Leagues Cup attendance

Photo Marjorie Elzey

In addition to succeeding as a competition, the 2023 Leagues Cup must also succeed as a business venture. The available information that best indicates business success is attendance.

Attendance, together with the percentage of stadium capacity filled, also indicates the attractiveness to the local market(s) of individual matchups and groups of matchups.

We’ve complied attendance for the 69 thus completed tournament matches. Eight matches remain, including four quarterfinals, two semifinals, the third-place game, and the final itself.

Three obvious categories of matchups exist. They organize our analysis.

  • Liga MX vs Liga MX, four matches have happened, and one more might
  • Major League Soccer vs Major League Soccer, 22 matches
  • Major League Soccer vs Liga MX, 43 matches

Three of the MX vs MX matches sold a thousand tickets or fewer. But some of the best-known Mexican teams sold beyond official stadium capacity.

Atlanta’s lone home match against Cruz Azul surpassed 41,000 to lead the raw numbers.

Among the seven factors we present as having shaped tournament ticket sales, some are specific to soccer, some are not, and one is an individual star player. Because of the individual, his club has caused its temporary home stadium capacity to be expanded by 3,000 seats. Less concretely, his presence may break the city council impasse delaying approval of his club’s planned permanent home.

The influences:

  • The size of the Hispanic population in the specific local soccer market in question and, equally, how has that population shifted over time?
  • For the local market, is the team and the professional level of soccer new, or has the club been a long-time fixture with fans more experienced in appreciating professional soccer generally?
  • How does the game day experience at the local soccer stadium — traffic, parking, food, seat comfort, restrooms, etc. — affect willingness to buy tickets?
  • How stiff is local competition for the population’s entertainment dollar, not only from other professional sports but also from other sources?
  • Have local weather phenomena, e.g., heat waves or thunderstorms, affected sales?
  • Lionel Messi.
Preliminary explanations 

In all matches listed below the home team is given first, i.e., above or to the left. We have calculated the stadium capacity percentages by rounding them to whole numbers.

The stadium capacities themselves come from Wikipedia. The attendance figures also come from Wikipedia. They come from either the article titled “2023 Leagues Cup group stage” or the one titled “2023 Leagues Cup knockout stage.” We suspect attendance figures are tickets sold and not turnstile counts or butts in seats.

Within the data, four anomalies exist. They are marked “#anomalous datum.”

They are thought to be anomalous because the odds against attendance being exactly the same two, three, or more times are probably astronomical.

  1. Charlotte’s match against Cruz Azul was played in Dallas’s stadium in Frisco, Texas — during a brutal heat wave — because Charlotte’s home stadium was unavailable. That match report lists the exact same attendance figure as Dallas’s own match against Mazatlan two days earlier.
  2. Both of Montreal’s home matches in its stadium list exactly the same attendance figure for each event, 100% of the listed capacity to the exact individual.
  3. Both of Austin’s home matches in its stadium list exactly the same attendance figure for each event, also 100% capacity to the exact individual.
  4. All of Philadelphia’s home matches in its home stadium list exactly the same attendance figure for each event, with 17,731 attending. Direct experience of all of those matches’ traffic patterns, parking, and stadium views challenge the listings.
Group stage

Ranked on attendance.

