After the United States national team had an exciting run in the 2010 World Cup, I was excited for soccer to get a boost in domestic popularity.
Major League Soccer, now in its 16th year, has been steadily growing since its inaugural season in 1996. There are 18 teams, and the league has done an excellent job of elevating its quality of play.
With household names on nearly every roster and a majority of teams calling soccer-specific stadiums home, the MLS has developed into a well-respected league. It has done a great job with its expansion plans and awarded teams to cities who have created some of the league’s best atmospheres.
Though their stadiums may be smaller, many MLS clubs now draw crowds whose intensity rivals that of European teams. If you’ve previously knocked the league for having disconnected and quiet fans, the supporters of these clubs are sure to prove you wrong.
SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC
The Sounders, who joined MLS as an expansion club in 2009, lead the league in attendance with an average turnout of more than 34,000 fans per game. Their home pitch is Qwest Field, which also serves as home to the National Football League’s Seattle Seahawks.
Major League Soccer’s decision to award Seattle an expansion franchise was probably the best move league officials have made. The Sounders boast arguably the loudest crowd in the league, and with 34,000 fans singing in unison, Qwest Field’s atmosphere really does compete as one of the best in the world.
Portland just joined MLS this season, but already boasts one of the league’s best crowds. The Timbers play their home games at Jeld-Wen Field, a former baseball stadium that was converted to be soccer-specific.
The Timbers have sold out every game they’ve hosted in 2011, and though their stadium only holds 18,627 spectators, the volume level gets pretty high. After every Portland goal, Timber Joey, a lumberjack who serves as the team’s mascot, uses a chainsaw to cut a slab off a giant log and awards it to the goal-scorer at the conclusion of the match. It sounds cheesy, but the place goes crazy when the chainsaw gets fired up, and it’s definitely pretty cool.
I’ve always wanted to see a game in Toronto, primarily because the team hasn’t failed to sell out since joining the league in 2007. TFC plays its home games at BMO Field, which was recently expanded to accommodate 23,000 spectators.
I think one of the reasons Toronto boasts one of the league’s best atmospheres is because half of the fans’ chants are in French. BMO Field’s capacity crowds can definitely be loud, but when supporters cheer in another language it gives games a pretty unique feel.
The Union is also one of the league’s newer teams, joining as an expansion side in 2010. Constructed last year, PPL Park serves as the club’s home field. Situated on waterfront property along the Delaware River, PPL may be one of the nicest stadiums in the country.
Philadelphia’s loud supporters fall in line with pretty much all of the city’s other crowds, but the Sons of Ben, the Union’s supporters group, make the atmosphere even more hostile.