What a great soccer weekend here in Denver! I witnessed the Colorado Rapids thumping Chivas USA 3-0 on Friday night, and then the very next day, I saw Manchester United's impressive win over AS Roma 3-2 at Sports Authority Field in front of just over 54,000 people--most of whom were in red (including this writer, who sported his Arsenal kit and pulled hard for Roma)--as part of the Guinness International Champions Cup 2014 (ICC).
Clearly, ICC representatives looked to capitalize on World Cup fever in the United States, and attendance figures bear out that interest in soccer in the States is on the rise. But due to the 'bounce' from the World Cup? Hardly. Over 65,000 came to Michigan to see Real Madrid face off against Inter Milan. In Pittsburgh, 34,000 came out (10,000 more than expected) to see Manchester City play Inter Milan. Over 86,000 came to the Coliseum in LA to see Manchester United totally dismantle the LA Galaxy, 7-0. Over 36,000 cheered on Liverpool and Olympiakos in Chicago. We could go on, for sure.
Soccer continues to gain more and more traction.
I must say, however, that I wonder if the authorities at Sports Authority Field (SAF) received that memo of soccer's rising traction, and realized just how many would attend Saturday's game. Before I continue, let me say that I do not intend for this space to serve as therapy for my angst about soccer-related issues. That serves nothing and no one well--especially soccer here in the States. One of Solomon's Proverbs says, "Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble" (21:23). We need to look at the positives of the sport and all this has to offer.
Yet, whatever joy I had at seeing Manchester United and AS Roma (my favorite Serie A team) play was all but squelched by the fact that SAF did not have enough staff to accommodate entry for 54,000 people. We arrived at approximately 20 minutes before gametime. Why? SAF has so many entry points in that stadium, they could have staffed it just a bit more to expedite the fans. So, we barely got in in time to see Rooney's goal (a beauty) in the 34th minute.
What happened? One can only speculate, but could it be that they really didn't know that at least 54,000 tickets were sold that how much staffing were needed? I can only speculate, but would that ever, ever happen at a Broncos game? Or even a concert? Doubtful.
Let's now go from SAF to Dick's Sporting Goods Park (DSGP), shall we? Going by memory (uh-oh), I count seven gates/entry points into DSGP. Seven. The average attendance for Rapids games in 2013 was 15,440. For seven entry points--about 2200 per point, compared to 27,000 per point at SAF (if only two were opened, and as we marched around the stadium like the Israelites marched around Jericho, that's all we noticed). The numerous entry points are one of the many reasons the Rapids and DGSP make the atmosphere such an angst-absent affair. All of the parks that host MLS games play an underappreciated but all-too-important part in
Again, I'm not intending to be the local doomsayer when it comes to soccer, always expecting second- or third-class treatment. But there was no excuse for what happened and it sullied an otherwise enjoyable experience in seeing two top-flight teams play.
The ICC has been a welcomed event here in the States. Let's hope that our stadiums that host these special events won't turn off would-be soccer fans to the beautiful game.