TAMPA, Fla. – The United Soccer League, one of the most prominent Division II leagues in the world, surpassed the two million-mark in total attendance for the 2017 season on Sunday night as the league’s record-setting year scaled new unprecedented heights. The USL is the first North American second division to surpass two million in attendance, achieving the major milestone with more than a week remaining in the regular season, to be followed by what is shaping up to be a thrilling 2017 USL Cup Playoffs.
The league entered Sunday slightly less than 7,000 shy of the two-million mark, as numerous teams drew large crowds on Saturday night. Real Monarchs SLC set a season-high attendance result of 8,402 at Rio Tino Stadium to see the Monarchs claim the USL Regular Season Championship for the first time in their history. Louisville City FC welcomed 7,537 to Slugger Field for its penultimate home game of the season, while San Antonio FC opened a big final week of the season with 7,043 fans on hand. Phoenix Rising FC, Saint Louis FC and the LA Galaxy II also welcomed sellout crowds on Saturday night as the USL’s overall attendance for the year continued to trend 33 percent ahead of 2016.
With USL newcomers Ottawa Fury FC welcoming 5,445 fans to TD Place on Sunday afternoon for its home finale – a crowd that saw the side surpass the 100,000-attendance milestone for the first time in the club’s history – and OKC Energy FC playing host to 3,793 as it hosted the Swope Park Rangers in a key game for both in the race for the USL Cup Playoffs, the league reached its landmark achievement.
“The remarkable passion shown by our fans has been a wonder to behold throughout this season, and has helped the league make history yet again this weekend,” said USL President Jake Edwards. “The USL’s growth over the past three years, which has seen our average attendance first break the one million-mark two years ago, then quickly surpass the two million-mark this year, is a testament to the raised standards the league has implemented and the outstanding level of competition we see on the field week-in and week-out.
“In addition to the outstanding fans across the United States and Canada that have pushed us past this mark, I’d also like to pay tribute to our world-class ownership groups that have made this growth possible. We are incredibly proud of everything the league and its clubs have already accomplished this year with the excitement of the 2017 USL Cup Playoffs still to come.”
Going into the USL’s penultimate weekend of the 2017 regular season, nine of the top 10 North American professional men’s soccer teams in terms of attendance, outside Major League Soccer, were members of the USL, with the league’s average attendance increasing 25.7 percent. Two teams sat with five-figure averages this season, with FC Cincinnati’s USL-record average attendance of 21,199 at Nippert Stadium saw almost 340,000 fans on hand in the regular season. Sacramento Republic FC’s average of 11,569 marked a season of sellouts at Papa Murphy’s Park as the side welcomed more than 185,000 fans through the gates.
Two clubs that moved into soccer-specific stadiums this season also saw substantial rises in attendance this year, with Rio Grande Valley FC averaging 7,067 fans for its first season at H-E-B Park, and Phoenix Rising FC set to average more than 6,000 fans in its first season at the Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex. Other clubs have continued to see their average attendances rise this year, with Louisville City FC, San Antonio FC and the Richmond Kickers all posting attendance increases of more than 15 percent this year.
The 2017 regular season concludes next week with 17 games set to determine the final berths in the USL Cup Playoffs, and the matchups for the Eastern and Western Conference Quarterfinals that will be played between Oct. 20-22. The 2017 USL season will conclude on Monday, Nov. 13 with the airing of the 2017 USL Cup live on ESPNU at 9 p.m. ET as the league’s historic seventh season ends on primetime television for the second consecutive year.
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