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Why did so few fans come to U.S.-Colombia?

No, they didn’t come.

Just 8,823 paid to see the U.S. men’s national team play Colombia to a scoreless draw last night at PPL Park, the lowest turnout for a USMNT match since 2006. Last week, merely 2,505 came to see the U.S. women’s national team draw 1-1 with China there. Those are meager showings for a stadium that seats 18,500 and sold out for two Philadelphia Union games in the same 11-game stretch.

People are wondering why and asking whether Americans are tired of soccer and other stuff like that.

That’s clearly not the case. This is not a precedent indicating a lack of interest in the U.S. national team. Rather, it’s a precedent indicating how fans prioritize their soccer budgets, for both money and time.

There are several very basic and obvious reasons why so few fans came to Tuesday night’s game.

  • It was a meaningless game against a meaningless team.

Sorry, it’s tough to get motivated for Colombia. Yeah, it’s a nice little match, but they’ve missed three straight World Cups. And it’s a friendly. There’s no World Cup coming up, not even a Gold Cup.  Nothing’s at stake. In fact, we still have the post-World Cup hangover. The men’s national team doesn’t matter much right now.

  • Ticket prices were too high.

The cheapest ticket to Tuesday’s match was $30. That’s too much for a meaningless friendly. I paid about the same for a doubleheader at last year’s Gold Cup at Lincoln Financial Field, and though my memory’s hazy here, I’m pretty sure I paid less for the U.S.-Turkey match at the Linc in late May, just before the World Cup. If nothing’s at stake, there’s less demand, so drop the price.

  • You can only go to so many games, and PPL has five in 11 days.

We called it soccer heaven, but it proved to also be soccer overload.

Philadelphia Union sold out last Thursday’s match with the Los Angeles Galaxy, and this Saturday’s game against the New York Red Bulls is already sold out. Those are the two most attractive visiting clubs in Major League Soccer right now, and it’s the first time they’ve ever visited the Union. So naturally, they were the hot tickets.

Is it surprising that fewer people paid for weekday prime time friendlies by the U.S. women’s and men’s national teams, particularly considering we had the USMNT here twice in the previous 18 months for games that mattered far more? Add to that the Villanova-South Florida match last Saturday, and that’s a lot of games.

The lesson here is that expecting the average fan to turn out for that many games in that short a time is a bit much. It’s just not in the budget — the money budget or the time budget — particularly when you can watch each game on TV. We didn’t predict it, but maybe we should have.

  • The U.S.-Colombia game started at 8 pm on a weekday. That’s a school night.

That rules out the family crowd. They’re not bringing the kids, not for a meaningless friendly that lacks Landon Donovan or a name opponent. And for the women’s national team, the demand for tickets would logically be even less, with two big name MLS teams and the USMNT in town during the same 11-day stretch.

  • Everyone’s following the Phillies’ playoff run after Roy Halladay’s playoff no-hitter.

Some guy in the Casa Soccer League keeps sending out mass emails trying to sell Phillies tickets for hundreds of dollars. I’m not interested, but chances are he’s finding buyers. Once you toss the second playoff no-hitter in Major League Baseball history, even the non-Phillies fans (like me) are paying attention.

Did you skip the U.S.-Colombia game? If so, why?

Or did you go? And if so, why again? Did you go to any other games this week?

Weigh in below. Chances are, folks from U.S. Soccer and Philadelphia Union are reading this, because it’s the question everyone’s asking right now.

(Photo: Nicolae Stoian. For more photos from the game, click here.)

22 Comments

  1. perfectly logical explanations! however, it was still surprising when they scanned the crowd and i saw how many people weren’t there. as always, though, the Sons of Ben made it sound like a sell-out. I skipped it mainly because of money and, as mentioned, the overload from the recent games. It’s a shame that this was one that was televised from there with such a small crowd but I’m always happy to see PPL Park getting media attention.

  2. This post is truth that needs to be told. Weeknight friendlies against inconsequential teams are no draw at all.

  3. Definitely a case of soccer overload here. There’s only so many games you can go to in a two week stretch, unless you’re an absolute soccer fanatic. Let’s not forget the back-loaded home schedule that Union has had due to the late opening of PPL Park.

