Judging by the LivingSocial offers promoting reduced-priced tickets, one might conclude the U.S. national soccer team’s friendly against Brazil on May 30 is going to be a box-office bust. Club seats are available for half-price and lower-level packages can be gotten at considerable discount.
According to the U.S. Soccer Federation, however, more than 53,000 tickets have been sold, putting this match on pace to become the largest turnout for a U.S. men’s or women’s appearance in the Washington area in history and the third biggest for a USA-Brazil men’s game nationally.
So why the tantalizing offers for cheap — er, cheaper — seats? Perhaps the Washington Redskins, who are staging the game at FedEx Field, figured to sell out the minute they mentioned “Brazil” and “soccer” in the same breath. Initially, sales were strong but, as is the case with most big events staged at large venues, the pace slowed.
From what I’m told, the Redskins need to peddle 60,000 to break even. They’re going to get there, but the LivingSocial offers — one went out a few weeks ago,another today — are a signs the NFL team felt it needed to jolt sales. The goal was to do much better than break even; the team wanted to fill every last seat and generate maximum revenue during the NFL offseason — as it did last summer when 81,000 turned out for the friendly between Barcelona and Manchester United. (With further downsizing this spring, capacity is reportedly 79,000.)
From the look of things, fans are buying up the cheaper seats and passing on the high-end dockets. (The price range is $30 to $164, before service charges.)
Brazil remains one of the biggest draws in all of sports, but several factors might’ve slowed the ticket pace: FedEx lacks the ambiance of Washington’s traditional soccer venue, RFK Stadium, and is no fun accessing, especially on a weekday/night; Brazil is touring with a young squad in preparation for the Olympics, which is an under-23 tournament with three exceptions; and Ronaldinho, Kaka and now Dani Alves (recent injury) aren’t coming (but Hulk is!).
There’s also the issue of Neymar, Brazil’s next superstar. He is playing for Santos in Copa Libertadores on Thursday. Common sense says he’ll miss the start of Brazil’s tour in Hamburg against Denmark on Saturday. However, organizers say he is scheduled to join the Brazil squad Sunday in Washington.
As for the U.S. squad, Juergen Klinsmann is bringing his “A” list — Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Tim Howard, etc. It’s Klinsmann’s strongest roster since taking the job last summer.
Regardless of the final head count and the Redskins’ revenue, this friendly will end up ranking high on the attendance meter:
The largest turnout for a U.S. senior national team match in the D.C. area was 54,282 at RFK for a 2002 World Cup qualifier against Honduras. The RFK record, however, was 58,012 for a 1996 Olympic match between the USA (U-23s) and Portugal.
The U.S. women’s mark in the area is 54,642 for the 1999 World Cup quarterfinal against Germany at FedEx.
On a broader scale, the nine previous USA home matches against Brazil since 1992 have averaged 45,550. The top two were:
1994 World Cup: 84,177 at Stanford Stadium
2010 friendly: 77,223 at the Meadowlands
No others have drawn more than 46,000.
A USA-Brazil meeting in the 1999 Women’s World Cup at Stanford attracted 73,123.
The U.S. team will practice at Ludwig Field on the University of Maryland campus Monday from 5 to 6 p.m. Parking and admission are free. [Additional details are here.]