With the 2017 season now in the rearview mirror, we’ll be taking a look back at the year that was in the coming few weeks to highlight some of our favorite memories from the season that was.
That retrospect kicks off today with a look back at the achievements that you – our incredible fans in the stands – helped us reach during the course of our club’s second season. After smashing records in the club’s inaugural season, there were many who doubted Cincinnati’s ability to produce attendance numbers like that again. But flying in the face of their doubt, we knew Cincinnati would not only rise again to the challenge… but would even raise its game further.
And just as we suspected, you were up for it. For a second straight season, with your support, FC Cincinnati again obliterated attendance records in 2017.
Our average attendance for regular season USL matches went up 22.6% from our 2016 average, jumping from an already impressive 17,296 to a mind-boggling 21,199. That average is not only best in the league for the second year running, but it’s also the fifth largest percent growth in the USL for 2017, too. Only Phoenix (317% growth from 1,470 in 2016 to 6,127 in 2017), Rio Grande (254% from 1,994 to 7,067), Orange County (154% from 1,010 to 2,571) and Harrisburg (57% from 1,547 to 2,429) bested us in growth by percentage. Our increase of 3,903 fans per game from last year’s average is also the third largest in total growth of average attendance in the league, lagging only behind Rio Grande (+5,073) and Phoenix (+4,657).
When viewed in the larger North American soccer landscape, our 2017 average attendance still looks impressive. Our 2017 season average would place us firmly in the top 10 in all of Major League Soccer, as the chart on the left shows. You propelled us to the 6th best average attendance in American professional soccer and 8th overall when you include Canada’s Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps. And when compared to the other cities competing for MLS expansion places, we sit far-and-away at the top of the table, too.
Along the way, we toppled several USL regular season attendance records. We broke our own USL regular season single-match record not just once, but twice – the first when 25,308 witnessed us draw 2-2 with Orlando City B, the second being when a crowd of 30,417 took in our 4-2 win over New York Red Bulls II in our home finale. Though not officially kept by the league, the 20,058 that watched our 3-1 win against Ottawa Fury was also the highest ever mid-week attendance in USL history.
But it wasn’t just in the regular season where you helped the club post monstrous numbers. Thrice we set non-final attendance records in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. The first being a fourth-round record when 30,160 showed up for our match against Columbus, the second with 32,287 against Chicago, and the third being the 33,250 for the semifinal against New York. That semifinal total would also remain the largest attendance in the entire 2017 edition of the tournament, and only second all-time to the 2013 final in Seattle that drew 35,615.
In total, the season was a complete success in the stands: 360,383 regular season match attendees, another 115,006 in the Open Cup, and then 23,114 for our international friendly against La Liga’s Valencia. Altogether we just barely missed out on a half million people taking in FC Cincinnati matches at Nippert Stadium in 2017, with an astounding 498,503.
Suffice to say, your support over the last season has once again put FC Cincinnati back on the map – and reaffirmed that we belonged there in the first place, too. People from far and wide marveled at the atmosphere you helped to create for just a two-year-old professional soccer club.
Where do we go from here? We’re once again challenging you to continue helping us to reach even further heights, with a stated goal of reaching 15,000 season ticket members for the 2018 season.
And given what we’ve seen thus far -- both in seasons past and in the 7,500+ season ticket memberships already committed to 2018 -- we’re pretty confident you’ll help us get there once again.