One of the common themes in the standard criticisms of the MLS is that the attendances aren’t very good, and the fans aren’t all that passionate. While we will concede that there is some value behind the idea that the numbers could be higher, we’d also argue that the numbers don’t really need to be that high as long as you’ve got a series of passionate fanbases behind you – which the MLS certainly does.
If you’ve ever watched a game of sport in the United States, regardless of which sport it is, you’ll know that we’re an incredibly passionate bunch. From the first whistle until the very last there’s a certain sense of ‘togetherness’ that really does resonate with the standard fan.
Believe the hype
Now, as reported by MLS Soccer, there are even statistics to confirm that the numbers are starting to get up there too, with Atlanta United leading the charge.
First of all, the average attendances between 2003-2008 and 2013-2018 have risen 34% from 15,920 to 21,358, which is a huge testament to how much the MLS has grown. Beyond that, though, there’s one incredibly impressive statistic that features the aforementioned Georgia-based club.
Across the entirety of world football in the last five years, Atlanta United has the 10th highest average attendance. The final figure weighs in at 51,547 with the only teams above them being Stuttgart, Hamburg, Arsenal, Schalke, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund. I know what you’re thinking: the Germans love their football.
However, we still believe that the rise of ATL soccer is what needs to be applauded more so than anything else on that list. For an expansion team to be getting those kind of numbers is kind of insane, and it really does add value to the decision to keep bringing in expansion sides to the MLS on a year by year basis. Sure, it can mess up the status quo for a bit, but that should serve as a challenge for the rest of the teams in the league.
Firing on all cylinders
Plus, to coincide with that news, AJC.com and many other outlets are happily reporting on how Atlanta appears to be coming back from the brink after a poor start to the season. They were able to overcome the challenge of New England Revolution to record a big victory, and in the process, they’ve given themselves hope that they can turn things around and successfully defend the title they won last season.
There’s no way of getting around the fact that the MLS still has a long way to go before the league can be taken seriously – at least in the same way that we take the European top divisions seriously. Still, it’s kind of difficult not to be overwhelmingly impressed with this rise, especially given how young they are as a club. The big test now is going to be if and how they can sustain these numbers in the next few years, because if they can, it’s a huge sign of the direction we’re heading in.