Big drop in crowds for 2019 International Champions Cup

The International Champions Cup, the annual series of pre-season matches pitting some of the world's best clubs against other, wrapped up its U.S. stage on Sunday when Portugal's Benfica beat Italy's AC Milan, 1-0, to sweep all three games.

Like many games in this year's International Champions Cup, the game was played in hot weather and drew a disappointing crowd. Gillette Stadium was less than half filled with 27,585 fans on hand, the majority pro-Benfiquista, reflecting the strong Portuguese influence in southeastern Massachusetts.

Attendance for the 11 ICC matches played in the United States averaged 29,883 fans, down almost 35 percent from 2018 and more than 47 percent from the tournament high in 2016.

ICC average attendance (U.S. games):
2016 (10 games): 57,072.
2017 (12 games): 56,951.
2018 (17 games): 45,746.
2019 (11 games): 29,883.

Several factors contributed to the big drop.

Manchester United and Barcelona have been two of the best supported teams on the ICC circuit, but they did not take part in the U.S. portion of the tournament this summer.

Manchester United played its ICC matches in Singapore and China and will play its final match against AC Milan on Saturday in Cardiff. Barcelona will be heading to the United States in August to face Napoli in a new La Liga-Serie A Cup organized by Revelent Sports Group, the ICC promoter. With the games scheduled for Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor and Hard Rock Stadium, north of Miami, they should draw big crowds.

But Real Madrid, the other big-drawing team, returned this summer and the average attendance for its three games was  56,894, down from 62,422 fans in 2018, 75,740 in 2017 and a whopping 91,484 in 2016. (The first Real Madrid-Atletico Madrid played in the USA drew 57,714 at MetLife Stadium, up from 51,528 for Real Madrid-Roma in the Meadowlands a year ago,)

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Liverpool, the reigning UEFA Champions League champion, went out on its own and promoted a three-game series of matches at Notre Dame, Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium, drawing more than 30,000 fans for each game.

Five of the 11 games in 2019 drew less than 20,000 fans, compared to just two of 39 games over the three previous years.

Roma had to pull out because of its involvement in Europa League qualifying. Its replacement, Fiorentina, now owned by Rocco Commisso, drew the tournament's two lowest crowds for games against Guadalajara (10,062) and Benfica (12,141) though it's hard to imagine the games with Roma on the card would have drawn significantly more fans.

All three Guadalajara games game drew less than 16,000 fans. The Chivas match against Benfica attracted a crowd of 15,724 fans at Levi's Stadium, in Santa Clara, California, where ICC games the last three years drew crowds of 30,758, 65,109 and 51,391. The move to Globe Life Park, home of the baseball Texas Rangers, turned out to be a bust as just 12,467 fans showed up for Chivas' game against Atletico Madrid.

Photo: Mingo Nesmith/Icon Sportswire

12 comments about "Big drop in crowds for 2019 International Champions Cup".
  1. Paul Berry, July 29, 2019 at 6:52 a.m.

    Good. If American fans started watching their own league it may one day feature some of those world-class stars in their prime, in actual competitive matches.

  2. beautiful game replied, July 29, 2019 at 10:18 a.m.

    Mr. Berry, I hear your pain...but you won't see the international club's pre-season quality of play in most MLS teams in your hipeful lifetime. This tournament is a training session; and if you think that players will put out as much as they do in league or cup matches, you shouldn't hold your breath. I wouldn't pay $25 to watch any of these games at the stadium.  The only team that put out was Athletico Madrid v RM; because its was a derby. Otherwise, these games are 25% in intensity and 100% to avoid injury. BTW, that Benfica v AC Milan game was staged at the right time, 1500 hrs. in the heat of summer.

  3. Ben Myers, July 29, 2019 at 8:14 a.m.

    What were the crowds like before 2016, the high water mark, going back to the first one in 2012?  Certainly teams with name recognition have a lot to do with the draw, and several of the teams in the US part of the competition this year were among the lesser known and least followed.  But I wonder if it has finally sunk in with fans that these are more like exhibition games or spring training than a real honest competition for a championship.  Still, for me, it is nice to watch top-level players in action and speculate which ones will get major minutes during the long European soccer season.

  4. Mike Anderson, July 29, 2019 at 8:16 a.m.

    These are bucket list games. After seeing bucket list teams once or twice your motivation to spend $200 per ticket just isn’t as strong. And clearly teams like Guadalajara aren’t on many people’s lists. 

  5. Gary Levitt, July 29, 2019 at 9:20 a.m.

    You have to give kudos to Relevant Sports for continuing to put this "tournament" on.  A very tough proposition coming off the three early summer tournaments, the pool of avalable teams, the ticket price required from a P&L standpoint, and the venues/hot weather.  Hopefully, Relevant can pivot and reshape the ICC into a value proposition for the fans, the teams, and the business.  

  6. beautiful game replied, July 29, 2019 at 11:42 a.m.

    GL; tell us what's so enticing about a pre-season ICC tournament? Games are at half-pace for the ticket-holder; and the TV cameras provide its own special extra spice of 360-400+ close-up facials for the TV viewer's distraction. Matter of factly, every televised sporting event has become an exercise in Hollywood drama production. Best example is NFL TV coverage when cameras zoom-in through the face guard for a quality look at players eyes multiple times after every play before the huddle. Or how about in soccer, those continuous facial close-ups of the player making a bad pass, followed by the player who can't reach that pass, followed by the keeper holding the all, followed by a close-up of the coach, back to the keeper's face, etc. TV coverage sporting has lost its common sense in totality. And you are concerned about what in particular?

  7. Phil Hardy, July 29, 2019 at 2:28 p.m.

    I’m glad American fans have wised up on these ridiculous money grabs. I guess the ICC will need to move to secondary markets to bring the bucket to more bucket list folks. I will never pay to see one of these warm up matches. 

  8. uffe gustafsson, July 29, 2019 at 3:28 p.m.

    Mike anderson
    my thoughts as well. Way to expensive tickets.

  9. Paul Cox, July 29, 2019 at 5:05 p.m.

    The prices were stupid for glorified scrimmages. As Mike Anderson said, once you see "your team" once, you're not going to want to bother again- and even many who might go can now see their team on a regular basis in games that actually count, in HD or even 4K, from the comfort of their own home.

  10. Gary Levitt, July 30, 2019 at 6:30 a.m.

    Beaurtiful Game - my comments actually agree with your take.  My point:  the tournament, with the amount of exposure to real tournaments, etc., has become mundane.  I am hoping that Relevant Sports can reshape the summer friendlies for the benefit of the fans.

  11. Richard Leonard, July 30, 2019 at 1:51 p.m.

    Exhibtion games with Division 1 League prices.
    Drop the ticket prices and you may get more then the hard core fans looking to see their fav team.

  12. R2 Dad, July 30, 2019 at 3 p.m.

    An attendance summary with associated ticket prices over time  might point to greedy promotion entities rather than disinterested fans. Much like theater ticket prices vs attendance.

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