Team 1 v Team 2 Ranks Attendance % Capacity
MX v MX (2)
Tijuana v Quéretaro 15 v 17 1,000 5%
Mazatlán v Juárez 18 v 13 958 5%
MLS v MLS (13)
Portland v San Jose 23 v 14 21,137 84%
Salt Lake v Seattle 8 v 10 10,507 52%
LA Galaxy v Vancouver 26 v 15 14,787 55%
Columbus v St. Louis 9 v 3 20,533 103%
Minnesota v Chicago 20 v 13 18,419 95%
Cincinnati v Kansas City 1 v 22 24,524 94%
Nashville v Colorado 5 v 27 16,087 54%
Orlando v Houston 7 v 19 14,005 55%
Inter Miami v Atlanta 29 v 11 19,758 94%
Dallas v Charlotte 16 v 24 10,422 51%
Montreal v D.C. United 18 v 17 19,619# 100%
NYC FC v Toronto 25 v 28 7,417 30%
NY Red Bull v N England 21 v 2 9,139 37%
MLS v MX (30)
Atlanta v Cruz Azul 11 v 9 41,108 97%
Seattle v Monterrey 10 v 1 33,508 89%
Charlotte v Necaxa 24 v 14 29,575 74%
Cincinnati v Guadalajara 1 v 5 25,143 97%
Toronto v Atlas 28 v 12 24,633 87%
St. Louis v America 3 v 2 22,430 100%
NYC FC** v Atlas 25 v 12 22,267 53%
Portland v Tigres 23 v 6 21,755 86%
LA Galaxy v León 26 v 7 20,776 77%
Austin v Mazatlan 12 v 18 20,738# 100%
Austin v Juárez 12 v 13 20,738# 100%
Salt Lake v Monterrey 8 v 1 20,734 103%
Inter Miami v Cruz Azul 29 v 9 20,512 98%
Kansas City v Guadalajara 22 v 5 20,323 110%
Columbus v America 9 v 2 20,217 101%
Nashville v Toluca 5 v 4 19,817 66%
Montreal v Pumas 18 v 16 19,619# 100%
D.C. United v Pumas 17 v 16 14,599 73%
Minnesota v Puebla 20 v 10 19,609 101%
Philadelphia v Tijuana 4 v 15 17,731# 96%
Philadelphia v Querétaro 4 v 17 17,731# 96%
San Jose v Tigres 14 v 6 17,449 86%
Vancouver v Leon 15 v 7 17,391 79%
Orlando v Santos Laguna 7 v 8 16,313 64%
Colorado v Toluca 27 v 4 15,388 85%
Houston v Santos Laguna 19 v 8 12,627 57%
Chicago* v Puebla 13 v 10 12,619 63%
N England v San Luis 2 v 11 12,327 61%
NY Red Bull v San Luis 21 v 11 10,421 42%
Dallas v Necaxa 16 v 14 6,149 30%

*Seat Geek Stadium, Bridgeview, IL. **Citifield, NYC (official capacity for soccer undiscovered). #anomalous datum

Knockout rounds
Round of 32

Ranked on attendance

Team 1 v Team 2 Ranks Attendance % Capacity
MX v MX (1)
Pumas v Querétaro 16 v 17 948 5%
MLS v MLS (5)
Columbus v Minnesota 9 v 20 20,217 99%
Miami v Orlando 29 v 7 20,181 96%
Cincinnati v Nashville 1 v 5 19,911 78%
Philadelphia v D.C. United 4 v 17 17,731# 96%
NY Red Bull v NYC FC 21 v 25 11,004 44%
MLS v MX (10)
LA FC v Juárez 6 v 13 22,041 100%
Portland v Monterrey 23 v 1 18,770 74%
Chicago& v America 13 v 2 18,417& 92%&
Salt Lake v León 8 v 7 17,547 87%
Kansas City v Toluca 22 v 4 15,121 82%
Vancouver v Tigres 15 v 6 13,703 62%
Houston v Pachuca 19 v 3 10,438 47%
N England v Atlas 2 v 12 9,299 46%
Dallas v Mazatlán 16 v 18 6,844# 36%
Charlotte* v Cruz Azul 24 v 9 6,844# 36%*

*Scheduling conflict, played in Dallas. &played at Seat Geek Stadium, Bridgeview, IL. #anomalous datum.

Round of 16

Ranked on attendance

MX v MX (1) Attendance % Capacity
Monterrey v Tigres$ 1 v 3 22,039$ 100%$
MLS v MLS (4)
Philadelphia v NY Red Bull 4 v 21 17,731# 96%#
Dallas v Miami 16 v 29 19,096 100%
Houston v Charlotte 19 v 24 9,299 46%
LA FC v Salt Lake 6 v 8 22,041 100%
MLS v MX (3)
Nashville v America 5 v 2 24,662 82%
Minnesota v Toluca 20 v 4 18,187 94%
N England v Querétaro 2 v 17 9,188 42%

$Played in Houston at Shell Energy Stadium. #anomalous datum

Several points

Lionel Messi sells tickets in the United States.

