Christian Pulisic disappointed by USMNT fans disappointed with ticket prices


CINCINNATI — Shortly after the US men’s national team clinched a 3-0 win over Morocco in their first friendly before the World Cup, Christian Pulisic called out the American fans who hadn’t turned up.

“I’m not very happy with the number of Americans here, but it works if I’m completely honest,” Pulisic told ESPN. “But thanks to those who came.”

On Wednesday, 19,512 fans were in attendance at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati, well below the 26,000 capacity. Thousands of these fans wore Moroccan flags and jerseys. Many of the Moroccan fans are American, but Pulisic probably wanted to take offense because there were no USMNT supporters in attendance.

However, his displeasure would be better directed at the US Football Association, which is pricing most tickets in the $60 to $160 range before fees for the USMNT’s first of three June games on home soil.

Many fans have long felt taken advantage of by US Soccer, the sport’s national governing body and organizer of all USMNT home games. Some still pay hundreds of dollars to attend the World Cup qualifiers, the most consequential of these games, which consistently sell out.

But after seven high-stakes qualifiers over seven months, this was a show match against a not-so-big-name opponent on a weekday evening in a mid-sized Central American city. The forecasts predicted rain. No one predicted drama. It was therefore entirely predictable that fewer than 20,000 fans would pay close to $100.

In a normal World Cup year, that first World Cup warm-up would have been filled with enthusiasm and excitement. The tournament opener would be weeks away. But at this World Cup in November, Wednesday’s game didn’t feel like the start of a farewell series.

“I don’t think we’re that far with preparation,” admitted US head coach Gregg Berhalter on Tuesday. “I think this is an important training camp for us as a group, but I don’t think the world is saying, ‘The World Cup is just around the corner.'”

The Moroccan fans came in part because this was their side’s first game in the United States in 16 years. They arrived in Cincinnati this week and flocked to nearby Washington Park hours before kickoff. They drowned out a local band with their own songs and chants. They kicked around with soccer balls and played friendly games of their own on small fields against USMNT fans. They danced and banged drums, enjoying the opportunity to see their national team up close for perhaps the first time.

Fans of the Morocco men’s national team gather at Washington Park in Cincinnati, a few blocks from TQL Stadium, ahead of their team’s friendly against the USA (Henry Bushnell/Emox News)

US fans in Ohio, meanwhile, had the chance to see the USMNT four times in eight months. US Soccer hosted two of its seven home qualifiers in Columbus and a third here in Cincinnati. For a fourth time, the national team opted to return less to attract fans and more to use FC Cincinnati’s facilities – which served them well when they came to play for Mexico in November’s qualifier.

With tickets plus travel and other expenses in excess of a hundred dollars per person, attendance suffered. (A US soccer spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.)

Still, Pulisic said: “It’s nice to be back in America and playing again.” And it was nice to win convincingly.

Next, the USMNT travels to Kansas City on Thursday for a friendly against Uruguay on Sunday. Tickets for this game start at around $90, fees included.

Morocco fans cheer during the team’s international friendly game against the United States on Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

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