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Sunday, July 14, 2024

High Ticket Prices, Half-Empty NFL Stadiums at Copa América

  • Copa América has high ticket prices but low attendance.
  • One matchup had under 30,000 fans in an NFL stadium.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

After one weekend of play, Copa América is struggling to fill U.S. stadiums.

The opening match of the tournament between Argentina and Canada nearly filled the home of the Atlanta Falcons, but attendance quickly dropped throughout the rest of the weekend. Most notably, under 30,000 fans showed up in Santa Clara to watch Venezuela beat Ecuador, filling up less than half of the stadium.

Here’s the attendance and capacity breakdown for the first six matches:

  • Argentina-Canada: 70,564 fans, 71,000-person capacity at Mercedes-Benz Stadium
  • Peru-Chile: 43,030 fans, 80,000-person capacity at AT&T Stadium
  • Ecuador-Venezuela: 29,864 fans, 68,500-person capacity at Levi’s Stadium
  • Mexico-Jamaica: 53,763 fans, 72,200-person capacity at NRG Stadium
  • USA-Bolivia: 47,873 fans, 80,000-person capacity at AT&T Stadium
  • Uruguay-Panama: 33,425 fans, 65,300-person capacity at Hard Rock Stadium

Fans have been quick to point a finger at high ticket prices. The get-in price for the tournament’s opening match was more than $500. Some games start at $55 before fees, but others like Venezuela-Mexico are higher, starting on Ticketmaster at $119 before fees as of Monday morning. It’s a steep price to pay for any casual fans hoping to catch a match, and with the games being played in large NFL stadiums, the prices can’t be blamed on a limited supply of seats.

Copa América also had high ticket prices coupled with an abundance of empty seats the last time the event was held in the U.S. in 2016. But that tournament, with an average of roughly 46,000 fans at each game, sailed above the ’19 tournament in Brazil with its average of 34,651 fans per match. The ’21 tournament held in Brazil had limited attendance due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the same time, the Euros have drawn large crowds, including more than 65,000 fans at Germany-Scotland and more than 68,000 fans at Spain-Croatia. For the most part, games are being held at smaller venues than Copa América, plus travel distances between host cities and home countries are much shorter in Europe than they are in the Americas.

At the same time it’s dealing with half-empty stadiums, Copa América is also fielding complaints from players about the temporary grass pitches. Argentina and Canada both had qualms about the opening-match pitch, calling it “very bumpy,” “hollow,” and “a disaster.” Peru’s manager said the surface in Dallas might’ve led to his player’s Achilles injury.

MLS read the room, announcing record-breaking attendance numbers so far throughout its season on Monday. The league, which is continuing play throughout the Copa América tournament, is averaging 13% higher attendance than it had at this point last season. The league left out its average attendance, but quick math says it comes out to a little under 23,300 per match. (MLS has played 279 matches this year and said that nearly 6.5 million fans have attended.) MLS may be recording smaller attendance numbers, but that’s on purpose. Many teams built smaller, soccer-only venues for a better atmosphere—several hold under 20,000 fans—while Copa América forges on at much larger NFL stadiums.

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