The U.S. men’s national soccer team earned a 3-0 win over Morocco in an international friendly Wednesday, but that’s not what people were talking about following the game. Despite an incredible first touch that led to the USMNT’s first goal, the post-match discussion was about team captain Christian Pulisic‘s comments about the lack of “Americans” at the game.
Pulisic told ESPN, “To be honest, for whatever reason, I’m not super happy with the amount of Americans here however that works out, if I’m being completely honest. Thanks for the ones who did come and the support is always great from them.”
Christian Pulisic called out the lack of USMNT home fan support after their match against Morocco. pic.twitter.com/kyxBMDw20l
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 2, 2022
I’m going to give Christian the benefit of the doubt that when he said “Americans,” he meant USA fans. Because that’s a whole other can of worms.
What Pulisic fails to understand is that this problem is a lot bigger than he thinks it is. It’s easy to look at the stands and come up with a narrative that many USMNT fans don’t support the team. but there are other factors at play.
Even before inflation shot up, it was expensive to go to a friendly. Now, it’s even worse.
Most tickets for Wednesday night’s game started at $60 and went up to $160 before fees. All for an exhibition game that for all intents and purposes, doesn’t mean anything. Why would people go see the United States take part in a friendly when prices are that high? How can a family go to a game when prices are on such a level that they’re paying hundreds of bucks just to get into the game. And that’s without even taking into consideration travel expenses, concessions, and merch.
U.S. Soccer is pricing out a lot of fans, even diehard fans, because people either can’t afford it or think the value isn’t there. Sure, they might not see Pulisic play, but going to an FC Cincinnati game is far more economical for a family.
Let’s be clear, I am in no way criticizing Ohio and Midwestern USA fans for what is perceived as a “lack of support.” What I am saying is that there have been too many games taking place in the Midwest that the market is oversaturated.
This is the fourth USMNT game in the state of Ohio since last October, and the seventh USA game since last September if you count the women’s team. In a large country where there are 50 states and plenty of cities with fans who would love to have a Team USA game in their city, having seven games within nine months in the same two cities is going to force even the biggest diehard fan to make some tough decisions on which games to go to. And considering Ohio hosted three World Cup qualifiers, including USA vs Mexico in Cincinnati, it’s not a surprise that a midweek friendly against Morocco is “lesser than,” and that some fans might not bother to show up to that when these local fans already got the biggest rivalry in U.S. Soccer seven months ago.
Some people might not like hearing this, but the United States of America is a “melting pot” and it always has been. There are people in the United States who immigrated here from other countries or have parents who immigrated. Even if they eventually become U.S. citizens, many of them are not going to completely do away with their heritage and national pride of the country they came from.
As of 2015, there are 84,000 first and second generation Moroccan immigrants living in the United States. If you’re Moroccan and you’re a soccer fan and you see Morocco is coming to the United States to play any game, it’s bigger for you to attend as opposed to a United States fan who has a plethora of games with your team taking place all the time.
The last time Morocco played in the United States was 2006. When it’s been 16 years, suddenly it makes it worth it for a Moroccan soccer fan to go to Wednesday night’s game. Paying over $100 and traveling to Cincinnati from all ends of the country isn’t such a big deal if that’s the main chance you’re going to see your country play for a while.
Doing the math, if five percent of those 84,000 people attended the game, that equals 4,200. Attendance at TQL Stadium was 19,512 fans. 4,200 of 19,512 would equal 21.5% of the crowd being first- and second-generation Moroccan immigrants. Some of them might be supporting the United States, but many would likely support Morocco. And 4,200 Moroccans seems like a realistic number of fans to have a noticeable away support.
Sure, there are reasons that U.S. Soccer keeps coming to Ohio. The facilities in Columbus and Cincinnati are top-notch, and the Midwest has a great reputation for having a diehard fanbase for the national teams. But there is a limit. It’s Economics 101, supply and demand. High ticket prices in an oversaturated market are just going to bring in more away fans who want to see the opposition because those teams rarely play in the United States.
If this is what U.S. Soccer prefers, that’s fine. They’re still making money: whether it’s a USMNT fan or a Morocco fan, their money is good either way. But if that’s going to be the case, the captain of the team shouldn’t be blaming the fans when packing the stadium with USA fans isn’t U.S. Soccer’s main objective.
In the end, this is going to be a topic of discussion that’s never going to go away. And until players like Christian Pulisic actually look into the issue, they’re just going to see the surface and think USMNT fans don’t care. It’s not that fans don’t care, they just can’t afford to go to every game and don’t like being overcharged to attend a game that isn’t going to come close to matching that value.