Attendance figures have been a big talking point at the Copa America Centenario, the biggest international men’s soccer tournament on U.S. soil since the 1994 World Cup.
Some games — Mexico is averaging more than 70,000 fans per game — have posted very impressive totals, and overall attendance stacks up well against past Copa America tournaments. But images of half-empty stadiums at some matches have made U.S. soccer fans hopeful for another World Cup cringe, and sparked complaints that overly expensive ticket prices are keeping fans away.
Massachusetts hosted its first two games over the weekend at Gillette Stadium, where the New England Revolution consistently rank in the bottom half of Major League Soccer for attendance. On Friday night, Chile bested Bolivia. On Sunday, Peru stunned Brazil, bouncing one of the world’s most storied sides out of the tournament on a controversial goal.
So, how many showed up to watch? Friday night’s game drew 19,392 fans to Foxborough, according to attendance figures from CONMEBOL, the governing body of South American soccer. Nearly twice that showed up to see Brazil on Sunday, with 36,187 passing through the gates.
Both figures are below the tournament’s average attendance, which stands at 40,488 through 20 games. The Chile-Bolivia match posted the fourth lowest attendance of the tournament, while Brazil-Peru ranked ninth from the bottom.
Brazil played three games in the tournament, and Gillette’s attendance figure was the second highest of their three. For Peru, the Gillette game was its highest-attended match so far.
Chile and Bolivia, meanwhile, have each only played two games so far. The 19,000 to show up Friday was far more than Bolivia previously saw against Panama in Orlando, a game that drew just 13,466. But it was a sharp drop for Chile, which had drawn nearly 70,000 in its high-profile match against Argentina earlier in the week in Santa Clara.
Gillette has one more tournament game coming up, as it will host a quarterfinals match on Saturday.
The tournament’s highest-attended match so far was at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, where Mexico and Jamaica drew 83,263. The lowest figure yet is 11,937, featuring Ecuador and Peru in Phoenix. The U.S., which earned a berth in the quarterfinals last week, has averaged 52,707 fans in three games in its home country.
While some soccer fans have wrung their hands over the tournament’s crowd sizes and argued ticket prices may be the reason for the figures, 2016 attendance has already bested last year’s Copa America tournament in Chile. This year’s contest also still has a chance become the highest-attended Copa America in history, although if it did so it would be because the tournament has never had as many competitors as this year’s 16-team field boasts.