  4. I have Union season tickets, right on the stripe at midfield…face value is $50. I would have paid that for the USMNT. But the price for my seat for this game was $68 plus fees and taxes. We all know that pushes it to closer to $80 all said and done. No way I pay that price for a game against Columbia on a Tuesday. I usually would go to any game the US plays locally…and a comment above mine was spot on about the Gold Cup. Ridiculous ticket prices are the only reason i stayed home.

    Great site by the way. Keep it up.

  5. Eh, I went because I’ve never been to a USMNT game, and I had off work that night if I wanted it.

  6. School night. Kids really wanted to go to this game, but would have preferred the Galaxy game.

  7. There was no advertising at all for this game outside of people who are already linked to the Union and like you guys said there were just to many games over such a short period. I was there and when my friends and I talked with people over the past few days about going no one knew the game was going on. Horrible advertising for this game. Unless you follow the US/Union very closely most people simply did not know there was a game going on.

  8. Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

    Right on Mike. US Soccer has a home game at the newest MLS team’s stadium and they do ZERO to hype. Tremendously poor. Even some of my soccer playing friends had no idea.

    The lack of fans did allow us to secure some sweet, 10th row seats right on the midfield stripe.

  9. Great article! After attending last night’s match, I believe the biggest factor limiting ticket sales was the ticket prices. I sat with my family in the Seaport End, which seemed to be fairly close to capacity. This shouldn’t be surprising as tickets in the Seaport End were $30 plus fees. US Soccer priced themselves right out of the market. And that’s a real shame, because even a half filled PPL was had a very lively atmosphere. Credit to the Columbia fans for their color and energy and kudos to AO and the SOBs, outstanding as always!

  10. Bradley has got to go. He is a boring coach. Jurgen Klinsmann needs to be hired, or the USMNT will never get to the next level with boring Bob! Fans are boycotting the games. Only 8,000 in Philly for the Columbia game.

    (reposted here after poster commented on wrong post)

  11. Ed Farnsworth says:

    That the US recently played Brazil in relatively nearby North Jersey may have also been a factor.

  12. All valid points. Why is it that US Soccer, specifically Sunil Gulati was unable to foreshadow these issues?

    Maybe the focus of change within US Soccer needs to be removing Gulati from his post. It is time for a president with a quality background within soccer and the tools and personality to take US Soccer to the next level.

    • Well, I think it may be a bit much to use this game alone to justify replacing Gulati. Honestly, we live here, and we didn’t foresee this, though perhaps if we sat and thought a bit about it, we could have.

      Now, if you want to replace him for botching the Klinsmann situation, that’s another story…

  13. You nailed my reasons for not going. I am a Union season ticket holder and just couldn’t fit the extra time and expense in. I was tempted to go to both the Women’s and the Mens games but it just wasn’t in the budget. I went to the USA vs Turkey game because the World Cup momentum was building but this game was pretty meaningless. I thought it was almost poetic that it ended in a scoreless draw.

  14. Mike Servedio says:

    I didn’t go for most of the reasons mentioned above. Ticket prices were too high, Columbia is not a sexy opponent, and I can only drive to Chester so many times in a short period. If the game was in the city (or PPL was in the city) I might have reconsidered.
    Plus I can’t stand Bob Bradley. To make one substitution in the previous friendly against Poland was absurd and who was to know if the game in Philly would be the same thing? Thankfully it wasn’t though…

  15. Mark Dennison says:

    I follow the ladies side and have went to see them at The Linc and out to see the old Charge team. A lot of the spectators are girls from the local youth teams. In the spring they might have pulled more but besides being a school night the parents are already running in circles with practices and games. Having the USWNT play on a school night and during the fall season was a bad idea.

  16. Went to the USWNT/China game and while I didn’t expect a sellout, I was a strange feeling being in an empty stadium for a National Team game. It was a cold, rainy school night, and my thoughts were exactly that whoever scheduled the match did us all a disservice by not setting it for a weekend afternoon. By now they should know their audience.

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