The start of the NPSL season has seen a number of large crowds across the country. The locations and teams may vary, but one thing is for certain: attendance is on the rise. Statistics show that both new and established teams have experienced recent success in the attendance department.
Chattanooga FC, Tulsa Athletics, and Detroit City FC are all teams with years of experience in the NPSL. Each has found a winning formula for creating huge crowds and a special gameday experience.
Chattanooga FC already holds the U.S. amateur soccer record for attendance, thanks to a massive crowd of 18,227 at last year’s national championship match at Finley Stadium. They also brought in over 10,000 people for the regional final last year.
CFC has become a model of consistency when it comes to big crowds. This season they’ve already seen 5,500 people for a match against Nashville FC on May 21st. Attendance typically increases throughout the summer months and big crowds are expected for friendlies against Tigres UANL (Liga MX) and Middlesbrough FC (EPL).
General Manager Sean McDaniel was able to explain why people look forward to Chattanooga matches and why they come out in record numbers.
“At Chattanooga FC we are always trying to build the sense of community at our matches–first and foremost. The atmosphere of the matches is critical to everything we do. From the food that is served to the quality of the merchandise to the product on the pitch. We strive to create an atmosphere that can’t be beat. It’s always been about the city and the people that make Chattanooga so great. Because family, friends and fans can congregate at our matches and feel like they’ve had an awesome time, it generates a positive buzz that motivates others to come and see what we are all about.”
A strong stadium environment and a great product on the field has also made Tulsa Athletics one of the hottest tickets in the NPSL since joining the league in 2013. Tulsa already had a crowd of 3,457 on May 7th against Liverpool Warriors.
“Tulsa is a smart soccer town,” Tulsa Athletics General Manager Matt Boullt added. “The fans know the difference between high and low quality soccer and our attendance in the market reflects that. The game experience at Athletics Stadium is wonderful. It’s impossible to get closer to the action without putting on a jersey and subbing in.”
Detroit City has been the leader in attendance in the Midwest Region for a number of years. DCFC is believed to have broken the league’s regular season attendance record with a crowd of 7,410 on May 21st in a match against AFC Ann Arbor. They also brought in a fantastic crowd of 6,245 for their international friendly against English side FC United of Manchester last weekend.
You don’t have to be a long-tenured member of the NPSL to garner a big crowd. A number of expansion teams have already proven that this year.
Albion SC Pros had 2,200 in attendance for a March 5th matchup with Real San Jose. They went on to average 1,200 fans a game. The first match was certainly one to remember, complete with a G-Form skydiver to deliver the game ball.
Albion SC Pros Executive Director Noah Gins is pleased with the team’s progress, which includes an undefeated start to the season.
“It’s incredible the movement and momentum that San Diego is starting to show for professional soccer. We are doing everything we can off the field by building relationships and trying to capture the excitement of coming to an event, not just a soccer game. Also, being in the unique position of having a highly successful, nationally recognized youth club has only helped create a buzz in the San Diego community.”
Shreveport Rafters FC, another expansion side, would see a crowd of 3,000 on April 16 for a friendly with the Fort Worth Vaqueros. Co-owner Will Broyles quickly summarized his explanation for the early success at the gate.
“We brought semi-pro sports back to our underserved region, in addition to heavily promoting our family-friendly game atmosphere.”
Little Rock Rangers would claim one of the biggest crowds for an expansion side thanks to over 3,700 in attendance for a match against Memphis City FC. It was very evident that President Jonathan Wardlaw has built a team that appeals to a wide audience in Little Rock.
“Little Rock has a very large mix of both soccer families, Hispanics, and millennials. I knew by getting some of the local youth coaches on the team and by using some local Hispanic players I would grab some fans’ attention. In Little Rock there is a big food truck and craft beer ‘culture.’ I offered local beers and food truck vending at my games and that really seemed to attract the millennial and younger crowd.”
As you can see teams use different methods to fill the seats, but these teams, old and new alike, are certainly getting the job done on and off the pitch.