Az­tex see at­ten­dance drop with all eyes on World Cup

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - — Colby M. White

Amer­i­can in­ter­est in the World Cup has been at an all-time high in re­cent weeks, and the elim­i­na­tion-round game be­tween the United States and Ghana on June 26 was the most-watched men’s soc­cer match in U.S. his­tory, ESPN said.

And yet, at­ten­dance num­bers for Austin’s pro soc­cer club, the Az­tex, have de­clined since the World Cup be­gan on June 11. The Az­tex drew an av­er­age of 2,492 fans for two re­cent USSF Di­vi­sion-2 matches played dur­ing the World Cup, a de­cline of 33 per­cent com­pared to the 3,757 fans the team av­er­aged in pre­vi­ous league home matches.

At Austin’s most re­cent home match, against Mi­ami on June 19, a sea­son­low 2,143 fans were in at­ten­dance at House Park.

A re­view of team-sub­mit­ted at­ten­dance fig­ures showed that other USSF Di­vi­sion-2 clubs had ex­pe­ri­enced sim­i­lar dips in at­ten­dance dur­ing the World Cup.

“It’s a dual-edged sword,” Az­tex owner Phil Rawl­ins said. “On the one hand, you want the World Cup be- cause it raises the (sport’s) pro­file and peo­ple’s aware­ness of the game. … But at the same time, it takes a lit­tle bit away from the lo­cal soc­cer pro­grams be­cause you’re com­pet­ing against the world’s biggest sport­ing event.”

The Az­tex will face Puerto Rico tonight in their first home game since the U.S. was knocked out of the World Cup. The match will give Austin a chance to see if at­ten­dance bounces back.

On Wed­nes­day, Rawl­ins said the team ex­pected im­proved num­bers based on the amount of group tick­ets al­ready sold.

“You want (the World Cup) be­cause of the ex­cite­ment and the in­ter­est it cre­ates, but in the short­term, when you’re go­ing head-to-head with it for a cou­ple weeks, it doesn’t help your (at­ten­dance) num­bers,” Rawl­ins said. “But as it starts to wind down now, peo­ple will have an in­creased ap­petite and in­ter­est in the game. Then we’ll see the at­ten­dance num­bers come up on the back of that (in­ter­est).”

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