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MLS, Mexico impress in study of global attendance figures

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A study of attendance figures in global soccer has thrown up a few surprises.

The CIES Football Observatory have taken a deep dive into the attendance figures over the past five years, and both Major League Soccer and Liga MX have come been praised for their growth.

Based on average attendance the Bundesliga and Premier League lead the way with average crowds of 43,302 and 36,675 respectively, with Spain’s La Liga in third with 27,381 and Mexico’s Liga MX in fourth with 25,582 fans per game.

MLS has seen the second-highest growth rate in attendance figures in the globe from 2003-18, with only attendances in the Polish first division growing at a quicker in that 15-year period.

The report concludes that Mexico’s Liga MX is the best league in the world for attendances outside of Europe, while the U.S., Canada and China are showing strong levels of growth.

“Outside of Europe, Mexican clubs attract the biggest crowds. The study of the changes since 2003 reveals the growing enthusiasm for football in the United States and Canada. Despite the increase in the number of teams participating in the MLS, average attendances have consistently increased to break the 20,000-spectator threshold over the past five years. This limit has also been broken in China, where football’s popularity is henceforth well established too.”

Of course, many will argue that the announced attendances in MLS are someway short of the actual fans at the games, and that’s fair enough. But there’s no doubting that the addition of Toronto FC, the Seattle Sounders, Atlanta United, FC Cincinnati and LAFC have significantly increased attendance figures across MLS.

When it comes to attendances for individual teams, Borussia Dortmund lead the way with an average crowd of 80,230 and then come Manchester United with 75,218 and Barcelona at 74,876.

Below is a look at some of the tables produced by CIES, which is intriguing to have a look at. Check out Sunderland (in England’s third-tier!) in 38th place globally, and a strong contingent of Chinese Super League teams in the top 52.


Veracruz docked points by FIFA, down to zero in Liga MX standings

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Tiburones Rojos de Veracruz fans received more grim news on Monday, just weeks after they were confirmed relegation from Liga MX.

FIFA’s disciplinary committee announced that it was, through Liga MX, docking Veracruz six points. Considering the club only has four points in the current Clausura campaign, it means that Veracruz is down to zero points. The club were docked the points over a failure to pay training compensation fees to Montevideo Wanderers for Matias Santos. Santos only played one Copa MX match for Veracruz before moving back to Uruguay to join Defensor Sporting, but despite Santos’ brief time in Veracruz, it appears the club did not pay for his rights.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Veracruz has been in trouble almost since club owner Fidel Kuri purchased the rights to another promoted team and moved it to Veracruz, effectively giving Veracruz a team. However, Kuri has been in trouble with Liga MX and the Mexican Football Federation before. He was suspended in 2016 for arguing with the league’s head of referees. He threatened to move the club away if he didn’t win a local election. And he’s reportedly been involved in a gentlemen’s agreement with other Liga MX owners to keep wages and transfer fees down.

Yet despite all the club’s struggles and relegations, Kuri has said that he will pay Liga MX’s “fine” of $6.34 million to keep Veracruz in the top division. It appears Veracruz’s story isn’t over yet. Stay tuned.

Sporting KC hammered by Monterrey in CCL semis (video)

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Sporting Kansas City were humbled at the hands of Monterrey on Thursday, as Major League Soccer’s lone representative left in the CONCACAF Champions League were thumped 5-0 in Mexico.

Liga MX’s Monterrey struck twice early on against SKC, with the hosts in control the entire match.

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Dorlan Pabon scored twice, while Aviles Hurtdao, Jeses Gallardo and Nicolas Sanchez added a goal each. In truth the defeat could have been heavier for Peter Vermes SKC, as Rayados ripped them apart out wide.

Below is a look at the highlights in full (painful viewing for Sporting fans, and any MLS fans), as the second leg takes place next Thursday in Kansas City.

The winner of the this semifinal tie will play Tigres or Santos Laguna in the final. Tigres have a 3-0 lead from the first leg, so it’s looking like a Tigres v. Monterrey final. That would mark an eighth all-Mexican final in the 11 years of the competitions.

