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Thursday, June 20, 2024

Cricket, NWSL Among Emerging Sports to Set Attendance Marks

  • The figures show fans’ willingness to go far beyond the industry’s established powers when given the opportunity.
  • MLB and the WNBA enjoyed their own strong turnouts.
ICC

A series of emerging sports, pro leagues, and events posted historic levels of attendance over the weekend, showing the rapidly expanding nature of the business both domestically and abroad.

The June 7–9 weekend featured a broad mix of robust figures at the gate, reflecting fans’ willingness to go far beyond established powers such as the NFL and NBA when given the opportunity. Among the key markers:

  • The NWSL set a single-game record with a crowd of 35,038 on Saturday at Wrigley Field for a game between the Red Stars and Bay FC. That event was also part of a total weekend mark of 110,845, the first time that the league has surpassed 100,000 in attendance in a single weekend. 
  • A sellout crowd of 20,333 filled Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C., for a Fever-Mystics game Friday, representing the biggest WNBA turnout for a game since 2007. The league also said Monday that it recorded its best opening-month attendance in 26 years, drawing about 400,000 during May.
  • The ICC Men’s T20 World Cup registered a turnout of 34,028 on Sunday in New York for the high-profile match between India and Pakistan, setting a new record for cricket in the U.S.
  • MLB drew a total of 108,956 for its two-game London Series between the Mets and Phillies, slightly below the comparable figure for a set of Cubs-Cardinals games in London last year, but still showing a strong energy given the league is trying to develop a foothold in the U.K., where baseball is not broadly ingrained in the local culture.

“I’d do it every year if we could,” said Phillies manager Rob Thomson. “The people of England and this area have done a great job, treated us with class, and it’s been a great experience.”

Breaking New Ground

Many of these figures advance upon already-emerging, macro-level trends, such as the accelerating rise of women’s pro sports and the growing internationalization of many leagues based in the U.S. and Europe. The cricket figure, however, is arguably the most noteworthy.

The sport already enjoys a massive following in other parts of the world, particularly Asia, helping fuel several internet consumption records in recent years for important matches. But it’s a much less established sport in the U.S., and the India-Pakistan match was played in a temporary stadium built for the tournament and against a backdrop of heightened security due to potential threats from a pro-ISIS group.

The match completed without any public safety incident, but it still generated recriminations from fans back in Pakistan after the country lost to its top rival, following an upset defeat last week to the host U.S. team.

“It’s amazing. The atmosphere is great,” said Yankees special adviser Omar Minaya to The New York Times of the cricket tournament. “It’s like the World Baseball Classic, or the Dominican Baseball League.”

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