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The Lionel Messi effect? MLS 2023 breaks numerous attendance records

More fans than ever went to MLS stadiums this season, with the attendance record for a single game also broken.

Estados UnidosUpdate:
More fans than ever went to MLS stadiums this season, with the attendance record for a single game also broken.
Kirby LeeUSA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

The 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs are about to get underway and some big names will be absent. Neither Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets nor Jordi Alba will be taking part due to Inter Miami’s failure to qualify, while Javier “Chicharito” Hernández’s LA Galaxy also missed out. However, that quartet of players, along with plenty others, have played their part in making 2023 the best-attended year in MLS history.

“History made! Our players delivered on the field, and fans turned out in record numbers. A massive THANK YOU to everyone who attended MLS matches this season. Your amazing support has elevated MLS to new heights! Here’s to even more unforgettable moments in the years to come,” posted MLS commissioner Don Garber on social media.

How many fans attended MLS games on average in 2023?

A total of 10,900, 804 fans went to matches in MLS stadiums across the regular season, an average of 22,111, up around five percent from 21,033 in 2022. This year’s figure is five more than the previous highest average attendance record (22,106) set in 2017.

What was the most attended MLS match in 2023?

On 4 July, the attendance record for a single MLS match was broken when LA Galaxy took on Los Angeles FC at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, with the crowd announced as 82,100. That, of course, came just weeks before seven-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi made his debut for Inter Miami, with “Messimania” leading to a number of opposing clubs, as well as The Herons, reporting an upturn in ticket sales.

With the next transfer window expected to bring yet more global stars stateside, and Messi playing his first full season in the league, surely the record will be broken once again in 12 months’ time?

Inter Miami see 2023 attendances soar

In 2023, only five of the 29 teams in MLS saw average attendances drop compared to last year. Houston Dynamo (-8.5%) reported the biggest decrease, followed by Real Salt Lake (-5.1%), Seattle Sounders (-4.3%), Portland Timbers (-3.1%) and Toronto FC (-0.5%).

Nine teams recorded double-digit percentage increases, led, unsurprisingly, by Inter Miami. Their average attendance soared from 12,637 to 17,698 (+40%), with San Jose Earthquakes (+20.7%), Orlando City (+19.3%), NYCFC (+15.3%), Chicago Fire (+14.7%), FC Cincinnati (+12.8%), New England Revolution (+12.8%), CF Montréal (+11.3%) and FC Dallas (+10.6%) also seeing big rises.