Most Minnesota United fans have grown used to the matchday experience provided by the club. Whether they like it or not varies from person to person, but there’s a better question to ask: how does the Loons’ matchday experience compare to others around Major League Soccer?
It’s a hard question to answer; it’s subjective, and there are plenty of intangibles that require experiencing a match first-hand. In order to get as many stories from as many different clubs as possible, we decided to invite our readers to help us out.
We were pleasantly surprised by how many people responded to our request for guest contributors, so much so that we have enough for two pieces, so we’ve only included some submissions (including one of my own) we received below. Huge thanks to everyone who told a tale of what it’s like to attend a match with different teams around MLS (as well as the NASL days and the USMNT)!
I went to an SKC-LA game at what was then known as Sporting Park in late 2015. The stadium itself is fantastic both inside and out. It was pretty modern and the crowd gave the stadium its character. Unfortunately, it’s a good 20 minute drive outside of Downtown Kansas City which was a buzzkill. There was a decent amount of tailgaters around and they did a good job creating a fun pre-game atmosphere on the stadium plaza with games and giveaways.
As far as in-match atmosphere goes, it was by far the best out of the five MLS venues I’ve attended. Sightlines were great from every seat and the stands are very close to the field. Video boards behind each goal were big enough for everyone to have a good look at replays. The supporters section was excellent. They were loud all game and were able to get the rest of the crowd involved on a number of occasions. Down-to-earth, nice people too. I don’t remember the food and drink being much to write home about though they did offer some barbecue options and local beer.
Really, it felt like about the best experience you could achieve in MLS aside from the poor location.
I attended one of DC’s most recent matches, their home draw against Toronto FC. RFK Stadium, one of the most (in?)famous grounds in the United States, is every bit as decrepit as it is made out to be, and yes, the stands do go up and down with the people jumping on them. It’s a couple of blocks from a Metro stop, and there is plenty of parking around the stadium. The team gave away pennants celebrating their MLS Cup triumph in 1997, and there were plenty of items on sale in the team shop.
Seating is quite odd at the RFK. The lower bowl seats behind the goals have been removed, and the two upper-level tiers have been closed off. I had seats close to the field in their lowest section, and the view actually was unpleasant. The slope of the stands is such that the low seats require you to look through the dugouts and team personnel along the sideline, so higher seats provide a better vantage point. There is only one jumbotron in the stadium, and it’s awfully small.
The team’s supporters are fantastic. Their flag game is strong, and their chanting loudly fills the cavernous stadium. DC have worked with what they have, and done fairly well with it, but things will be much better in the brand-new Audi Field next year.
MAPFRE Stadium, formerly Columbus Crew Stadium, was the first soccer-specific stadium to be used by an MLS team. This history, combined with the USMNT’s history vs. Mexico in the stadium, creates a sense of nostalgia whenever attending a Crew SC match. There aren’t a lot of stadiums in MLS that have any real “history” so this makes attending a match at MAPFRE a pretty unique experience. Unfortunately, the age of the stadium is also one of the biggest weaknesses in terms of match-day experience.
The stadium is a bit isolated from any restaurants or bars, although tailgating is permitted and thrives (in contrast to MNUFC matches). Being the first soccer-specific stadium in MLS 1.0 means that there wasn’t a surplus of funds to build a state-of-the-art stadium. MAPFRE has a bit of a high school or college-level stadium feel due to the prominent bleacher seating, low capacity, and openness of the stadium. There is also a bizarre stage located at one end. The team can struggle with attendance partly due to the inconvenient location and the obsession with Ohio State football.
Negatives aside, I have great memories of attending Crew SC matches. I remember watching Brian McBride, one of my heroes as a kid, suit up for the black and gold. I was also in attendance in 2014 when the Crew beat LA Galaxy 4-1 during Landon Donovan’s retirement tour. I distinctly remember the stands shaking and swaying during that match. I’m not sure if it was due to the supporters going crazy or just the lack of structural integrity of the stadium… Ultimately, the match-day experience is as much about the history and atmosphere of a stadium as it is about the quality of the building itself (see: Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, Soldier Field), and we can only hope that MNUFC/USMNT(?) are able to create the same kind of history at Allianz Field once it is built.
On October 5th, 2013, NYRB hosted New England Revolution. Red Bull Arena was a great stadium experience. I took my Creighton Women's soccer team to this game as we were in New Jersey to play Seton Hall. Very easy venue to get in and out of, all the amenities of a quality stadium and a raucous crowd and supporters group.