His first U.S. away club match, the round of 16 games at Dallas Sunday evening August 6, sold 100% of the 19,906 seats in the stadium in Frisco, TX, in contrast to Dallas’s three previous home matches. The group stage had sold only 51% (Charlotte) and 30% (Necaxa) of the stadium respectively. The round of 32 match (Mazatlan) sold only 36%.

If Lionel Messi’s contract is similar to Pete Rose’s later ones — Rose once reported that his later baseball contracts gave him money for selling extra tickets — Messi will make a lot more than just his salary, a percentage of apparel sales, a percentage of extra Apple TV subscriptions, and endorsements.

  • Matchups from the bottom of Liga MX’s table do not sell tickets in the United States. Those three matches sold only 5% of stadium capacity.
  • From the top of that table, however, Monterrey v Tigres sold 100% of Houston’s Shell Energy Stadium. Club America sold 82% of Nashville”s seats and Toluca sold 94% of Minnesota’s.
  • As was already suspected from Concacaf’s Champions League and earlier, different Leagues Cups, Club America, Monterrey, and Tigres sell tickets in the U.S.
America Monterrey Tigres
82% Nashville 100% Houston 100% Houston
100% St. Louis 89% Seattle 86% Portland
101% Columbus 103% Salt Lake 86% San Jose
92% Chicago 74% Portland 62% Vancouver
  • Interleague matches’ attractiveness on the West Coast is different from in the Northeast. On the West Coast, they sold tickets well. In the Northeast, only moderately.
  • Stadium attendance during the Texas heat wave was poor, except for Messi and Monterrey v Tigres.
  • Attendance in the fly-over states was strong. The data highlight why the U. S men’s national team likes playing in Columbus, OH.
  • The newer the MLS side, the stronger its tournament attendance. Fans of older teams in areas with greater, longer exposure to global professional soccer bought tickets more moderately, e.g., greater New York, Boston, D.C.
  • As has been well known since the first World Cup played in the United States, larger American stadiums will make the tournament more money. The three largest attendance numbers are from multi-purpose venues in Atlanta, Seattle, and Charlotte. At some point in the tournament’s future, it may switch to renting and temporarily converting more of the larger stadiums to grass.
  • The top four Mexican seeds were all in the knockout stage’s top half of the bracket. Only Monterrey survived to the quarter-finals. Querétaro is the only Mexican team to survive the lower half of the bracket. How will attendance be with so few interleague match possibilities going forward?


  1. santo bevacqua says:

    Very interesting statistics, no wonder we saw a lot of tequila ads (lol) the latino population is a big market and looks like there was unmet demand for football. This is a good marketing tool, too bad i am retired.

  2. Andy Muenz says:

    Obviously most of the Mx vs. Mx. games have been financial failures. I have the feeling that many of the other games may not seem like financial failures, they will show up that way next year.
    This year Union season ticket holders had to decide back in March whether or not to opt out of purchasing tickets for all of the games after the first one (which was included in the package). Many people didn’t even see this e-mail so opted in by default and are paying extra for each match even if they are not attending and are selling their tickets for pennies on the dollar (although that may change in the semifinals). Next season, most of these people will pay more attention and will opt out, thus significantly cutting into paid attendance. This is especially the case if the team continues to charge full price for all matches even though attendance looked more like a mid round open cup game at the last 3 matches.

    • santo bevacqua says:

      all these games are viewed as part of the subscription on apple,,,,,,so that is a negative for attendance as well

    • Buccistick says:

      Needing two tickets for an extraordinary family visit.
      Saw your claim about tickets going “for pennies on the dollar.”
      Peeked on Stubhub … in the middle of a meeting (shh).
      Found two seats … in our section … discounted over 60%.
      Appreciating your timely tip, Andy.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        Check Seat Geek too. The Union has switched to that as their official partners for ticket transfers, so there may be a larger selection there (although I’m guessing you already bought).

  3. I find pausing the season to be totally annoying, hope next year they simply integrate the games into the season, like US Open Cup… or terminate the tournament.
    Yeah right… like Don “Grabmoremoney” would do that?

