MLS teams are worth an average of $185 million — that’s up 80% from four years ago. The boost in value comes as the league pushes to position itself as truly major — as important and popular as the NFL, the NBA, MLB and the NHL.
Major League Soccer (MLS) and its incredible growth can no longer go unnoticed. MLS has experienced a surge in interest in the recent past, with double digit growth across a variety of metrics, including local sponsorship, season tickets and attendance.
Stadium is one of the buzzwords in U.S. soccer circles. Over two decades after the foundation of the MLS, nearly all MLS teams are now playing in a soccer-specific stadium, and every new stadium looks smarter than the previous one. It is testament to the success of the MLS that attendances have jumped up significantly and many MLS club now play in a packed stadium week in week out.
The soccer-specific stadium boom of the last decade has been an integral part of Major League Soccer’s growth, and a plan for a world-class stadium is one of the foremost requirements for anyone seeking entry into the league. No stadium? No team.
However, we’ve come a long way since the first soccer stadiums of the modern era opened in the U.S. in 1999, and we’ve learned plenty already.
As the soccer landscape in America continues to evolve, here’s a look at the top 10 MLS stadiums:
Orlando City, Orlando City Stadium
Orlando City’s brand-new soccer-specific stadium has officially opened for the 2017 season and, well, it looks just as gorgeous as the renderings of the stadium did. Featuring the first standing-only section in North America (like Borussia Dortmund’s Yellow Wall), Orlando promises to provide the most concentrated soccer stage in the US (for now).
Sporting Kansas City, Children’s Mercy Park
Like Seattle but in a soccer-specific stadium, Sporting have recreated the blueprint for fan engagement in a lively, usually packed setting that features arguably the best game production crew in the league. The ‘Blue Hell’ fans in the north stand fully earn their rep, and the barbecue is pretty good, too.
Houston Dynamo, BBVA Compass Stadium
BBVA Compass Stadium is an American soccer-specific stadium located in Houston, Texas that is home to the Houston Dynamo. Soccer purists were smitten with this cosily-styled venue from the onset in 2012, a sleek, uncluttered and effective design that is as atmospheric as it gets when full. If it feels European in conception, that’s because architects Populous also created the new Wembley and Emirates stadia in London.
Atlanta United, Mercedes-Benz Stadium
Mercedes-Benz Stadium is a multi-purpose retractable roof stadium is currently under construction in Atlanta. The league’s best-supported club benefits from top-notch – albeit football-specific – quarters that have ensured the title of the Pacific north-west’s soccer HQ. Unique pre-game events and in-game engagement (supporters often link arms at key moments) elevate this beyond mere fandom.
San Jose Earthquakes, Avaya Stadium
Avaya Stadium officially opened for business on February 27, 2015. The stadium features a canopy roof and the steepest-raked seating in Major League Soccer to provide a better view. While other stadiums went more for size, in 2015 the Quakes opted for cool, as in hi-tech chic that also offered one of the best fan features in the league – a 3,647 sq ft bar along the north side boasting 45 draft beers. The three echo-extensive roofed stands are also serious noise generators.
Los Angeles Galaxy, StubHub Center
A compact, streamlined modern masterpiece that has great sightlines from anywhere in the venue, it was the league’s second soccer-specific stadium in 2003. Ironically, it will also be home to the NFL’s LA Chargers in 2017. In addition to soccer matches, the soccer stadium hosts major concert tours, CIF football, rugby and other sports and special events.
New York Red Bulls, Red Bull Arena
An indication of how far MLS stadiums have come in the last few years is shown by the fact a venue that is barely seven years old is already looking slightly ho-hum. Featuring a partial transparent roof, the complete bowl design serves as a great soccer setting and fans feel truly on top of the action.
Real Salt Lake, Rio Tinto Stadium
A superb setting, overlooked by the Wasatch Mountains, gives Rio Tinto an almost ethereal feel with its flowing lines. The contiguous nature of the arena also keeps the fans engaged, and visiting teams often find it hard sledding here, the ultimate home stadium test. The stadium hosted the 2009 MLS All-Star Game, the second leg of the 2011 CONCACAF Champions League Finals, and the final of the 2013 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. It was also a host stadium during the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup, and a host for final stages of the 2015 CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship.
Portland Timbers, Providence Park
Providence Park is an outdoor sports venue located in the Goose Hollow neighbourhood of Portland. The MLS Portland Timbers and NWSL Portland Thorns FC soccer teams use the facility as their home pitch. A stadium that has come together in fits and starts – built in 1926, renovated in 1956 and 2001, and reconfigured for the Timbers in 2011 – is now a genuine soccer stronghold that thrills home fans and visitors alike. Even the artificial turf is as good as it gets.
Vancouver Whitecaps, BC Place
For more than three decades, BC Place has been a centrepiece for the City of Vancouver. Originally erected as the world’s largest air-supported stadium in 1983, the stadium was reinvented and modernized in 2011 as a year-round open-air facility with a cable-supported retractable roof – the biggest of its kind in the world.
BC Place is the current home of Vancouver Whitecaps FC. A shared home (with the Canadian Football League’s BC Lions) and the turf field are the inhibitors to higher marks for the Whitecaps’ home. Otherwise, this is an MLS hotbed, thanks to its fans in what can be a surprisingly intimate soccer configuration.
There are few more stadiums, which we’ve not included here, but they are in the video below.
We’ve understood that not just the architecture of each stadium, but the atmosphere, location, amenities and the history of the venue decides its popularity. The essential question still remains the same that: “Which stadiums are best for watching soccer in the United States?” Our answers vary from intimate venues to massive masterpieces.
You’re free to suggest your opinion and if we have missed any we’ll add that.