MLS’ woes in CCL continue, as no MLS club has won the competition since it was revamped in 2008.


Santos Laguna stops Red Bulls comeback bid

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The New York Red Bulls’ comeback effort came up short in Mexico, as Santos Laguna rallied to defeat RBNY 4-2 in the second leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals to produce a 6-2 aggregate score line.

Santos Laguna held a 2-0 lead after the first leg in New Jersey, but Chris Armas’ men flipped that on its ear within 10 minutes of kickoff. Nine minutes, actually.

But before we go any further, look. at this. goal:

[ MORE: Man City clobbers Schalke ]

Daniel Royer had a fourth minute goal and a ninth minute assist for the Red Bulls, who got the match to halftime deadlocked on aggregate.

It all fell apart late in the second half, as a Santos Laguna goal forced the Red Bulls to push even harder for another goal.

Brian Lozano scored twice and Deinner Quinones had a pair of assists as the hosts hit the board four times in nine minutes. Diego Valdes and Jose Abella scored the other goals.

The first goal came courtesy of true Homegrown midfielder Omir Fernandez, as the 20-year-old Wake Forest product cut to the near post to slot Royer’s pass.

Fernandez was with the RBNY Academy from 2011-16, and played for the U-23 side and New York Red Bulls II.

Royer scored his goal five minutes later, running across the 18 to collect and finish a Bradley Wright-Phillips pass after Florian Valot started the move.

CCL preview: Long odds for 3 of 4 MLS teams

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Let’s start with a positive: Sporting Kansas City find themselves in a pretty strong position to advance to the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals when they host Panamanian side Independiente in leg no. 2 on Thursday.

[ UEFA Champions League: Juve seek comeback v. Atleti; Man City v. Schalke ]

Now, the not-so-positive: the chances of any of the other three remaining MLS teams joining them — should Sporting KC get there themselves, even — are extremely poor.

Peter Vermes’ side trails 2-1 after last week’s first leg in Panama City, but the away goal secured from the penalty spot could prove vitally important when the two sides wrap up the tie at Children’s Mercy Park. Independiente were fully deserving of the home result, as they pressed and thoroughly frustrated a Sporting side that rotated eight of 11 first-choice starters from the weekend prior.

Ilie Sanchez got the away goal, from the penalty spot, which should give at least one MLS team a fighting chance to reach the final four.

[ MORE: With “batteries recharged,” Zidane “couldn’t say no” to Real return ]

Reigning MLS Cup champions Atlanta United have, perhaps, the next best chance of going through — and matching wits with Sporting in the semis — if only for the fact that their first-leg defeat occurred away from home. They have, however, the largest deficit to overcome on Wednesday: 3-0, against Liga MX powerhouse Monterrey.

For much of the first leg, Atlanta trailed 1-0, until the floodgates gave way in the final 10 minutes and Monterrey opened up what could very well be an insurmountable lead. Throw in the fact that Frank De Boer‘s side have looked a far cry from Tata Martino’s final edition of the Five Stripes — the one that tore MLS to shreds en route to the league title in its second season of existence — and a Sporting v. Monterrey matchup begins to look the best possible reality for neutral viewers north of the border.

[ MORE: Guardiola: Man City still “teenagers“ among UCL contenders ]

Then, there are the New York Red Bulls and Houston Dynamo, each of whom trail 2-0 and hit the road for the decisive leg, against Santos Laguna and Tigres, respectively.

Houston held firm for more than 75 minutes, and though a scoreless draw would have left them in an unfavorable position ahead of Tuesday’s second leg, 0-0 would have been preferable to 0-2. The Red Bulls, on the other hand, were completely played off their home field and never looked up to the challenge of what is arguably Mexico’s most prolific side.

Should a second MLS side join Sporting in the semifinals — heck, if Sporting get there themselves, it’ll be a minor miracle — it’ll be an epic night that no one will soon forget.