    • The tournament is now the way for clubs from Liga MX and MLS to qualify for the Concacaf Champions League’s successor, the Concacaf champions Cup.
      It is built into the structure of Concacaf’s club teams’ top competition. It will not disappear.
      the old Concacaf Champions League is gone. It is replaced for next yer by a new competition, the Concacaf Champions Cup. The Leagues Cup is how teams from Liga MX and MLS qualify into it.
      Whether or not Leagues Cup should or should not exist is immaterial. It will continue like it or not.
      It may well be adjusted. But it is not going anywhere for a while.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        It is A way to qualify, not THE way. 6 additional teams qualify. MLS Cup winners, the Open Cup winners as well as the top 4 in the Supporters Shield standings (unless they are all from the same conference in which case the second conference regular season winner gets a spot). Canadian teams can now qualify through MLS (or through the Canadian Championship). There could be as many as 9 teams from MLS in Champions Cup.
        The winner of the Leagues Cup as well as MLS Cup get byes to the round of 16 while the rest of the MLS teams qualifying enter in the round of 32.

      • Excellent point, Andy. Thank you.

  4. Does Apple+ release ratings for their broadcasts?
    Be very interesting to see the ‘massive fan support’ for this ridiculous tournament, especially US viewership vs World… and viewership from Mexico.
    I find it all just annoying, will NOT participate next year.

    • AppleTV does not release viewing numbers. For whatever reason, they are super secretive about that.

    • Well take it for what it’s worth: Jorge Mas posted on Twitter….errrr X that MLS Season Pass subs and viewers have more than doubled since Messi’s arrival. Spanish broadcasts make more up than 50% of Messi’s games as well.

  5. Eric Boyle says:

    From my in-stadium perspective there is no way there were 17k plus butts in seats during any of the Union games. Maybe 75% attendance at most. Only the Cows had any significant away supporters.

    I saw gaps in the STH attendance around my section. Clearly some of those tickets didn’t sell.

    • Or they did sell, and people aren’t showing up, or posted their tickets on Seat Geek, and they didn’t sell. As has been stated up above, STH’s had the option to opt out of Leagues Cup back in March/April. If you didn’t opt out…. those tickets are being added to your plan at additional cost for each game. Just as the CCL games were.

      • Eric Boyle says:

        I should have been clear, that’s what I meant by didn’t sell. Tickets on Seat Geek not selling.

        I read my e-mails on the CCL & LC tickets very carefully. Scheduling conflicts aside we planned to go to all games. Anyone not going and looking to sell could likely recoup all their money by selling the Messi tickets, an occurrence looking likelier now.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      If the Union play Messi next Tuesday, I may see how much I can get for my tickets on Seat Geek. If it’s significant (enough to cover next year’s season tickets plus potential additional games), I’ll sell those. Otherwise, I’ll go to the game. I mean if someone wants to pay $4000 for a pair of midfield seats, who am I to deny them?

    • I agree completely with Eric Boyle about actual butts in seats, but have no alternative data.
      And we should make allowances for the staff of each club producing the events doing it for the first time ever. That affects things in all kinds of ways. To mention simply one, in the regular season a three or four day turnaround is known for several weeks in advance. In the leagues cup tournament it is known only at the last minute.
      I hope the front office folks will get a hearty “well done” from Mr. McDermott whenever the Union’s part of the event closes. It cannot have been easy and snafus noticeable to the public have been few.

  6. Lots of good, interesting information.

    One thing that seems to be wrongfully interpreted though, is the matter of cities with large Latino populations.

    First of all, Caribbean Latinos are not Soccer-crazed fans the way other Latinos are. Most Latinos in East Coast cities are Caribbean.

    Secondly, while Houston, Dallas, and Chicago have large Mexican-Latino populations, their MLS teams suffer from poor fan support.

    • Caribbean Latino point noted and appreciated. Hopefully I will remember it!
      Mexican Latinos are as sophisticated in their appreciation of soccer as many Americans are of baseball. Poor performance does not sell tickets.

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