Commentary

USA-Panama ticket sales still impressive

By Paul Kennedy

Tuesday's USA-Panama game is not a sellout -- the upper deck at CenturyLink Field will be closed off, putting the capacity at 42,000 -- and as of early Monday afternoon Dan Flynn, secretary general of U.S. Soccer, said ticket sales were at "about the 38-39,000 range."

While the crowd might be viewed as disappointing, given the crowds the Seattle Sounders draw, it should have one of the largest crowds of pro-American fans for a qualifier -- and might set a record for the highest gate receipts for a qualifier with ticket prices of $55-190.

Why the game is not sellout was one of the first questions asked U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann when he arrived at the Sounders-Whitecaps MLS game on Saturday that drew more than 53,000.

“I’m more concerned about my team," he said.

U.S. Soccer isn't going to leave any money on the table and promoted the match through the weekend. Sounders star Eddie Johnson threw out the first ball at Sunday's Mariners-Yankees baseball game.

Flynn said he wasn't displeased with ticket sales, acknowledging that Tuesday isn't an easy night for an event and even Seattle soccer fans had finite disposable income. He did say ticket prices were higher than what U.S. Soccer usually charges for a qualifier.

Of the nine home qualifiers that have drawn 40,000 or more fans in national team history, only two of them have been held west of the Mississippi.

Fans from 48 states will travel to Tuesday's game, but most will have to fly to get to Seattle. Attendance at East Coast games is often boosted by thousands of fans who drive in for the game -- just like the NSCAA Convention almost always draws best on the East Coast as coaches drive in from up and down the Eastern seaboard.

The opposing team had a significant following at most of these games with 40,000-plus fans. The crowd of 54,282 at Washington's RFK Stadium for the 3-2 loss to Honduras in September 2001 -- the last home loss in qualifying -- was a pro-Catracho crowd.

Considering there isn't a huge community of Panamanians in the Northwest, Tuesday's crowd will be almost entirely pro-American.

-- The last time the USA played a qualifier in Seattle was 1976 when it drew 17,675 fans -- then a huge crowd for a national team game -- for its 2-0 win over Canada on goals by the late Miro Rys and Juli Veee (famous for having worked at the Spahn Ranch -- the Charlie Manson ranch -- when he first arrived from Hungary).

(Click here for more on the 1976 game -- including the late coach Walter Chyzowych's famous declaration that he would “donate my salary for the next three years to Canada” if the U.S. didn’t advance, which it didn't -- from Joel Petterson of the Seattle Times.)

CHEVY RETURNS TO FED FOLD. Chevrolet has signed a three-year sponsorship deal that will make it the official partner of U.S. Soccer and presenting sponsor of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy.

The move comes after Chevrolet signed a seven-year deal with Manchester United, beginning with the 2014-2015 season.

Chevy has a youth program that involves nearly 1,000 dealers and 850,000 youth.

“As fans well know, soccer is much more than the world’s favorite sport,” said Molly Peck, director of Chevrolet advertising and sales promotions, in a statement. “It’s a communal experience and way of life.

PANAMA-MEXICO RATINGS. Friday's World Cup 2014 qualifier between Panama and Mexico averaged 2,563,000 viewers on Telemundo. (Some other sporting viewing figures from the weekend -- 3,320,000 on NBC for Los Angeles-Chicago NHL game and 3,321,000 for FOX Saturday Baseball.
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1 comment about "USA-Panama ticket sales still impressive".
  1. Bruce Gowan, June 11, 2013 at 12:36 p.m.

    I predict a low TV audience for the USMNT game on ESPN since it is playing against the NBA Final game three on ABC. I guess USSF did not look at the TV schedule before scheduling a game on the West Coast. An East Coast game starting at 7:00pm would not be impacted by the NBA game. The soccer community complains about the lack of TV coverage for soccer in the USA. Soccer is not marketed very well and the result is very poor TV coverage.

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