Last weekend the Ottawa Fury broke the modern NASL record for play-off attendance in their semi-final game against Minnesota United. The Ottawa attendance for the game was an impressive 9,346 – nearly doubling the Cosmos-Strikers game in MCU which drew 5,061. Impressive indeed, in particular when compared to Ottawa’s season average of 5,406 (good for sixth best in the league). Looks like the people of Ottawa were excited to see the Fury continue the success they’ve had on the field.
This support was awesome, and a challenge to the Cosmos. Attracting 5,061 looked paltry in comparison, and it won’t do again. The gauntlet has been dropped. Can the Cosmos fans match the attendance in Ottawa? Can they get close? Dream of dreams, will they sell-out Shuart?
The last figures available, via scientific analysis of following NASL fans on Twitter, were that Shuart ticket sales were approximately around 70%. Not great for the Soccer Bowl(!), but a good start given that this was the estimate a couple of days ago. Also, the number had been increasing since Sunday, so there is an element of momentum here that will hopefully push the total number forward.
Now, a sell-out or even surpassing the number set at Ottawa is not necessary for a successful Soccer Bowl. But the larger the crowd the better the environment for players and fans, and obviously it would look better to those watching on television as well. It would enhance the experience in every way. Although, not the end all be all, these attendance "challenges" are signifiers of progress.
In fact, the most interesting part of this attendance talk is not even the numbers themselves, it is the increasingly noticeable development of interactions and ribbing between fans of NASL teams. A few years ago, 5,000 at a semi-final game, like the Cosmos-Strikers game this past weekend, would have been a good showing in Division 2. But today, the increased success of various teams in NASL has pushed other teams to do better; whether on the field or in the stands. It seems each team’s successes are pushing the other teams as well. The standards and expectations are rising, and this is how it should be.
You can see this in the increasing attendance figures since the inception of the league, the improved quality of players, and the continued push to improve the game day experience. Are they all there, no, not yet, but the challenge is now on the table. You must improve, or you will fall behind.
Progress, in terms of attendance, has most noticeably been on display during the play-offs. Not only is the modern day NASL play-off record on the line this Sunday, but also another very significant number – the million mark. Yep, NASL is very close to breaking the million person mark in attendance for 2015. Who would have thought?
At the end of the regular season games, the NASL had a total attendance count of 975,065 across all games (as per http://soccerstadiumdigest.com/nasl-attendance-2015/). This is a great development for the league, and incidentally didn’t include any friendlies or US Open Cup matches. Now, with some quick math, if we add in the attendance from last weekend’s games, 9,346 and 5,061, the yearlong attendance number increases to 989,472.
What a frustratingly tantalizing number – 989,472; only 10,528 short of the million mark. A milestone in attendance if it can be hit in the final game of the year. Also, a number that would have seemed daunting and unthinkable at the beginning of the year – but here it is, only 10,528 away. Oh yeah, Shuart’s capacity is approximately 12,000. Good news, the milestone can be met, in theory anyway. So close, yet so far.
So, there it is, a single game attendance record and a season long attendance milestone all within reach. Can the Cosmos fans meet the challenge? Whatever the final number, the game will be exciting and the supporters will be loud for 90 minutes showing their love. I just hope Ottawa left their bus at the border ;).
Best of luck Cosmos, and if you’re a fan – make your way to the game, be a part of history!!!
What do you think of this year’s NASL attendance numbers? Are you surprised by the season long numbers? Are you surprised by the play-off single game numbers? Appreciate any comments or responses. Thanks!