[CROWD COUNT] A crowd of 109,000 is expected Saturday at the Big House, home of University of Michigan football, when Manchester United faces Real Madrid. It will break the U.S. attendance record that has stood since the seminal event in modern American soccer: the 1984 Olympics. Here's a look at the record U.S. crowds dating to 1926 when another touring club, SC Hakoah, set a record that lasted more than 50 years.
46,000 New York Stars-SC Hakoah (May 1, 1926 in New York, N.Y.)
By the mid-1920s, a
case could be made that soccer in the Northeast in the form of the American Soccer League was the second most popular sport in the United States behind baseball. In 1926, SC Hakoah, an all-Jewish team
from Vienna, embarked on a 12-game tour of the United States over seven weeks, beginning with four games that drew increasingly large crowds in New York. The largest crowd came out for a match against
an ASL all-star team of players from the New York Giants and Indiana Flooring. The New York Stars won, 3-0, for one of only two wins by American teams on the Hakoah tour.
62,394 New York Cosmos-Tampa Bay Rowdies (June 19, 1977 in East Rutherford, N.J.)
The Cosmos had been around for five years, but they didn't take off until 1977
when they moved into the new Giants Stadium in New Jersey. The Father's Day crowd watched the Cosmos win, 3-0, on Pele's hat trick.
77,691 New York Cosmos-Fort Lauderdale Strikers (Aug. 14, 1977 in East Rutherford, N.J.)
The summer of 1977 in New York is remembered for a lot of things. There
was the blackout that touched off widespread looting. Son of Sam terrorized the five boroughs, and Studio 54 was the place to be. By the end of the summer, the Cosmos were the hottest ticket in town.
They drew their first sellout for the playoff game against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. In the press box, reporters were excitedly told, "They're selling standing-room only seats." And over in the
Bronx, the Yankees drew only 21,472.
78,265 USA-Costa Rica (July 29, 1984, in Palo Alto, Calif.)
A case can be made that the most important
event in the history of modern American soccer was the 1984 Olympics. The success of soccer -- there was no women's tournament back then -- was the impetus for FIFA urging the United States to bid for
the 1994 World Cup. The NASL was on its last legs, but huge crowds turned out at all four venues across the country to watch the Olympic soccer tournament. It began at Stanford Stadium, where the
United States opened play with a 3-0 win over Costa Rica thanks to two goals by Ricky Davis and a third by Jean Willrich.
(Aug. 8, 1984 in Pasadena, Calif.)
The truth is, the huge crowds that turned out at the Rose Bowl was not drawn only for the soccer. Few knew the teams or players, who for the first time
included pros. The driving factor behind the huge crowds was the availability of inexpensive tickets for fans who wanted to experience the Olympics first hand. This was true in Los Angeles but also
elsewhere. The same day as the France-Yugoslavia game, the other semifinal, Brazil-Italy at Stanford Stadium, drew 83,642 fans.
Yugoslavia-Italy (Aug. 10, 1984, in Pasadena, Calif.)
For the third time in less than two weeks, the U.S. soccer attendance record was broken -- this time for a third-place game.
Yugoslavia beat Italy, 2-1, to take the bronze medal. The crowd of 100,374 remains the only crowd besides the 101,799 fans for the final in excess of 100,000 for a soccer match in the United
101,799 France-Brazil (Aug. 11, 1984, in Pasadena, Calif.)
Two months after France won the European Championship for the first time,
it captured Olympic gold for the first time with a 2-0 win over Brazil on goals by Francois Brisson and Daniel Xuereb. The crowd of 101,799 pushed the average attendance at the Olympics to 44,426.