheader, it ranks No. 73 all-time in largest crowds for a soccer match in the U.S. Most of the highest-attended soccer matches in the U.S. did not involve any American teams, with the biggest crowd for a U.S. team coming at the 1994 World Cup.

You can find a full list of highest attended soccer matches in the U.S. here.

Highest Sports Attendance

So, how do the highest-attended soccer matches in the U.S. compare to the other highest sports attendance numbers in the U.S.?

Here are the records for various leagues and sports in the United States.

Highest Sports Attendance In The U.S.

NWSL Attendance Record

23,403
Houston Dash at Orlando Pride, 2016 Regular Season, Citrus Bowl, Gainesville, Florida

NCAA Baseball Attendance Record

40,106
Houston at San Diego State, 2004 Regular Season, Petco Park, San Diego, California

MLS Attendance Record

73,019
Portland Timbers at Seattle Sounders, 2018 MLS Cup Final, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia

Note: Other MLS matches have had larger crowds, but as part of a doubleheader.

NCAA Basketball Attendance Record

78,129
Kentucky vs. Michigan State, 2003 Regular Season, Ford Field, Detroit

USWNT Attendance Record

90,185
United States vs. China/Norway vs. Brazil, 1999 Women’s World Cup Final/Third-Place Match Doubleheader, Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California.

MLB Attendance Record

92,706
Chicago White Sox at Los Angeles Dodgers, 1959 World Series, LA Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles

USMNT Attendance Record

93,869 (tie)
United States vs. Colombia, 1994 World Cup Group Stage, Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California
United States vs. Romania, 1994 World Cup Group Stage, Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California

NHL Attendance Record

104,172*
Toronto Maple Leafs at Detroit Red Wings, 2014 NHL Winter Classic, Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Michigan

* — The announced attendance was 105,491 based on tickets sold, but fewer people made it into the stadium, keeping the NHL from claiming the Guinness World Record from the next game on our list.

NCAA Hockey Attendance Record

104,173
Michigan State at Michigan, 2010 Regular Season, Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Note: While the announced attendance was 113,411, the Guinness World Record set in this game is 104,173. 

NFL Attendance Record

105,121
Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants, 2009 Regular Season, Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas

NBA Attendance Record

108,713
2010 NBA All-Star Game, Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas

Note: The largest crowd for a non-exhibition game was 62,046, when the Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks played at the Georgia Dome in 1998. 

U.S. Soccer Attendance Record

Highest Sports Attendance

Michigan Stadium for Man U vs. Real Madrid in 2014. Photo: Getty Images

109,318
Manchester United vs. Real Madrid, 2014 ICC, Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Michigan

NCAA Football Attendance Record

130,045
University of Tennessee vs. Virginia Tech, 2016 Regular Season, Bristol Motor Speedway, Bristol, Tennessee

(The most in a football stadium was Notre Dame at Michigan in 2013, with 115,109 fans at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan.)

U.S. Horse Racing Attendance Record

170,513
2015 Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs, Louisville, Kentucky

Motor Sports Attendance Record

350,000
Indianapolis 500, 2016, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Speedway, Indiana

Note: The capacity at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is 257,325 but features massive amounts of standing room. The 350,000 number is the best guess for the record attendance in 2016. And for the record, we don’t really think motor sports are comparable to human sports, but we figured we’d toss this stat in the mix for argument’s sake.

U.S. Concert Attendance Record

800,000
New York Philharmonic, 1986, New York City

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