MLS sets new attendance benchmark

The Rose Bowl hosts the MLS game between LA Galaxy and LAFC on July 4, 2023

Featured image credit: Rylesbourne/CC BY-SA 4.0/Edited for size

Major League Soccer (MLS) has announced a new regular season attendance record following another landmark campaign which saw Lionel Messi arrive at Inter Miami.

MLS said that in total, 10,900,804 fans attended games in 2023, averaging out at 22,111 per match. This means that bar the COVID-19 affected seasons of 2020 and 2021, a new attendance record has been set for the eighth consecutive campaign. Gate figures were 10 million in 2022 and 8.6 million in 2019.

Philadelphia Union, LAFC, St. Louis City SC and Austin FC put up the sold out signs at every regular-season match in 2023 – the latter club continuing a trend that has seen it register full houses at every MLS game since entering the league in 2021.

St. Louis City SC entered as an expansion franchise, playing at its new CityPark stadium, while a new single game attendance record was set on July 4 at the Rose Bowl in California after a sold-out crowd of 82,110 packed in to see a clash between rivals LA Galaxy and LAFC.

Messi’s arrival mid-season saw Inter Miami’s attendances at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale rise by 38%, matched by a corresponding skyrocket in ticket prices amid the demand to see the Argentinian superstar.

Commenting on the figures, Camilo Durana, executive vice-president of the Apple broadcast partnership, properties and events at MLS and Soccer United Marketing (SUM), told Forbes: “It’s only going to get better, and certainly the arrival of Messi put us on a completely different level, but the momentum we had coming into the season was there and we were on track to beat a lot of our historic goals even before the arrival of Messi.

“That wasn’t necessarily something that happened overnight and it speaks to the investment by our owners over the years in everything from the right soccer-specific stadiums, staff, training facilities and more.

“Obviously from a business standpoint we’ve done a lot of work to better meet the needs of fans with consumer products, be thoughtful about the stadium experience and even from a schedule standpoint which was really enabled by the Apple partnership and not being bound by broadcast windows.

“He’s certainly a driving force, but I think we’re very focused on making sure we take advantage of the momentum and build in other areas so that inevitably when a player decides to leave Major League Soccer or retire, we’re better positioned and prepared to continue the momentum forward.”