It doesn’t matter whether you choose to attribute it to the publicity soccer got at the Olympics, in Copa America Centenario or in the World Cup won by the US women’s team, there’s one bottom line: attendance at soccer games set records in 2016.
The National Women’s Soccer League was the first to note that its average attendance for 2016 was up 10 percent to 5,558, breaking the record it set in 2015 when it became the first U.S. women’s pro league to enjoy a year-to-year increase in average attendance.
According to an article in Soccer America Daily, the Portland Thorns led the NWSL in average attendance with a record 16,945 (!) fans per game.
The men were no slackers themselves. The United Soccer League reported that it had closed out its 2016 regular-season schedule over the weekend and reported a total season attendance of almost 1.5 million for its 29 teams, a 33 percent increase from 2015.
The USL drew 1,496,493 fans compared to 1,132,218 last year. The average attendance for the league’s top 10 drawing teams was 6,724, a 25 percent increase versus 2015.
No matter whether the spectators are watching men’s or women’s games, that increased attention is bound to have a ripple effect that touches sports contractors, as more fields are built, improved, or simply lined for more sports.
The best news of all is that the sport of soccer shows no sign of falling out of popularity; in fact, it has been in the top 10 sports for both boys and girls consistently in the National Federation of State High School Associations Sports Participation Survey.
*Photo available on NWSL website