The league may have teams with II in the name. But with skyrocketing attendance this year, USL (United Soccer League) may soon shake off their second tier status.
The 2017 USL regular season has passed 1,759,215 spectators, as reported in Soccer Stadium Digest. Pushing as always, FC Cincinnati set multiple single game attendance records to lead the league’s way, by far. They’ve had an average league home attendance of 20,584 and their highest attendance was 33,250 against the New York Red Bulls in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
"Soccer Stadium Digest: Plenty of other teams put up solid numbers — Sacramento Republic with its usual sellout, for example. The reported season average is now at 4,344 fans per game.That’s well above last year’s average reported attendance of 3,439, making 2017 USL attendance one of the great sporting stories of the season."
Young League Going Places
Sure, that’s not quite reaching MLS attendance levels but these numbers aren’t just increasing year-by-year. They’re skyrocketing. They already beat the 2016 numbers by almost 300,000 in only the seventh season of the league and they show the growing fanbase for soccer in North America.
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USL President Jake Edwards said regardless of the league’s age, the attendance momentum started three years ago. This season startled him but he pointed to the increasing appetite of American and Canadian fans for the sport, as quoted by USLsoccer.com:
"Edwards: The passion our fans have demonstrated throughout this season has been unprecedented. [It] speaks to the high level of thrilling entertainment our teams have delivered this season – particularly as the battle for the playoffs reaches a key stage – and the rising desire for quality professional soccer across the United States and Canada."
Lots of USL Teams Helped
Cincinnati’s fans by far fed the fury that reached the attendance record. Yet in proportion, the league credited fans of other teams in putting them on top, especially the August 23rd night that attendance shot over 1.5 million. The league shared its excitement with a press release:
"USL release: Saint Louis’ crowd of 4,152 sent the league past 1.5 million, with contests later in the night between San Antonio FC and Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 at Toyota Field and an anticipated sellout when hosts Sacramento Republic FC take on the Swope Park Rangers at Papa Murphy’s Park in Wednesday’s final game set to bolster the night’s great crowds."
It’s getting harder every season to regard the USL as a second-tier organization with sports attendance like that. And the soccer ain’t bad, either!