ESPN’s Steve Davis seems to say here that he thinks linking tickets to the World Cup finals with attendance at World Cup qualifiers would be a good way to help increase ticket demand for the qualifiers. That’s an interesting idea, one whose complexity of execution boggles my mind at the moment.
I have a simpler plan. It’s called lowering the ticket prices. Take a look at the prices for the USA-El Salvador match.
The only sub-$50 seats in the entire place are on the ends and corners, and I should add, these are already sold out. To me, this indicates that a lot of American soccer fans simply aren’t willing to pay “BIG EVENT” prices (more than $50 per seat) for what is still a match against El Salvador. Yes, it’s an important match against El Salvador. But it’s a match against El Salvador, the 110th ranked team in the world and featuring no one you’ve ever heard of unless you live in the DC/MD/VA “little San Salvador metroplex.”
Should are fans be more excited and willing to fork over cash because it’s “AN IMPORTANT QUALIFIER?” Yes, but it’s also completely unreasonable in this economy for the USSF to simply expect fans to pile to the ticket booths by saying “THIS MATCH IS IMPORTANT” and then gouging their eyes out with the prices. For many people, in this current economy, $62-$85 is way too much for an upper deck seat, which is what they’re asking for for the USA-ELV match. To me, an upper deck seat should never be more than $50 for a qualifier, no matter how good the vantage point is.
RFK, which is hosting the final qualifier against Costa Rica, seems to have a slightly better grasp on where the tickets need to be priced. Of course, I grant you that RFK is far larger than Rio Tinto, and the Costa Rica game a) might not mean anything, and b) is on a Wednesday night.
On top of that, there will likely be the usual methods available through DC United’s supporters clubs and/or the American Outlaws to get slightly discounted seats.
I would also add that I don’t think this is a matter of “savvy soccer fandom” or a rip on Utah soccer fans. I just think it’s a matter of what people are willing to spend on soccer and entertainment in general. Yes, while US Soccer has seen its promotional and commercial “stock” rise this summer, it’s still operating in the same depressed entertainment market as everyone else. They need to keep that in mind as they price these matches.