Not much in the way of a walk to the stadium that you will see in Seattle or Portland but an energized environment that felt very enclosed...noisy good and right on top of the action. In terms of the match, there was a lot riding on the game in that NYRB could clinch a playoff berth with a result, which they got 2-2. NYRB had a great line-up featuring Thierry Henry, Dax McCarty, Tim Cahill, Espindola, etc. As environments go for MLS games, very similar to Sporting KC. Sight lines were amazing and everyone is right on top of the action! Fans weren't as friendly as other places in my opinion and we arrived as a team about 30 mins before kickoff so didn't see much in the way of tailgating.
Minnesota United (NASL days)
It was the last game for Minnesota United in the NASL as they were set to join Major League Soccer at the start of the 2017 season. This was my third season following the team and my second season attending games regularly. Thinking about the memories at NSC and the thing that grew very fond to me (and thinking I would probably never see them again): the smell of food trucks, the sound of the scratchy speaker system, the sights at the Dark Clouds tailgate are thing I will never forget. The game flew by and before I knew it the NASL era was over. A 1-0 loss to the Cosmos meant that we wouldn't qualify for the playoffs.
After the game the sounds of Wonderwall made me tear up. This team had meant so much to me over the past three years. It's cool supporting a smaller lower division team. Almost everybody I knew had no idea the team even existed, United was my personal get away. After the game saying goodbye to all the players I found very difficult knowing most of them would not return for another season in black and blue. As I left that night I turned around and reflected on the countless hours I spent at this makeshift stadium. I am glad to say I supported my local team during its "non Major League" tenure.
United States Mens’ National Team
There’s an undeniable feeling in the air before national team matches. Maybe it’s due to national pride on the line, but regardless, they feel special.
Such was the case at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, during the 2016 Copa America. The first match of the entire tournament pitted the United States against Colombia, and even though the US lost by two goals, the experience was a stellar one, pun not intended.
Like with any sport, the story of the game and the scintillating performances and moments (or lack thereof) are determined by the teams on the field, but there were a couple of constants during the three Copa America matches I took in at Levi’s Stadium.
The players and the ball are likely going to look bigger than you expected. I sat in the upper deck of Levi’s Stadium and still had a great view. At worst it felt like watching the game from the classic zoomed out TV camera, except I was participating in the sights and sounds of a live match. I might not have been able to read a player name on a jersey, but the numbers were visible (so #10 Messi was easy to find) and tracking the ball was no problem.
You’re going to hear drums. And likely cheers and chants. And you may not know any of them. To me this is part of the fun and one of the things that makes soccer feel unique. I love hearing the drums ring out followed by chants of USA, or trying to figure out the words to a team cheer so I can join in the next time. And, for me at least, these cheers and chants somehow make it feel like some portion of the team is mine. However, sometimes cheers might not be in the same language (such during Argentina v. Chile, or Mexico v. Chile) and even if you can understand the cheer, you may have wished you hadn’t (Mexico v. Chile). But the passion is undeniable and infectious.
You’re going to see jerseys of players and teams that won’t make sense. “USA is playing Colombia? Let me wear my FC Barcelona Messi jersey,” is a more common thought than one might expect. Chalk it up to a common love for the game that transcends teams.
[Excerpted from “A night out at BBVA Compass Stadium”]
I attended an MLS regular season game between the Houston Dynamo and Minnesota United at BBVA Compass stadium as an away supporter. The Texian Army invited the away supporters to a tailgate at the Garden Fortune Cookie Lot about three blocks from BBVA Compass Stadium. Here we were treated to tacos al pastor, a keg of cold beer, and some good yarns.
The Texian Army had plenty of reason to chant with extra enthusiasm once the game got rolling, as the Dynamo rang up United for two goals before the first half was done. The small but spirited away supporter’s section, high up and to the right of the Dynamo’s goal, were able to employ the patented “we’re not losing” chant only for about 14 minutes before Mauro Manotas gathered a cross and had time to drill the ball into the left corner. By the end of the half, I was feeling pretty morose about our daunting two-goal deficit and hoping against hope that the game didn’t spiral into a lopsided loss. The wounds of early season blowouts still loomed large in the fragile psyche of Minnesota United fans.
The spirits of the Nifty Nine – as I shall heretofore call the contingent of proud Minnesota United supporters that came together on that fine evening – were quite high as we left the stadium following the dramatic come-from-behind point on the road.
Don’t worry if you didn’t see your work in this part. We received enough submissions that splitting the piece into two was necessary to avoid an extremely lengthy article.
What do you think of the experiences detailed above? How do you think they compare to Minnesota United matchdays? Let us know in the comments section!