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American soccer enjoyed a banner day on March 6th as the sport saw just what it’s future potential is in this country.

MLS begins its 21st season this weekend with a great opening day showing. At least half of the opening games were at capacity including monster crowds in Orlando and Seattle. Other openers such as Portland’s kickoff, saw standing room crowds singing, stopping, and generating an entertaining and engaging atmosphere that would even surpass many top European destinations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016 MLS HOME OPENERS: ATTENDANCE

 

 

Game

Stadium

Attendance

% of Regular Capacity

 

 

Real Salt Lake-Orlando City

Citrus Bowl

60,147

253.50%

 

 

Sporting KC-Sounders

CenturyLink Field

39,525

101.00%

 

 

DC United-Galaxy

StubHub Center

25,667

94.50%

 

 

Impact-Whitecaps

BC Place

22,120

105.30%

 

 

Revolution-Dynamo

BBVA Compass Stadium

21,594

98.20%

 

 

Toronto FC-Red Bulls

Red Bull Arena

21,303

84.50%

 

 

Crew-Timbers

Providence Park

21,144

100.00%

 

 

Rapids-Earthquakes

Avaya Stadium

18,000

100.00%

 

 

NYC FC-Fire

Toyota Park

17,768

96.00%

 

 

Union-FC Dallas

Toyota Stadium

14,248

89.00%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the field, the overall quality of play keeps going up with many more US National teamers coming home and other high-profile foreign players such as Kaka, Robbie Keane, and David Villa adding some star power. The league opens with 20 teams – up from only 12 a decade ago. The league aired games on ESPN, FOX, and Univision creating an early afternoon through prime time TV schedule for East Coast views and enough action to keep West Coasters engaged.

Top foreign stars are also starting to see MLS as a real alternative, albeit after they made their money overseas. Galaxy F Robbie Keane has said that he now "constantly fielded calls from European players 'really desperate to come over here,' because they can see how the league has improved 'and because of the lifestyle too.'" Galaxy teammate MF Steven Gerrard last year said, "The attraction of America was the different lifestyle.”

While MLS was enjoying a banner opening weekend, they were not the only ones in action. The USA Women’s National Team also headlined an international women’s doubleheader in Nashville playing against France in the SheBelieves Cup. (Germany and England played the second match.) Tennessee is not known as a soccer “state” but that did not prevent over 25,000 fans from filing into Nissan Stadium to watch the girls play.

2016 is an important year for American soccer. With several very high profile events on tap this summer, this year has the potential to really launch the sport into a whole new stratosphere in America. In addition to MLS and its complementary women’s pro league, the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) which kicks off in April, the soccer world will enjoy Euro 2016, the World Cup-style championships for European countries. The USA will host Copa America as a Western Hemisphere championship featuring the USA and Mexico alongside South American world powers Brazil, Argentina, and the rest of the South American teams. This centennial tournament is being played in the USA for the first time and will be packing many of the country’s largest stadiums in June. It will also bring the international star power to the American shores to boost interest generally. If that is not enough soccer, the USA women will be contending to win an Olympic gold medal in Rio in August, to follow up their 2015 World Cup win.

If the soccer community cannot get energized this year, it might never do it! Expect 2016 to be a big year for American soccer.

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