As the wise Santana Moss once said, “big time players step up in big time games.”
But after the four MLS Cup playoff matches this season, we think it’s time to alter that quote.
“Big time fans step up in big time games.”
For those who watched Houston, Atlanta, Vancouver and Chicago host the four knockout round games, you probably noticed something drastically different each night.
On Wednesday, Vancouver filled BC Place to near-capacity while Chicago could barely draw more than 10,000. Then on Thursday, the infamous fans in Atlanta set another record with the most ever fans for an MLS playoff game while Houston appeared to have more empty seats than full ones at BBVA Compass Stadium.
Say what you want about weeknight matches (and we can kind of forgive Houston because of the World Series game being played simultaneously), but the wide difference in attendance speaks volumes about the state of Major League Soccer supporters. Chicago and Houston are the third and fourth largest cities in the U.S., and drawing only 11,647 and 14,126 fans for a major match is unacceptable.
How many other sports teams in the U.S. or abroad would struggle to draw just an average attendance for a one-and-done playoff game? Simply put, the excitement and passion is very different among MLS clubs.
Take a look at the scenes in Atlanta on Thursday. This is a soccer game…in America…
Now look at a screenshot taken at kickoff of the Chicago vs. New York match.
Needless to say, Atlanta is now the benchmark for success in Major League Soccer while most of the older MLS clubs are struggling to keep up.